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BA Politics and Modern History

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
'A Nation In The Making': India, 1800-1947

Unit code HIST30291
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in their history, art, literature and culture, the people of the South Asian sub-continent were beginning to see an ‘Indian-ness’, an essence, that bound them together and made them different from the rulers. These were the earliest stirrings of the nationalist intelligentsia that fed the anti-colonial struggle and shaped the country’s destiny in 1947. However, precisely because it was imagined, the ‘nation-ness’ was also selective, preferential and exclusionary. The course will chart the contours of these ‘national’ imaginings, and critically analyse their content, throwing light on those processes that made the modern Indian nation available not to all, but certain select groups only. We will see how the complex workings of class, caste, communal, and gender divides contributed to numerous fractures and tortuous solidarities, which nationalist categories often tried to subsume.


HIST30291 is restricted to History programmes, History joint honours programmes, and Euro Studies (please check your programme structure for further details).

This module is only available to students on History-owned programmes; Euro Studies programmes; and History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas. Available to students on an Erasmus programme subject to VSO approval.


This course will study the cultural constructions of nationalism in colonial India. It would focus on those imaginings that helped the people of the subcontinent construct a ‘national’ identity for themselves. The course aims to equip students with: (1) A knowledge of the anti-colonial struggle in India between 1800 and 1947, and its political, social and cultural mappings. (2) An ability to apply recent theories of the ‘nation’ to a completely different terrain, that of the colony, and question some of the assumptions that feed western stereotypes of the nation-state.

Knowledge and understanding

(1) Form a critical understanding of the formation of the modern Indian ‘nation’, focusing (a) specifically on the social and cultural history of nationalism in India, and (b) the larger issues of identities and representation in anti-colonial nationalisms.

(2) Undertake thoughtful investigations of the nation-state model that claims to stand for an entire people, without entailing some act of suppression or/and exclusion.


Intellectual skills

(1) Understand and draw out the complexities of power in diverse, challenging cultures outside the familiarities of the West.

(2) Apply postcolonial theory in understanding the politics and history of the Third World, and more recent global developments.


Practical skills

(1) Gain proficiency in making short presentations

(2) Engage orally in critical debates as part of the learning process

(3) Interpret and analyse primary sources, as well as developing the skills needed to assimilate a wide range of secondary reading material in substantial writing exercises.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Acquire a range of transferable skills such as:

Reading original and secondary material; analytical reporting skills; comprehension of debates and arguments; ability to craft original intervention; listening and participating in team discussion; advance independent study skills and personal responsibility for schedule of tasks and duties; self-management, confidence and independence essential for employment.

Employability skills

The module prepares students for employability through its teaching structure that involves team work, independent research, honing of critical and analytical skills, and formal presentational skills involving Power Point.

Assessment methods

Primary source analysis 40
Essay 60


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Primary source analysis

Written  feedback


Written feedback


Recommended reading

  • Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments (Princeton, 1993)
  • C. A. Bayly, Origins of Nationality in South Asia (Cambridge University Press, 1999)
  • Jalal and S. Bose, Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy (Routledge, 2011)
  • Jalal and S. Bose, Nationalism, Democracy and Development: State and Politics in India (New Delhi: OUP, 1999)
  • Sumit Sarkar, Modern India: 1885-1947 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2001)
  • Crispin Bates, Subalterns and Raj: South Asia since 1600 (Routledge, 2007)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Anindita Ghosh Unit coordinator

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