ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Communication in the Colonial Era

Communication and Colonialism in Eastern India: Bihar, 1760s -1880s by Nitin Sinha (London: Anthem Press), 2012; pp xxxviii + 272, £60.

Almost from the time of their introduction a century and a half ago, and perhaps even before the first lines were built, the railways have been seen as a powerful force for the social, economic and, ultimately, political transformation of India. It was not only Karl Marx, in the 1850s, who reasoned thus. Many others – engineers, financiers, officials, political commentators of all persuasions – hailed the coming of the railway as a momentous event, one that uniquely brought profit, efficiency and the blessings of a superior civilisation.

Remarkably, this insistence upon the primary role of the steam locomotive in India’s transport history, and hence in its economic development and technological modernity, has rarely been challenged, seldom contextualised in terms of what went before as well as what followed after. In this respect, Nitin Sinha’s book represents an enterprising new departure.

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