Empire, Nationalism and the Postcolonial World: Rabindranath Tagore's Writings on History, Politics and Society


By presenting a new interpretation of Rabindranath Tagore’s English language writings, this book places the work of India’s greatest Nobel Prize winner and cultural icon in the context of imperial history and thereby bridges the gap between Tagore studies and imperial/postcolonial historiography.

Using detailed archival research, the book charts the origins of Tagore’s ideas in Indian religious traditions and discusses the impact of early Indian nationalism on Tagore’s thinking. It offers a new interpretation of Tagore’s complex debates with Gandhi about the colonial encounter, Tagore’s provocative analysis of the impact of British imperialism in India and his questioning of nationalism as a pathway to authentic postcolonial freedom. The book also demonstrates how the man and his ideas were received and interpreted in Britain during his lifetime and how they have been sometimes misrepresented by nationalist historians and postcolonial theorists after Tagore’s death.

An alternative interpretation based on an intellectual history approach, this book places Tagore’s sense of agency, his ideas and intentions within a broader historical framework. Offering an exciting critique of postcolonial theory from a historical perspective, it is a timely contribution in the wake of the 150th anniversary of Tagore's birth in 2011.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Rabindranath Tagore remains one of India's greatest thinkers. Michael Collins' book brilliantly sets him in the context of his European contemporaries, indicating how he was both interpreted and mis-interpreted for the wider world." - Sir Christopher Bayly, University of Cambridge, UK

"Michael Collins' fine research on the Indian poet and thinker Rabindranath Tagore sheds intriguing new light on the making of his reputation in the West. The book casts the intimate history of understanding and (as often) misunderstanding between Tagore and some of his closest supporters into poignant relief, and reminds us of the powerful and revelatory effects of close historical investigation." - Elleke Boehmer, University of Oxford, UK

"Works of scholarship can spread ripples, and I foresee a considerable ripple effect from Dr Collins' painstaking pursuit of unity amidst the often baffling contradictions of Tagore's discursive writings" William Radice, SOAS; Frontline, Volume 28 - Issue 27 : Dec. 31, 2011-Jan. 13, 2012

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Michael Collins is Lecturer in the Department of History at University College London (UCL), UK. He specialises in Modern British and World History and the intellectual history of empire and decolonisation.


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Table of Contents

Foreword Tapan Raychaudhuri Introduction: Tagore, Imperialism and a Global Intellectual History Part 1: Ideas and Intentions 1. Religion and Reform: Tagore’s Nineteenth Century Inheritance 2. England and the Nobel Prize: Tagore At Home in the World 3. On Nations and Empires: Tagore’s Debates with M. K. Gandhi Part 2: Colonial and Postcolonial Encounters 4. Cross-Purposes: Tagore, W. B. Yeats and ‘Irish Orientalism’ 5. Acts of Atonement: Tagore, C. F. Andrews and E. J. Thompson 6. Rabindranath Redux: Tagore’s Legacy in the Postcolonial World

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