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Early Modern Persian, Urdu, and English Historiography and the Imagination of Islamic India under British Rule
Etudes de lettres
This paper analyses the early modern transformations of South Asian literary cultures through the production of historiography in Persian, English, and Urdu. In the 18th-19th centuries, South Asian communities experienced and participated in a major restructuring of the languages of the subcontinent. Urdu and English were institutionalized as governmental languages and utilized in new literary productions as Persian was gradually marginalized from the centre of literary and governmental polities. Three interrelated colonial policies reshaped the historical consciousness of South Asia and Britain: the production of new Persian histories commissioned under British patronage, the initiation of Urdu historiography through the translation of Persian and English histories, and the construction of the British history of India written in English. This article explores the historical and social dynamics of these events and situates the origins and evolution of the colonial historiographical project. Major works discussed are the Tārīkh-i Bangālah of Salīm Allāh Munshī (fl. 1763), James Mill's (1773-1836) The History of British India first published in 1817, Mīr Sher ʿAlī Afsos' the Ārāʾish-i mahfil, as well as the production of original Urdu histories such as Muḥammad Zakāʾ-Allāh's (1832-1910) the Tārīkh-i Hindustān.
Urdu literature, 19th century, South Asia, Historiography, Persian literature
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