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Colonialism and Nationalism Part-2 Notes

Nationalist Interpretation

  • This school was represented by political activist such as Dada Bhai Naroji, Lala Lajpat Rai, A.C. Mazumdar, R. G Pradhan, S.N. Banerjee, and B.R. Nanda, etc.

  • Nationalist interpretation emerged in response to Colonial interpretation of Indian history and tried to expose the exploitative character of British colonialism.

  • These people challenged the colonial view that British government has brought to the subcontinent modern political system and political unity.

  • They believe British had harmful effects on economic and cultural development of India.

  • Modernity and political unity are in fact fruits of struggle undertaken by the Indians themselves.

  • Nationalist accepted some of the interpretation of Orientalists of golden age of India and its decline.

  • However, Orientalists claim of bringing modernity and unification in India rejected by Nationalists.

  • Further, they found British responsible for India’s decline.

  • Nationalist school of thought was a product of national movement by which they tried to establish the superiority of the past over the present while using the categorization of James Mill.

  • Mill viewed the remote past, as Hindu civilization and projected it as the golden age.

  • Nationalists’ attempt to rediscover their glorious past in ancient Hindu India gave rise to communal historiography

  • Nationalist historians, in contrast to colonial interpretation, tried to view national movement as peoples’ movement.

  • Various leaders of Indian national movement from Dadabhai Naroji to Gandhi accepted India as a nation in the making.


Marxists Perspective: Colonial Interpretation

  • Marxists conceptualize the nations as of people which are divided on class lines.

  • Emphasized the differences among those classes and emphasis that nationalism’s claims of commonality are superficial.

  • Their writing engages with the aspirations of the marginalized sections of society.

  • Proletariat in India or colonized societies elsewhere, was a by-product or an unintentional contribution of colonial administration.

  • Colonialism makes the poor classes aware enough to ask about their role and place in the history of their societies.

  • Rajni Palme Dutt and A. R. Desai are the two most prominent historians are advocates of Marxists Perspective.

  • Marxists historians saw colonialism as a way of capturing the raw materials of the colony.

  • Civilizing nation is vague concept given by British, they always want to dominate mode of production in the country.

  • According to Marxists, colonialism is the highest phase of imperialism.

  • Colonies were created to tackle the problem of constant and cheap supply of labor, raw materials and availability of markets for the manufactured goods.

  • Lenin was one of the top proponent of this perspective who intensified the condition of colonialism during 1920s.

  • Lenin said capital was concentrating into the hands of large monopolistic corporations led by a few large financial oligarchies.

  • Capital in fewer hands created massive inequalities in these societies.

  • Therefore, in order to maintain the levels of profit some kind of creativity and expansion was required and that's how European power started colonizing.

  • Ultimately this led towards imperialism.

  • Lenin identifies that imperialism gave birth to a new capitalist class which was based on ‘the export of capital’.

  • Despite the fact that Lenin and other Marxists believed in the idea of colonialism being just a stage of imperialism, where one imperial power occupied another country for its raw materials and market, they too believed that in most of the cases colonial occupation had been helpful in modernizing the occupied societies.

Subaltern Interpretation/Perspective

  • Subaltern perspective brought new genre to the analysis of Indian nationalism.

  • It was the Antonio Gramsci who used the word ‘subaltern’ for the “subordinate class in terms of class, gender, race, language and culture.”

  • This school of thought adopted the “history from below” approach for the analysis of Indian nationalism.

  • They believed that elitist historiography always saw mass upsurge either as a law and order problem or in response to the charisma of certain leader.

  • It means elitist historiography ignored the contribution made by people on their own though in many movements like anti-Rowlett upsurge of 1919 or Quit India movement of 1942, people were actively participated without being guided by leaders.

  • The people resistance to “elite domination” represents the core of the politics of “subalternity

  • There was the co-existence of both domains of politics. But failure of the Indian bourgeoisie to speak for the nation, common people led their own struggle.

  • This perspective tried to explain the politics of elite and politics of people where politics of people didn't highlight by elitist of Indian section.

  • Subaltern historiography emphasis the “autonomous domain” of subaltern groups by highlighting the contribution made by them.

  • They have used the “history from below” approach in line with European Marxist.

  • Thus, they attacked on the symbol of repression only.


Liberalist perspective presents the justification given by British to rule over Indian legitimately on the name of civilization and modernity. Marxists tried to fix their class division concept in Indian colonialism and exposed imperialistic nature of British. On the other side, Orientalists being kind to Indian by accepting the ancient Indian golden age phase however showcased backwardness and stagnant in economy since a very long time. Utilitarian at some point accepted the legitimacy of British empire in India as their modern and civilized concept helped Indian economy to grow and to escape stagnant. They given oriental despotism. Nationalist exposed British by looting Indian wealth, culture and values. At the end Subaltern perspective They attacked on the symbol of repression only and used the “history from below” approach.



  1. Nationalist : It's an ideology based on the premise that the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group interests.

  2. Utilitarianism : Utilitarianism would say that an action is right if it results in the happiness of the greatest number of people in a society or a group. When used in a sociopolitical construct, utilitarian ethics aims for the betterment of society as a whole.

  3. Orientalism : Orientalism is the study of near and far eastern societies and cultures, languages and peoples by Western scholars. I t can also refer to the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers and artists.

  4. Missionaries : a person sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country.

  5. Proletariat: The working class, usually the poor.

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Sep 02, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Amazing Notes one can study only them to write a good answer in exams

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