In March, SPJIMR professor Dinyar Patel was invited to Princeton University’s History Department by Linda Colley. Colley is the Shelby M. C. Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton and the author of several acclaimed works on global and imperial history (her most recent book, The Gun, The Ship, and The Pen, is on the global hisory of written constitutions). While at Princeton, Patel gave a lecture on his recent book, Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism. The lecture, which was included in Princeton’s Global History Workshop, focused on how Indian nationalists like Dadabhai Naoroji forged global political and intellectual links with a wide cast of individuals, including British politicians, American anti-imperialists, and African-American and West Indian political activists.
Colley also invited Patel to design and lead a seminar for Princeton’s history PhD candidates. Patel spoke on biography and autobiography in imperial history and discussed the challenges of conducting archival research in India.
Patel combined his visit to Princeton with research at Harvard University and participation in the Association of Asian Studies (AAS) Annual Conference in Boston. For the AAS Conference—which brings together scholars of East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia from around the world—he organised a panel on the history of swadeshi and self-reliance in India. This panel included professors from Dartmouth College, the National University of Singapore, the University of Vermont, and Hamilton College. Members of the panel delivered papers which identified historical continuities in the idea of economic self-reliance in India from the early 19th century through the Nehruvian years and the current push for Atma Nirbhar Bharat. Patel’s paper focused on 19th century attempts to revive Indian industries, chronicling activity in places like Maharashtra and Punjab as well as the surprising role of many Britons in pioneer Indian industrial attempts. Members of the panel are now planning to turn their conference papers into a special issue for a peer-reviewed journal of history.
Patel’s research at Harvard University focused on 19th Indian century newspapers. Due to poor conditions in Indian archives and libraries, it is oftentimes easier to locate and work with such newspapers in US or British facilities. This research formed part of Patel’s continuing work on the history of Swadeshi as well as a longer book project on liberal Indian nationalism.