The Heart of Indian Pedagogy: Religion, Language, and the Anglicist-Orientalist Debate

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Assistant Professor of History

Project Summary

I am writing about a topic of deep personal interest: the history of education in modern India, between 1770-1857. This phase marked an expansion of British colonial interests and consequently the burden of administrating the multicultural lands under its purview. One of the main tasks was the undertaking of education initiatives. These initiatives in Indian education comprised a wide range of efforts made by British colonial officials, Christian missionary societies, Indian intellectuals, and joint ventures among these entities. There was no singularity, as one may imagine, in these efforts to educate the native Indian populations nor was there an all-encompassing ideology governing the motivations either. I focus on the introduction and expansion of English language education during this phase of India’s colonial experience, with the aim of understanding the immense breadth and scope of initiatives across modern India. I pay specific attention to the Anglicist-Orientalist controversy - a ‘debate’ amongst members of the colonial officialdom about educating Indians in English or native languages – as well as to efforts made by Christian missions, and notable individuals of Indian and British nationality to develop a base for educational tradition and practice in India.

My research took me to London, the home of the British Library archives. I spent 3 weeks carefully examining India Office Records documents The British Library’s Asia and Africa Manuscripts reading room. I was absolutely floored by the exceptional cataloguing and organization of archival material in the British Library as well as by the professionalism exhibited by the friendly, passionate, and knowledgeable librarians and archivists who took a personal interest in getting to know me and my research work for the short time I was in the archives. Conducting primary research in the archives was my first hands-on foray into ‘real’ academic research, and was far more invigorating than my previous experiences that had me largely limited to digitized copies of manuscripts. I am grateful for this opportunity and I believe that I have learnt a tremendous amount.