It is a battle that has been called “the Stalingrad of the East”, but a more accurate description might be“India’s forgotten battle of World War II”. The Battle of Kohima, which was fought between British/Imperial and Japanese troops during 4 April through 6 June of 1944, according to author Mmhonlümo Kikon, “shaped world history”. It marked the end of Japan’s effort to invade India and join forces with the Indian independence forces against the British Raj. Kohima, Kikon writes, “saved the British empire and the Allied forces from defeat and brought them out from the jaws of death into an uncertain glory carved into their history books.”
Knowledge is power. This is a statement often made to reinforce the relentless pursuit of data, information and know-how to get ahead in business and technology. Scholarship or studiousness is seen as a virtue that can give one an edge over the others in the face of tough competition. With such a celebration of knowledge, it appears that anything can be legitimized if it is connected with knowledge creation or dissemination. In The East India Company and the Politics of Knowledge, Joshua Ehrlich examines a much stronger, to the point of being literal, historical connection between knowledge and power.
The story of the British Empire in India is not about battles and conquests alone. There were quite a number of cases in which the East India Company maintained a grip over individual kingdoms through what roughly translates into rule by proxy. This other side of the story of the consolidation of the Empire is that of Residency, the institution that operated through the deputation of a British official, generally an army official, to kingdoms such as Hyderabad, Mysore, Pune and so on.
Adoniram Judson was the 19th-century version of an American celebrity. Americans flocked to listen to his tales of being one of the first missionaries to enter the Kingdom of Burma. Americans wanted to hear of his mission in the Buddhist kingdom; Judson was reportedly uncomfortable with the attention.
It is easy to forget, in the linear narrative of the British Raj leading to an independent India, that there were other, albeit much smaller, bits that hung on as colonies of other European countries (let’s not call them “powers”) for some time longer. One of these, the most venerable, dating back almost five centuries to 1510, was Goa. The succinctly titled Goa, 1961 tells the story of India’s forceful expulsion of the Portuguese, focusing in considerable detail on the year it happened.
The impact of missionaries around the world has been widely condemned by anthropologists, historians and medical professionals. They have been accused of suppressing indigenous languages, religious and social practice, disrupting countries’ social fabrics and prohibiting contraception. Moreover, missionaries were, on the whole, stalwart defenders of European colonialism. However, that does not mean they are unworthy of nuanced academic study, indeed given the immense socio-political and religious change they have fostered, academic engagement is crucial to understanding the outcomes of their activity.
While most of the now common histories of the East India Company (EIC) and British India discuss the politics, conflict or culture of empire, Rosie Llewellyn-Jones’s Empire Building: The Construction of British India, 1690-1860 focuses on the physical construction of British India through the buildings that were constructed, the background to their design, the political and economic constraints that shaped their design and how these colonial constructions influenced India’s society, economy and polity.