Godrej Archives



"The Rise of the Indian Typewriter, 1890-1960

Prof. David Arnold


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Date: 08th February 2012

Venue: Godrej Bhavan, Roof Garden, 4A, Home Street, Fort, Mumbai

Timing: 6.45 pm


About the Speaker

Now widely regarded as emblems of a global modernity, typewriters had a major, but largely unacknowledged, role in the making of modern India. From their first introduction in the closing decades of the nineteenth century, they transformed the nature of office life in India and contributed to the making of the modern state. As typing schools proliferated in the principal cities of India, as typists replaced scribes and women entered the modern office, typewriters contributed to a revolutionary change in the nature of the urban workforce. Novelists, journalists and politicians rapidly – and often enthusiastically – adopted its use. The great majority of typewriters imported into India before the 1940s were American machines (particularly Remingtons), but from early on keyboards were used with Indian scripts. By the time of India's independence in 1947, the Bombay firm of Godrej and Boyce had begun to pioneer the production of an India-made typewriter that would compete with foreign imports and serve national needs. With the coming of computers, the typewriter has now largely become a thing of the past. But before it disappears entirely, and our own experiences of it remain fresh, this talk will reflect on the momentous rise of the typewriter in India, on the kinds of people who used them, the changes these machines brought about in everyday life, and the development of an Indian typewriter producing capacity by the early 1960s.



David Arnold (born 1946) is a historian and has held the position of Professor of Asian and Global History at Warwick University since 2006. Previously he held the position of South Asian History at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies. Since his early research, on nationalist politics in South India in the 1920s and 1930s, his work has ranged widely over the history of modern South Asia, and beyond, and has included social and environmental history and the history of science, technology and medicine. Along with David Hardiman he was a founder member of the Studies group of historians of South Asia. Arnold contributed seven articles in total to the publication and co-edited the eighth volume with David Hardiman in 1994.He later described this period as consisting of 'the most inspiring and supportive atmosphere I have ever been in'. He is also an early contributor to the field of colonial medicine, most influentially Colonizing the Body.

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