Historical Context Analysis

The research essay (2400 words) is your opportunity to examine one of the topics raised
in the module in greater depth. Please choose the topic of your essay from the following
ten questions.

When researching for your essay, you must draw on the readings listed under the
weekly lectures, including both essential and recommended reading.
Your research essay should:

  • address the question asked;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the historical context;
  • show your ability to engage critically with primary and secondary sources;
  • present a coherent argument;
  • include a concluding paragraph with your personal reflections on the
    historical material you have discussed in the essay.
    Your essay should provide bibliography and footnotes. Footnotes will count towards the
    final word count; the bibliography does not. You can pick whichever style of bibliography
    you prefer, but please be consistent.

Questions – answer any one of the following:

  1. ‘Independence must begin at the bottom.’ With close reference to the works of at
    least two writers/thinkers discussed in class, analyse how ideas of freedom
    were being discussed, debated and fought for during the first half of the
    twentieth century in South Asia.
  2. ‘The English have not taken India; we have given it to them. They are not in India
    because of their strength, but because we keep them.’ Assess the implications of
    this quote by Gandhi, and compare and contrast it with at least one other
    anticolonial writer/thinker discussed in class.
  3. ‘And there is an expenditure, too great for words, in this country, of black and red
    pepper (i.e. Hindustani and British troops).’ Examine the experiences of Indian
    soldiers during the First World War, drawing upon at least two types of primary
    sources, such as soldiers’ letters, colonial photographs, the novel and so on,
    as discussed in class.
  4. ‘It is only when Hindu society becomes a casteless society that it can hope to
    have strength enough to defend itself.’Compare and contrast Ambedkar’s views
    on liberation from internal caste prejudices with at least one other
    writer/thinker’s views on South Asian freedom, as discussed in class.
  5. ‘His noblest achievement, surest of them all / A place for his mother tongue in
    his stepmother’s hall.’ What are the implications of this quote for the
    development of South Asian art in the first half of the twentieth century? Discuss
    with reference to at least two artists discussed in class.
  6. ‘Our friend is going away, so we want a really good photograph of him.’ Analyse
    the importance of visual culture in the South Asian militant struggle against
    anticolonialism with reference to at least two revolutionaries discussed in
  7. ‘All that arouses in us the critical spirit, which examines institutions and customs
    in the light of reason, which helps us to act, to organise ourselves, to transform,
    we accept as progressive.’ Examine the effects of transnational movements in
    South Asia, such as communism and anti-fascism, in the first half of the
    twentieth century. You must reference at least two writers/thinkers and/or
    social groups, as discussed in class.
  8. ‘Letters mean half meetings and they are a great consolation to us.’ Analyse the
    social, political and economic contexts in which Indian men signed up to serve
    the British in the Second World War, with reference to at least two types of
    primary sources discussed in class, such as soldiers’ letters, colonial
    photographs, artwork and so on.
  9. ‘Narratives can make us understand. Photographs do something else: they haunt
    us.’ Do you agree with this statement by the American writer Susan Sontag?
    Discuss in relation to the 1943 Bengal Famine, drawing upon at least two types
    of primary sources discussed in class, such as artwork, photography, letters
    and so on.
    10.‘My father never wanted to leave Pakistan because my father loved the place so
    much.’ Examine the effects of Partition on the Indian subcontinent, studying at
    least two ways by which difficult and traumatic histories can be told, as
    discussed in class. You can draw upon oral history, the study of objects,
    photographs, and so on.

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