ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Orienting Progress?

Some Aspects of Education in 19th Century Assam

The unique trajectory of colonial education in Assam in the 19th century forms the subject matter of this paper which argues that the state took a conscious decision to promote education till the upper secondary level at the cost of higher collegiate education. Throughout the 19th century the state argued against the setting up of a college in the province and encouraged Assamese students to travel to Calcutta for higher education. Through an examination of the revenue records, the paper shows that this departure from the colonial state's overall policy was uniquely designed to cater to the revenue needs of the state in a region unusually constrained on account of the deficit of labour. The palpable disregard for higher education by the administration was, however, sought to be justified by harping on the backwardness of the Assamese mind, and the consequent need for exposure to the intellectual environment of Bengal.

I thank Rosinka Choudhury and Lakshmi Subhramaniam for their valuable remarks on earlier drafts of this article. I am grateful for the suggestions received from the members of the faculty at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata where the paper was presented at a Staff Seminar in February 2011. I thank Partha Chatterjee, Bodhisattva Kar, Keya Dasgupta, Manavi Majumdar and Tapati Guha-Thakurta for their valuable suggestions. I am grateful to Ford Foundation for their postdoctoral fellowship.

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