Swadeshi Steam: V.O. Chidambaram Pillai and the Battle against the British Maritime Empire

Swadeshi Steam: V.O. Chidambaram Pillai and the Battle against the British Maritime Empire A.R. Venkatachalapathy in conversation with Ramachandra Guha

Updated - January 26, 2024 03:44 pm IST

Published - January 11, 2024 12:17 pm IST

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Freedom fighter V.O. Chidambaram Pillai took on the might of the British in the early 20th century when he started a shipping company under colonial rule. Inspired by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, he started the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company in 1906 in a bid to promote indigenous enterprise. He led the Swadeshi movement in Tuticorin. He was charged with sedition by the British government and was sentenced to double life imprisonment.

In this session, historian Ramachandra Guha talks to A.R. Venkatachalapathy, Professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, about the life and the motivations of V.O. Chidambaram Pillai. Venkatachalapathy has written and edited over 30 books in Tamil, apart from authoring many books in English. He has published widely on the social, cultural and intellectual history of colonial Tamil Nadu. His publications in English include The Brief History of a Very Big Book: The Making of the Tamil Encyclopaedia. He has taught at universities in Tirunelveli, Chennai, Singapore and Chicago. He has won several prices, including the V.K.R.V. Rao Prize (History, 2007), Vilakku Pudumaippithan Award (2018) and Iyal Virudhu (2021) both for lifetime contribution to Tamil.

Ramachandra Guha is a historian and biographer. He is currently a Distinguished University Professor at Krea University. He has previously taught at Stanford University, the Indian Institute of Science, and the London School of Economics. He has written several books including The Unquiet Woods, A Corner of a Foreign Field, and India after Gandhi. His most recent book is Rebels against the Raj. His books and essays have been translated into more than 20 languages.

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