Empire, Nationalism and the Postcolonial World: Rabindranath Tagore's Writings on History, Politics and Society, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Empire, Nationalism and the Postcolonial World

Rabindranath Tagore's Writings on History, Politics and Society, 1st Edition

By Michael Collins


232 pages

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By presenting a new interpretation of Rabindranath Tagore’s English language writings, this book places the work of India’s greatest Nobel Prize winner and cultural icon in the context of imperial history and thereby bridges the gap between Tagore studies and imperial/postcolonial historiography.

Using detailed archival research, the book charts the origins of Tagore’s ideas in Indian religious traditions and discusses the impact of early Indian nationalism on Tagore’s thinking. It offers a new interpretation of Tagore’s complex debates with Gandhi about the colonial encounter, Tagore’s provocative analysis of the impact of British imperialism in India and his questioning of nationalism as a pathway to authentic postcolonial freedom. The book also demonstrates how the man and his ideas were received and interpreted in Britain during his lifetime and how they have been sometimes misrepresented by nationalist historians and postcolonial theorists after Tagore’s death.

An alternative interpretation based on an intellectual history approach, this book places Tagore’s sense of agency, his ideas and intentions within a broader historical framework. Offering an exciting critique of postcolonial theory from a historical perspective, it is a timely contribution in the wake of the 150th anniversary of Tagore's birth in 2011.


"Rabindranath Tagore remains one of India's greatest thinkers. Michael Collins' book brilliantly sets him in the context of his European contemporaries, indicating how he was both interpreted and mis-interpreted for the wider world." - Sir Christopher Bayly, University of Cambridge, UK

"Michael Collins' fine research on the Indian poet and thinker Rabindranath Tagore sheds intriguing new light on the making of his reputation in the West. The book casts the intimate history of understanding and (as often) misunderstanding between Tagore and some of his closest supporters into poignant relief, and reminds us of the powerful and revelatory effects of close historical investigation." - Elleke Boehmer, University of Oxford, UK

"Works of scholarship can spread ripples, and I foresee a considerable ripple effect from Dr Collins' painstaking pursuit of unity amidst the often baffling contradictions of Tagore's discursive writings" William Radice, SOAS; Frontline, Volume 28 - Issue 27 : Dec. 31, 2011-Jan. 13, 2012

Table of Contents

Foreword Tapan Raychaudhuri Introduction: Tagore, Imperialism and a Global Intellectual History Part 1: Ideas and Intentions 1. Religion and Reform: Tagore’s Nineteenth Century Inheritance 2. England and the Nobel Prize: Tagore At Home in the World 3. On Nations and Empires: Tagore’s Debates with M. K. Gandhi Part 2: Colonial and Postcolonial Encounters 4. Cross-Purposes: Tagore, W. B. Yeats and ‘Irish Orientalism’ 5. Acts of Atonement: Tagore, C. F. Andrews and E. J. Thompson 6. Rabindranath Redux: Tagore’s Legacy in the Postcolonial World

About the Author

Michael Collins is Lecturer in the Department of History at University College London (UCL), UK. He specialises in Modern British and World History and the intellectual history of empire and decolonisation.


About the Series

Routledge/Edinburgh South Asian Studies Series

This series is published in association with the Centre for South Asian Studies, Edinburgh University - one of the leading centres for South Asian Studies in the UK with a strong interdisciplinary focus. It presents research monographs and high-quality edited volumes as well as textbook on topics concerning the Indian subcontinent from the modern period to contemporary times. It aims to advance understanding of the key issues in the study of South Asia, and contributions include works by experts in the social sciences and the humanities. In accordance with the academic traditions of Edinburgh, we particularly welcome submissions which emphasise the social in South Asian history, politics, sociology and anthropology, based upon thick description of empirical reality, generalised to provide original and broadly applicable conclusions.

The series welcomes new submissions from young researchers as well as established scholars working on South Asia, from any disciplinary perspective.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Asia / India & South Asia
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General