Friday, November 23, 2007

Kosambi on 1857

D.D. Kosambi, whose birth centenary in 2007 merits celebration at the national level, wrote at the age of 17 at Harvard an essay on the uprising of 1857; he expanded and published it in 1939, a now forgotten article titled ‘The Road to Kanpur’ in the Fergusson and Willingdon College Magazine of Pune. He wrote admiringly of the “proletarian heroes” who shed their blood in 1857 but he did not fail to note the “fratricidal loyalty” to the British displayed by some Indian sepoys whose “sword opened the first secure path for the grimy civilisation of Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield in many an unhappy corner of the world.” Kosambi’s characterisation of the uprising of 1857 was shaped by his understanding of its class character. In 1954 he held the view that “Indian feudalism tried its strength against the British bourgeoisie for the last time in the unsuccessful rebellion of 1857” (Monthly Review, vol. VI, New York).
Historian Sabyasachi Bhattacharya recalls Kosambi's comments on the revolt of 1857.

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