Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, History Department

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Cornell University
John Stuart Mill and His Indian Readers: Classical Political Economy in Colonial North India, 1830-1890

My dissertation explores the ways in which European thinkers of political economy, such as John Stuart Mill and David Ricardo, were received, translated, and read in colonial India in the nineteenth century. Exploring a new archive of nineteenth century Urdu translations of these thinkers, I argue that political economy was significantly challenged and transformed in colonial India, and was ultimately re-cast as a discourse of self-improvement and personal fulfillment. While political economy has often been seen as a 'science' of government and commerce, this Indian interpretation of it as a discourse of self points to a previously unexamined vernacular intellectual history that highlights the different paths taken by political economic discourse as it circulated globally. Drawing upon new scholarship in translation theory, my project shows how Anglo-European economic texts were localized to address particular Indian concerns. Specifically, my project is organized around two thematic and methodological axes. First, I chart a social history of the reception of political economy in India by examining the individuals and institutions who translated these texts. I consider the role of Urdu newspapers, journals, and school textbooks in disseminating political economic ideas, and I ask how and why these ideas were used to inculcate notions of self-improvement. Second, I trace the conceptual history of political economy within Indian intellectual traditions by investigating the ways in which certain categories of economic thought, such as labor or capital, changed over time. In particular, I look at eighteenth and nineteenth century Indian economic writings to study how such categories were conceived before and after the arrival of political economy. Engaging with recent works in global intellectual history and the history of liberalism in India, my project thus provides a new case study of how liberal economic ideas circulate and are transformed in different contexts.