Colonial history online archive

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Looking for an online archive of primary research material on South Asia? Now, here’s a resource to uncover the history of the region with digital access to over five million pages of primary and secondary sources.

South Asia Archive, launching in 1913, covers the period from the 1750s to the 1950s; it has documents from India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

The archive includes a diverse collection of reports from colonial and post-colonial India, like volumes of the 1901, 1911, 1931, 1951 and 1961 Census documents, and the near complete set of the Calcutta Riots of 1946. There is a collection of rare publicity booklets in a mix of English, Hindi, Urdu and Bengali. Each booklet includes lists of the film’s cast and leading technical personnel, a plot summary, photographs of the lead actors or of key moments in the film, and song lyrics.

Books and translation

There is also an extensive range of books, consisting of series such as “The Bibliotheca Indica”, a collection of oriental works published by the Asiatic Society of Bengal. It includes translations of the Upanishads, commentaries on Sanskrit grammatical, philosophical and legal treatises, and such works as the “Suddhikaumudi”, a Sanskrit treatise on Hindu laws of defilement and purification.

The archive, developed jointly by publisher Routledge and the South Asia Research Foundation, contains both serial and non-serial materials, including significant journal runs, rare books, film ephemera and census reports from noteworthy, rare publications.

“These documents are truly interdisciplinary, reflecting the varied range of knowledge production in colonial and early post-colonial India in fields including culture and society, industry and economy, science, technology and medicine, urban planning and administration and politics and law,” says the archive’s editor Boria Majumdar.

Resource for students

His wife and co-editor Sharmistha Gooptu says the archive will prove to be an extensive resource for students and scholars across the humanities and social sciences.

The story of the archive began in 2004 when the editors and some friends found themselves in an Oxford coffee shop lamenting the lack of primary materials available to them as Asian studies scholars.

This set in motion a mission to collect and curate a diverse archive of publications and to make them available electronically while at the same time preserving the original documents.

In 2008, Majumdar and Gooptu set up the South Asia Research Foundation and started work on collecting previously unavailable primary material began. The documents included in the archive are of five categories: journals; reports; books; legislations, acts, regulations, law books/cases; and Indian film booklets.PTI



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