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O'Hanlon, Rosalind, Venkatkrishnan, Anand and Williams, Richard David (2020) 'Scribal service people in motion: Culture, power and the politics of mobility in India’s long eighteenth century, c. 1680–1820.' Indian Economic and Social History Review, 57 (4). pp. 443-460.

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A decade after IESHR’s Special Issue of 2010, ‘Munshis, Pandits and Record-Keepers: Scribal communities and historical change in India’, we return again to the challenges and dilemmas that scribes, bureaucrats, intellectuals and literati of different kinds faced during the early modern centuries. Building on recent advances in our understanding of these key communities, this Special Issue turns the focus to the eighteenth century. We explore the strategies of individuals as they navigated new conditions of service, unexpected opportunities for personal advancement and the complexities of affiliation amid personal networks that extended across boundaries of region, language and religion. We investigate the important role of scribal people in the literary cultures of the eighteenth century, and the new meanings that their participation gave to literary syncretism and hybridity. We return again to questions of intellectual history and the reflections of scribal service people as they sought to find meaning in the collapse of old political formations and the rise of new ones. This Introduction surveys the recent scholarly literature in these connected fields, situates the essays here in the context of this new work, and identifies some of the key questions which remain to be answered in this critical era of transition between the India of ‘early modernity’ and the coming of the colonial world.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: scribe, writer, munshi, Persianate, record-keeper
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts > Department of Music
ISSN: 00194646
Copyright Statement: article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2020 10:23

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