most grateful to Professor Peter Marshall for writing a detailed
and rigorous review based on a careful reading of our book Modern
South Asia. Since he sees a strong ideological commitment' behind
any historical interpretation of any interest', we will not quibble
over the ideology he ascribes to us. At the invitation of the editors
of the journal, we would like to respond briefly and respectfully
to two points of substance and one of style.
First, Professor Marshall correctly notes our
interest in writing history from below' and our focus on Indian
intermediate and subaltern social groups. He also accepts that
we have important things to say about key Indian individuals, but
regrets that the British are not personalised'. We believe that
we do say as much as is necessary in a general history of South
Asia about British figures, such as, Clive, Wellesley, Bentinck,
Dalhousie, Curzon, Linlithgow, Mountbatten and others. We advance
a clear argument in our book about the need to place colonialism
as an agency of historical change in its appropriate social context'
and to study it in its interplay with the culture and politics
of anti-colonial resistance (p.5). For more on British empire-builders
we have referred our readers not to self-congratulatory books of
The Men who Ruled India genre but to scholarly works such as those
by Professor Marshall on the establishment and consolidation of
British rule in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
Second, Professor Marshall suggests that the
1935 Government of India Act does not look all that different'
from our ideal' of a political and state system based on layered
and shared sovereignties'. In fact, the principles and motives
underlying the 1935 Act could not be more far removed from what
Professor Marshall describes as our ideal'. In Chapter 10 of our
book titled High Noon of Colonialism, 1858-1914' we have shown
how the colonial state juxtaposed to its own conception of monolithic,
unitary sovereignty at the centre a shallow, if not fake, version
of sovereignty reposed in the persons of traditional' rulers' (p.103).
In Chapter 12 on Colonialism under Siege' and also in Chapter 14
on The Depression Decade' we dwell at some length on the ways in
which the 1935 Act sought to deploy the weight of princely India
to retain all the vital attributes of sovereignty in British hands
at the centre. Despite much song and dance about provincial autonomy,'
we argue, the centre was equipped with all the authority necessary
to curb power in the provinces'(p.130). The legacy of the 1935
Act has been detrimental to the prospects of a healthier centre-region
balance in post-colonial India and Pakistan. The only British-sponsored
constitutional scheme that came anywhere close to approximating
the notion of layered and shared sovereignties' was the ill-fated
Cabinet Mission plan of 1946 that proposed a three-tiered constitutional
structure for a federal India based on grouping of provinces.
Third, we respond to Professor Marshall's comment
about exposition' only to absolve our copy editors of any culpability.
Style is in any case a matter of personal predilection and we are
gratified to note that other reviewers have found our book to be
elegantly written' (e.g. Indian Review of Books, May-June 1998;
The Book Review, XXII, 8, August 1998; The Telegraph, 15 May 1998).
Since most general histories of South Asia take no account of key
historiographical developments of the last two decades, we felt
it necessary to tell our readers what these were and where we stood
in relation to the major debates. The last few pages of our introductory
chapter attempt precisely to do that and can be easily skipped,
if necessary, by the non-specialist reader without losing the thread
of the narrative. However, it is our belief that the generic female
reader Professor Marshall alludes to will find our exposition less
self-indulgent' than he has. She had no need of our condescension
since she had our respect. Our aim was to challenge her, not to
make her feel comfortable.
Professor Marshall's words of praise will serve
as encouragement and his critical remarks a goad to rethinking
as we prepare a revised and expanded second edition of the book
for the new millennium.