This book offers a new interpretation of the life and legacy of the Indian reformer and intellectual, Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar (1820–91).
Drawing upon autobiography, biography, secondary criticism and a range of Vidyasagar’s original writings in Bengali, the book interrogates the role of history, memory and controversy, and emphasises the key challenge of pinning down the identity of an enigmatic and multi-faceted figure. By examining lesser-known works of Vidyasagar (including several pseudonymous and posthumous works) alongside the evidence of his public career, the author calls attention to the colonial transformation of intellectual and social life, the nature of life writing, the limits of standard biographies and the problem of modern Indian identity as such.
Based on decades of research and an original perspective, this book will be especially useful to scholars of modern Indian history, biographical studies, comparative literature and those interested in Bengal.
‘In this innovative work, Hatcher attempts not so much a biography of Vidyasagar as an insightful reading of extant biographies.’ — Amiya P. Sen, Head, Department of History and Culture, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi
‘Hatcher’s stunning exploration makes this important monograph both biographical and historiographical.’ — A. R. Venkatachalapathy, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai
Glossary. Introduction. 1. The Life and the Stories 2. Akhiladdin’s Song 3. Man in Motion 4. The Stuff of Legends 5. Salty Water 6. A Tale of Two Pandits. Conclusion. Bibliography. About the Author. Index.
This series explores the intellectual history of South Asia through the lives and ideas of significant individuals within a historical context. These 'pathfinders' are seen to represent a break with existing traditions, canons and inherited histories. In fact, even the idea of South Asia with its constituent regions and linguistic and religious divisions maybe thrown into crisis as we explore the idea of territory as generated by thought. It is not cartographic limits that determine thinking but the imagining of elective affinities across space, time and borders. These thinkers are necessarily cosmopolitan and engage with a miscegenation of ideas that recasts existing notions of schools of thinking, of the archive for a history of ideas, and indeed of the very notion of national and regional limits to intellectual activity. The books in this series try to think beyond the limited frameworks of colonialism and nationalism for the modern period and more generally of histories of societies that are told through the prism of the state, its institutions and ideologies.
These slim volumes written by leading scholars are intended for the intelligent layperson and expert alike, and written in an accessible, lively and authoritative prose. Through telling the lives of celebrated names and lesser known ones in context, this series will expand the repertoire of ideas and individuals that have shaped the history and culture of South Asia.