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The First World War in Indian public spheres: from perception of war to the reconfiguration of identities, world views and world orders

Dr. Heike Liebau

Concentrating on the Indian perception and experience of World War I, the project investigates their representation and interpretation in different public spheres. It focuses on the two central aspects of how the implications of war events influenced Indian views of the British Empire world order and “Western Civilization”; and how these processes changed religious, cultural and political self-perceptions among a wide spectrum of educated Indians. The position of Indian intellectuals from different social and political backgrounds is the key research interest. The project aims to contrast the debate among the English-speaking elite with the treatment of war events in the Hindi-speaking public sphere, which was shaped by “secondary elites” from middle and lower-class social groups. Another revealing perspective is the analysis of the war discourse among Indians in North America and Europe. The research is based on documents produced by the anglicized political elite as well as on the English mainstream press. Hindi media used by “secondary elites” and publications by Indian nationalists exiled in Europe and North America are also investigated.