The Muslims of northern India and the trauma of the loss of power, c. 1857-1930s

Eve Tignol

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

2715 Downloads (Pure)


This thesis explores the views, writings and emotions of Urdu-speaking intellectual elites as they undergo a process of collective mourning and articulate memory as a creative tool for cultural regeneration in northern India from 1857 to the 1930s. North Indian Urdu and English language writings from the colonial period, I argue, reveal successive stages in the process of collective grieving that was triggered by the trauma of the loss of power and affected several generations of north Indian intellectual elites. Both considering well-known sources and investigating neglected ones, this thesis proposes to reassess the cultural and social history of colonial north India through the yet little explored perspective of memory and emotions and restore a more complex picture of Indian Muslim identity formation. This thesis also aims to draw attention to the literary history of the Urdu nostalgic genre of shahr āshob and to its role in fostering a collective sense of belonging in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Chapter One introduces the thesis in its historiographical context. Chapter Two delineates the genre of shahr āshob, its poetic developments after 1857 and its role in establishing 1857 as the symbol of cultural trauma. Chapter Three re-evaluates the evolution of the genre in the late 1870s and reveals its function in the re-channelling of collective grief into regeneration particularly in the works of the Aligarh poet Altaf Husain Hali. Chapter Four considers the significance of memorials for public recognition and for the shaping of a new pan-Indian Muslim identity in Mohamed Ali’s papers from 1911 to 1915. Chapter Five shows how the new generation of Urdu-speaking intellectual elites strove to emancipate themselves from cultural trauma by turning nostalgia into positive action and self-assertion, especially during the Khilafat movement (1919-1924). Chapter Six extends the analysis to 1910-1930 fiction novels about Delhi by evaluating how they facilitated collective closure. This thesis more broadly heightens our understanding of cultural trauma and its impact on the processes of Muslim identity formation and separatism.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Robinson, Francis, Supervisor
Award date1 Dec 2016
Publication statusSubmitted - 2016

Cite this