South Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - Multiple Frontiers: Rethinking 1905 Beyond Bengal

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Casuarina, Lower Ground Floor

In the history of Modern South Asia, the year 1905 is best known as the year in which Lord Curzon had partitioned the province of Bengal into the Muslim-majority East Bengal and Hindu-majority West Bengal. Older nationalist historiography saw 1905 as a key moment in nationalist/communal mobilization, while newer works of David Ludden and Iftekhar Iqbal have seen the event as a moment of producing spatial inequity in Bengal. But even these newer works see the moment primarily as an event specific to the Bengal delta. In this paper, I attempt to see 1905 in a broader context of spatial reorganization all over the Indian subcontinent. The territory was reorganized and redistributed, or at least planned to be so, in regions as diverse as Orissa, Berar, Madras, and Sind. Such reorganization entailed long and entrenched debates within the colonial systems on the question of colonial territoriality, especially an illuminating conversation between the Viceroy Curzon and the senior official Denzil Ibbetson. Many petitions from the peoples of Orissa, Assam, and Madras have also survived, giving us a much-needed glimpse into multiple processes of frontier-making in the high noon of Empire. Using the framework of “multiple frontiers,” both internal and external, this paper locates the Partition of Bengal in a specific moment of territorial reorganization and negotiation in British India.

Aniket De

Harvard University, India

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