J^eo-Liberal History or An Imperialist Apologia?
ANIL SEAL, THE EMERGENCE OF INDIAN NATIONALISM :
COMPETITION AND COLLABORATION IN THE LATER NINETEENTH CENTURY, Cambridge University Press, 1968, pp 416.
This is the first and most important thing to learn about India—that there is not and never was an India . . . .1
John Strachey, 1888
In so shapeless, so jumbled a bundle of societies, there were not two nations, there was not one nation, there was no nation at all. What was India ? —a graveyard of old nationalities and mother of new nationalities struggling to be born.2
Anil Seal, 1968
WITH characteristic clarity the eminent historian, Geoffrey Barraclough has in a recent article, discussed the basic features of the liberal view of German history, which would apply equally to all liberal historical interpretation. Liberal history is recognised by a stress on the "primary role of ideas in history", and "a belief that history is shaped by ideas rather than social relations and the interplay of economic interests95. There is also a "deep-seated elitist bias", and an assumption that "the so-called political and social elite is the element in any society that determines the course of events."3 Somewhat similar have been the features of historical writings on modern India where the liberal approach to history has ruled the roost for a very long time.
Overtly liberal attitudes in history are no longer respectable in the second half of the twentieth century. As a result, now, the old liberal history appears in new garbs and guises. Often in clever attempts at a liberal restatement of history, any allusion to the old liberal historiography is scrupulously avoided and the 'new9 interpretation of history is made on the basis of an elaborate marshalling of new facts, figures and statistics culled from various contemporary government sources. A case in point