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HIST6116 Nehru’s India: Nationalism, Difference and the Path to Development (1930-1963)

Module Overview

At midnight on the 15th of August 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru heralded the independence of India with his legendary ‘tryst with destiny’ speech. For Nehru, India had finally come into its own and could now claim its place among other nations of the world. This module introduces you to the history of this transition from British colony to nation-state. In particular, we will focus on the challenges to the establishment of India as a modern nation-state posed by a national economy in shambles and a profoundly diverse population. The primary objective of the module will be to draw out the ethical and political implications of the conflict between Nehruvian cultural, social, political and economic nationalism and the broader anxieties about social and economic difference in emergent India.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Introduce you to debates about the historiography of Post-Colonial Indian History • Develop your understanding of the history of India in the post- Independence period • Familiarise you with the debates about difference including state policy and political rhetoric designed to address minority communities.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The debates on post-colonial history.
  • Knowledge of non-western nationalism and its relationship to western models of nationalism.
  • The impact of the legacy of imperialism on post-colonial nation states.
  • The complexities of the contradiction between the diversity of the Indian population and homogenous Indian national identity with reference to specific historical examples and their various archival sources
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse the way a newly formed nation is imagined within political, social and economic debates.
  • Recognise the anxieties of diversity in newly emergent India and identify the universality of such anxieties in the modern world.
  • Structure arguments about how non-western nationalism envisions the nation in a manner that both borrows from western models and is posed as an alternative to western nationalism.
  • Evaluate a range of textual and archival sources
  • Demonstrate confidence and independence of thought
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse complex written texts
  • Articulate nuanced arguments in cogent writing.
  • Give an effective oral presentation


An indicative list of the topics covered in the module includes: • a discussion of Nehru’s Discovery of India, which will provide you with a general timeline of the history of India as well as introduce you to Nehru’s attitude towards political and economic nationalism in India. • sessions aimed at tracing the challenges posed by social, religious, cultural and economic difference among the Indian population to the Nehruvian vision for India. • current historiography on communalism, debates around the nature of the Indian constitution and the politics of development economics in the 1950s and 60s. • theoretical literature on nationalism, which will enable you to combine historical knowledge with theories of nationalism to arrive at a nuanced understanding of Indian nationalism in the 1950s and 1960s.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The principal teaching method will be one two-hour seminar per week analysing key events, chronology and concepts, focusing on examination and discussion of primary and secondary source material and the key issues of debate they raise. Learning activities include: • Preparatory reading before each seminar • Participation in group and seminar discussion • Independent reading of the sources provided and of related secondary works • Preparing and delivering presentations in seminars • Independent research of additional information and source materials Seminars will provide you with general knowledge and understanding about chronology, sources and key concepts. This will be consolidated through readings and seminar discussions of primary and secondary source material. Discussion in seminars will help you to develop your own ideas about a topic, to analyse a range of source material and to articulate a critical argument.

Follow-up work15
Completion of assessment task39
Preparation for scheduled sessions60
Wider reading or practice15
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Dipesh Chakrabarty (2000). Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. 

Gyanendra Pandey (1991). Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India. 

Partha Chatterjee (1993). Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse. 

Frederick Cooper (2005). Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge History. 

Srirupa Roy (2007). Beyond Belief: India and the Politics of Post-Colonial Nationalism. 

Benedict Anderson (2006). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. 

James Scott (1999). Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition have Failed. 

Manu Goswami (2004). Producing India: From Colonial Economy to Nation Space. 

Partha Chatterjee (2007). Nation and its Fragments. 

Jawaharlal Nehru (1997). Discovery of India. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback  tutor comments on seminar presentations and discussion  individual consultations with tutor Formal assessments • One 4000 word essay will constitute 100% of the final grade.


Draft essay


MethodPercentage contribution
Research essay  (4000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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