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The Chequered Career of Business History in India

Prof. Medha Kudaisya


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Date: 30th November, 2011

Venue: Children's Creative Center, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay (Formerly Prince of Wales Museum), Mumbai

Timing: 6.00 pm – 7.00 pm


About the Speaker

Medha Kudaisya is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the National University of Singapore where she teaches Asian business and economic history. After her Masters at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, she was a Commonwealth Scholar at the University of Cambridge, UK from where she obtained a Ph D. Her research interests are in the area of economic and business history.


Her publications include a recently edited work, The Oxford India Anthology of Business History (Oxford University Press, 2011), The Life and Times of G D Birla (Oxford University Press, 2003 and 2006), and co-edited, Chinese and Indian Business: Historical Antecedents (Brill, Leiden, 2009). She has contributed to academic journals such as South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies and Modern Asian Studies.


Synopsis of the talk

This lecture looks at the chequered career of writings about business as a distinct and autonomous historical entity in India. Beginning with merchant tellings, it looks at this rich tradition of writing, which owes much to traders, caste bodies, community associations and bazaar initiatives. Some of the genres which these merchant narratives took, such as abhinandan granths, smritis, jati and community histories, are considered. The lecture then traces the key stages in the emergence of 'business history' in its modern form and shows how it emerged from the shadow of economic history. It also delineates the main themes and concerns which have dominated the field of business history. The lecture points out that, despite a rich tradition of writing, business history has not found institutional bases in India. It speculates on some of the reasons for this, while highlighting the dynamism and importance of the field in the context of studies of contemporary India.




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