Ancient History as a Means of Transforming Colonial India in the Late-Eighteenth and Early-Nineteenth Centuries

Segesser, Daniel Marc (2015). Ancient History as a Means of Transforming Colonial India in the Late-Eighteenth and Early-Nineteenth Centuries. In: Schüren, Ute; Segesser, Daniel Marc; Späth, Thomas (eds.) Globalized Antiquity? Uses and Perceptions of the Past in India, Mesoamerica and Europe in Comparative Perspective (pp. 73-92). Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag

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This article focuses on the studies and discourses of mostly British scholars of the early colonial period belonging to two schools of thought. It shows how the studies of both schools – European orientalism and utilitarianism – were intricately connected to the political development of the emerging British paramountcy over the South Asian sub-continent, as both were looking for means of establishing and/or strengthening colonial rule. Nevertheless, the debate was not just a continuation of discussions in Europe. Whereas the ideas of the European Enlightenment had some influence, the transformation of the Mughal Empire and especially the idea of a decline of Muslim rule offered ample opportunities for understanding the early history of India either as some sort of “Golden Age,” as the orientalists and their indigenous supporters did, or as something static and degenerate, as the utilitarians did, and from which the population of sub-continent had to be saved by colonial rule and colonial values. Fearing the spread of the ideas of the French Revolution, the first group of British scholars sought to persuade the native elites of South Asia to take the lessons of their past for the future development of their homeland. Just as the classicists back in Europe, these scholars were convinced that large-scale explanations of the past could also teach political and moral lessons for the present although it was important to deal with the distant past in an empirical manner. The utilitarians on the other hand believed that India had to be saved from its own depravity through the English language and Western values, which amounted to nothing less than the modern transformation of the true Classical Age.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)

Division/Institute:

06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History > Ancient History and Reception History of the Ancient World
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History > Modern and Contemporary History
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History > Economic, Social and Environmental History

UniBE Contributor:

Segesser, Daniel

Subjects:

900 History
900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)
900 History > 940 History of Europe
900 History > 950 History of Asia

ISBN:

978-3-496-01600-7

Publisher:

Dietrich Reimer Verlag

Language:

English

Submitter:

PD Dr. Daniel Marc Segesser

Date Deposited:

23 Jun 2015 09:07

Last Modified:

14 Mar 2017 08:35

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/68515

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