Map depicting British colonial India, Indian- administered territories, and independent states and territories


This timeline focuses on the modern history of the Indian subcontinent and situates the readings and lectures for "Introduction to South Asian History and Culture." In line with course themes, the timeline follows the period of religious reforms debated and instituted by Indian intellectuals and British colonial officials in the nineteenth century, as well as the nationalist movements leading to the 1947 independence of India and the creation of Pakistan. The timeline also gives a brief overview of earlier cultural and political events (such as the Brahmanical tradition and the Mughal period) that influenced the debates of the British colonial period. Finally, the timeline lists key events post-1947 to the early 1990s to give some orientation toward contemporary anthropological questions regarding caste, gender, and ethnic conflict. The documents, maps, short biographies, glossary, and other hyperlinked materials should help you to begin contextualizing the course material on a weekly basis and should provide starting points for finding topics and beginning research for the two papers you will be asked to write this term.

The Brahmanical Tradition and the Vedic Period

The Brahmanical tradition dates from the Vedic period (roughly 1500 to 600 b.c.e.), when the sacred Hindu texts known as the Vedas were first composed. This period becomes a critical reference point for many Indian modernists, revivalists, and nationalists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who, in the face of British colonialism, hark back to "tradition" in order to help define a modern India. Despite the coeval influences of Buddhism, Jainism, bhakti devotional traditions, and later, of Islam and Sufi traditions, Indian "tradition" in the modern period is almost exclusively focused on Hindu texts and mythologies dating from the Vedic period.

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The Mughal Empire and the English East India Company

Modernity in South Asia is often correlated with the arrival of the British and the cultural and economic changes that ensued during the colonial period; however, the dates and resources in this subsection will suggest that South Asian modernity is a process with no fixed start date. European colonization developed in fits and starts, and the decline of Mughal sovereignty was also a gradual process.

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Nineteenth-Century Religious Reform

Major themes of this period are British colonial governance in India, the rise of English-speaking Indian intellectuals in Bengal, the influence and importance of Brahmanism, Muslim and Hindu identity formation, and the changing role and position of women.

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Twentieth-Century Nationalist Movements

Major themes of this period include the rise of competing Indian nationalisms, the anti-colonial struggle, neo-Hinduism, the Muslim Question and the call for a separate Muslim state, independence from Britain, and the Partition of 1947.

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Post-Independence

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