Cheap and Bad Books: A Social History of Printing and Publishing in Colonial India

Date: 29 July 2019
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: UVA Special Collections
Lecturer: Anindita Ghosh - Professor of Modern Indian History, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester

Print-languages and literature were vital instruments for crafting identities in colonial India, generating complex power struggles in the process. In nineteenth century Bengal it proved a veritable battleground. Not just the educated middle classes, but various other social groups were active interlocutors in the formation of contemporary Bengali literary and cultural norms. For cheap printing techniques and the spread of basic literacy had combined to create, from the mid-century onwards, a sizeable body of printer-publishers, authors and readers of relatively plebeian origin. The paper brings these hitherto unknown reader-producer groups into focus, and unearths substantial “popular” print-cultures that made use of the vibrant publishing milieu to proudly assert their linguistic (and social) alterity.

A National Endowment for the Humanities-Global Book Histories Initiative Lecture.