Arun Kumar (University of Nottingham)

For my research on workers’ schooling in colonial India, I have used both official and non-official archives. In these archives, I have found material ranging from official correspondence, enquiries, reports, surveys, and books to letters of students, school registers, school diaries, vernacular textbooks, and other vernacular writings. Each document narrating a new type of economic history that needs to be taken into account.

The Nagiri Pracharini Sabha Libaray, Banaras: This is a well-known archive among scholars working with Hindi material. Its rich contents, both catalogued and uncatalogued, has been mainly used to research literary histories. There is a vast range of material on various aspects of indigenous economic life. For example, there are old Hindi books on commodities such as match-boxes, sugar, and tobacco, on agrarian education, and on vernacular arithmetic describing the indigenous method of debt system. I also used a few of the Hindi agrarian journals kept here. Magazines like Madhuri contain essays on domestic servants, clothing, education, and prices of goods. Majority of material is in bad condition and is kept lying in bundles in dusty rooms. I had the privilege of accessing some of the material kept in these locked rooms. The library needs proper cataloguing and digitisation to be used as a further archive on economic life.

The United Theological College Library and Archive, Bangalore: It is a well-kept archive on missionary activities during colonial and post-colonial India. Largely unexplored by scholars, the archive contains a huge amount of material on industrial schools, industrial conferences, missionary trade, and missionary industries (such as of the weaving and tile making industries of the Basel Evangelical Missions).

The Industrial School, Nazareth, Tamil Nadu: As part of my doctoral work, I visited the Nazareth Industrial School which was established after the 1876-77 Great Famine. Here I found school registers running thousands of pages, which detail the activities of the school: industries taught, visits of important persons, occupational life histories of the passed students, and details of the teachers of the school. The school has also a good collection of photographs about its history. Part of the schools’ history records are kept in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. I have digitised a few materials on my own.

Arya Pratinidhi Sabha Libraries, Lucknow (Sabji Mandi) and New Delhi (Behind Delight Theatre):  These two libraries house amazing Hindi and Urdu material on various themes, ranging from all the way from documentation of slaughterhouses to indigenous merchants (1900s-1950s). They also contain various old newspapers and magazines that carry news on contemporary economic life. The compounds are mainly the offices of Arya Pratinidhi Sabha. They each have one room for dumping old literature. This important material is endangered and needs our attention.

Family papers of my grandfather and father: These are letters written by my grandfather (a peasant turned soldier) from his field-post to my grandmother, father, and mother detailing the economic life of a peasant house in 1980s and 90s. These here-and-there letters depict processes such as the arranged marriage of six daughters, finances for the education of two sons, the management of home building, worker management, and crops, and vernacular education on letter-writing. These are about 50-60 letters.

May 2017