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

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Colonial Knowledge in Precolonial History

State Formation and the Establishment of Non-Muslim Hegemony: Post-Mughal 19th-century Punjab by Rishi Singh, New Delhi: Sage, 2015; pp ix+232, ₹895.

How is colonial knowledge reflected in our understanding of precolonial history? This is the question that lies at the core of Rishi Singh’s book. Singh has attempted to unravel the principles of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s statecraft, especially his policies on religious matters. But how far is the author’s understanding based on colonial knowledge, is the question to be answered. Has he been able to undo the impact of the colonial interregnum which has informed our knowledge of the precolonial past?

He questions the dominant historiography which considers Ranjit Singh a “secular” ruler. For example, he quotes Fauja Singh, a veteran historian of the Sikhs, who wrote in his Some Aspects of State and Society under Ranjit Singh that Ranjit Singh was a secular ruler, and compared his liberal rule with Akbar

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