1st Edition

Imperial Technology and 'Native' Agency
A Social History of Railways in Colonial India, 1850-1920

ISBN 9780367590987
Published August 14, 2020 by Routledge
254 Pages

USD $48.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

This book explores the impact of railways on colonial Indian society from the commencement of railway operations in the mid-nineteenth to the early decades of the twentieth century.

The book represents a historiographical departure. Using new archival evidence as well as travelogues written by Indian railway travellers in Bengali and Hindi, this book suggests that the impact of railways on colonial Indian society were more heterogeneous and complex than anticipated either by India’s colonial railway builders or currently assumed by post-colonial scholars.

At a related level, the book argues that this complex outcome of the impact of railways on colonial Indian society was a product of the interaction between the colonial context of technology transfer and the Indian railway passengers who mediated this process at an everyday level. In other words, this book claims that the colonised ‘natives’ were not bystanders in this process of imposition of an imperial technology from above. On the contrary, Indians, both as railway passengers and otherwise influenced the nature and the direction of the impact of an oft-celebrated ‘tool of Empire’.

The historiographical departures suggested in the book are based on examining railway spaces as social spaces – a methodological index influenced by Henri Lefebvre’s idea of social spaces as means of control, domination and power.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Glossary; Introduction;Chapter 1: On Right Time? Railway Time And Travel Discipline In Colonial India; Chapter 2: A Ticket To Control? Limits Of Railway Travel Discipline In Colonial India; Chapter 3: A Shared Space? Contestation Of Station Spaces And Railway Travel Discipline In Colonial India; Chapter 4: Chariots Of Equality? Travelling In Railway Carriages And Social Transformation In Colonial India; Chapter 5: To Eat Or Not To Eat? Railway Travel, Commensality And Social Change In Colonial India; Chapter 6: A Nation On The Move? Railway Travel And Conceptualisations Of Space In Colonial India; Chapter 7: Shared Spaces, Shifting Identities: Railway Travel And Notions Of Identity And Community In Colonial India; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index

View More



Aparajita Mukhopadhyay is a history lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London.