British Library “Two Centuries of Indian Print” South Asian Seminars podcast

By Galia Umansky|December 19, 2018|Uncategorized|0 comments

Pam Sehmi

Monday 3rd December 2018 marked the last of our current series of South Asia Seminars – which have been successfully running since November 2016. These exciting and varied talks have revolved around the British Library’s South Asia collection as well as the ‘Two Centuries of Indian Print’ digitisation project.

The free talks at the British Library have created a great platform for researchers, from the UK and overseas, to share their specialist knowledge with the public as well as with other academics. Each of these insightful seminars were followed by further discussions which encourage the British Library Curators, researchers and public to share their thoughts on the topics.

Since the series began a wide range of interesting topics have been explored spanning the historic impact of political, social and cultural changes across South Asia.

For example, our latest talk was by Dr Katherine Butler Schofield from King’s College London and was entitled ‘Miyan Himmat Khan and the Last Mughal Emperors’. The seminar explored musicians in the Mughal court through examining contemporary Indian writings and portraiture of Miyan Himmat Khan kalāwant (d.c.1845) who was chief hereditary musician to the last Mughal emperors. Dr Schofield also contextualised this research by comparing competing lineages of musical knowledge in Persian, Urdu and English c. 1780–1850. This served to show how viewing proto-ethnographic paintings and writings against a new wave of music treatises reveals indigenous modernity running in parallel with colonial knowledge in the most authoritative centres of Hindustani music production. One attendee of this talk commented on the ‘really enlightening, excellently researched seminar’ which was presented with ‘interesting context’ and ‘beautiful complimentary slides’.

Similarly, our earlier talks such as ‘Reintroducing the Celebrated Niʿmatnāmah Half a Century Later’ by independent scholar Preeti Kholsa brought 16th century gastronomic delights, aromas and indulgences from the Mughal era to the present day. She explored the British Library manuscript, the Niʿmatnāmah, and its many illustrations and accompanying text provide a rare vista into the decadence of this Sultanate court and its obliging female retinue.

Also, our seminar entitled ‘From Sri Lanka to the Western Front: Reginald Farrer’s Buddhism’ by Professor of Art History at the University of Texas at Austin, Michael Charlesworth, was well-received. Charlesworth discussed Farrer, who was an alpine plant collector, gardener, and the garden writer who single-handedly changed the way the anglophone world writes about garden plants. In this case, an attendee praised the ‘very enjoyable and engaging speaker’ and the ‘extended Q&A session’ which allowed people to explore ideas further.

This is just a brief selection of the fascinating and engaging talks which have taken place in our series.

In case you missed any of our South Asia Seminars or would like to listen to them again, they are all available to listen to for free online! Just follow the link to the British Library Soundcloud page to enjoy our previous talks:

Thank you to all of the speakers, researchers, facilitators and members of the public who attended our South Asia Seminars! Please be sure to look out for our future talks which will take place in Spring / Summer 2019!  More information will be on the Events page of our British library project webspace: or our Twitter page:

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