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Revising history: How a new archive changes our understanding of the past and the present
Mehta N.
Published in Routledge
Volume: 6
Issue: 2
Pages: 187 - 203
This article outlines how fresh historical evidence recently made available in a new digital archive necessitates a nuanced rewriting of the complex linkages between colonial structures, early-Indian capitalism and the incipient nationalism that drove Indian sport and Olympism before independence. India became the first colony to take part in the Olympics, supremely dominating Olympics hockey between 1928 and 1956. This article shows how the new evidence necessitates a nuanced revision of the social history of early Indian hockey and Olympism how it also offers tantalizing fresh possibilities for a study of media history as well as the evolution of advertising, capital and identity in India.The known story of colonial Indias encounter with hockey and the Olympics so far rested on four pedestals: it grew out of colonial institutions; it was appropriated by nationalist elites, who saw modern sport as an identity marker to accelerate Indias journey to modernity; Indian hockey, unlike Indian cricket and Indian football at the time, was not divided in these early years along regional and class divisions remaining largely meritocratic; and fourth, the symbolism of the rise of Indian hockey was not lost on the colonial overlords, who after England lost a practice game to India in 1928, chose not to participate in Olympics hockey from 1928 to 1948. Documents now made available in South Asia Archive show how the fourth pillar, the role of British administrators, now needs revising, strengthen our understanding of the third pillar, the region-nation divide, while significantly altering what we know of the social profiles of the leading players - especially with respect to the role of the United Provinces and the Central Provinces. They also add much more colour and detail to the second pillar - the interplay between the nationalist aspirations of the promoters of Indian hockey and the shifting role of the British supporters of Indian hockey at the highest levels of the British administration. Separately these pamphlets open up fascinating new lines of enquiry into the role of advertising and big capital in the growth of colonial hockey and early attempts by Indian publishers to tap into the sport-loving public as a market for media products. © 2015 © 2015 Taylor & Francis.
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