Ian Copland

ianEducated at the University of Western Australia (1966) and Oxford University (D Phil 1969), Copland joined the staff of the School of History at Monash in 1970, where he taught until his retirement in 2009. He is now an Adjunct Professor in the History program (SOPHIS). He was elected FAHA in 2001 and promoted to Professor in 2008. He was a foundation member of the South Asian Studies Association, Director of the Centre of South Asian Studies at Monash (1993–2000) and editor of the journal South Asia (2001–2010).

Research interests: The history of religion and governance in colonial India, with particular reference to the Princely States. Following on from his doctoral studies, his early publications looked at the relations of the Princely States to the British Raj during the high and late colonial periods. More recent publications have explored Hindu-Muslim relations in the colonial context and the role and impact of religious communalism. Copland has also published numerous articles in professional journals on British imperial history, in particular the history of indirect rule in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and British policy towards Christian missions, on Hindu-Muslim communalism, and on other topics to do with modern South Asian history.

Source: World Who’s Who: Europa Biographical Reference.

Books:

Authored:

Jawaharlal Nehru of India, 1889–1964 (1980); The British Raj and the Indian Princes: Paramountcy in Western India 1857–1930 (1982); Europe’s Great Game: Imperialism in Asia (1986, for middle to upper secondary school students); The Burden of Empire: Perspectives on Imperialism and Colonialism (1990, for senior secondary school students); The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire, 1917–1947 (1997); India 1985–1947: The Unmaking of an Empire (2001); State, Community and Neighbourhood in Princely North India, c. 1900–1950) (2005)

Co-authored:

A History of State and Religion in India (2012, with Ian Mabbett, Asim Roy, Kate Brittlebank and Adam Bowles).

Co-edited:

Federalism : Comparative Perspectives from India and Australia (1999, with John Rickard)

Selected Monographs:

The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire, 1917–1947 (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997; pbk edition 2002) 302 pp.

This archival-based study builds on Copland’s earlier monograph The British Raj and the Indian Princes, 1857–1930 (1982) and traces the course of princely politics from 1917, when Edwin Montagu, the new Liberal Secretary of State for India, initiated a parcel of reforms that included his idea that ‘the Native States as a body ought now to have some approximation to self-government’ (Copland, p. 38), until the moment of independence and partition. The approximately 600 princely states contained about one-third of the territory and one-quarter of the population of undivided India and yet their role in the events leading up to partition has been largely overlooked in the serious scholarly literature. As the author writes (p. 8), ‘The maharajas have been maligned and marginalised by the historical profession to an absurd degree’.

Copland’s declared aim was to ‘put the record straight’ by positioning the princes as ‘major actors holding centre stage’ (p. 14). ‘The attempt is eminently successful, and this clearly written, closely argued, and carefully researched study provides the best account yet of the relations between the rulers of the Indian states and their British overlords during the last thirty years of colonial rule in South Asia’ (McLeod 1998, 278). Noting the publication of several books in 1997, the anniversary year of ‘the largest transfer of power and the biggest migration in history’, Robin Moore (1997, 28) described Copland’s ‘authoritative study of the princes’ part in the “endgame of empire”’ as ‘the most original contribution’: ‘For its grasp of this unwieldy subject, it is never likely to be surpassed’.

Reviewers uniformly shared this positive opinion: ‘Copland’s book will certainly stand as the most authoritative account of the last phase of princely India’ (Darwin 1998, 439). ‘Together with his deft sketches of princely personalities, some of them quite as outrageous as might be expected, he brings to life a political world that has usually been treated with little depth or subtlety’ (Darwin 1998, 439). ‘[T]his is a scholarly work which … fills a pressing need for a serious study of the role of the Princes in the British transfer of power’ (Talbot 1998, 1032).

Reviews: Choice 35/4 (1997), 688 (R. A. Callahan); The International History Review 20/2 (June 1998), 439−40 (John Darwin); Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 8/2 (Third Series, July 1998), 278−9 (John McLeod); The Journal of Asian Studies 57/3 (August 1998), 895−6 (Michael H. Fisher); The English Historical Review 113/453 (September 1998), 1031−2 (Ian Talbot); Indian Economic and Social History Review 1 (January 1999), 123−5 (Partha Sarathi Gupta); The Historian 62/1 (1999), 173 (Richard J Grace); Australian Journal of Politics and History 46/1 (March 2000), 150−2 (W Henry Martell); Commonwealth and Comparative Politics 38/1(March 2000), 105−14 (Rob Jenkins); International Journal of Hindu Studies 5/1 (April 2001) 101−3 (Fritz Blackwell).

Robin Moore, ‘The Erosion of the Raj.’ Times Literary Supplement (22 August 1997), 28. Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive. At:

http://find.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.monash.edu.au/tlsh/infomark.do?&source=gale&prodId=TLSH&userGroupName=monash&tabID=T003&docPage=article&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm&docId=EX1200488005&type=multipage&contentSet=LTO&version=1.0

India, 1885–1947: The Unmaking of an Empire. (Harlow and New York: Longman, 2001) xviii, 138 pp [Seminar studies in history]

This book was conceived as part of Longman’s ‘Seminar Studies in History’, and designed to fulfil the requirements of a series designed to bridge the gap between general surveys and the specialist monograph incorporating the results of current research. Acknowledged experts in their respective fields were invited ‘to clarify complex issues without over-simplifying them and to stimulate readers into deepening their knowledge and understanding of major themes and topics’ (vii). Accordingly the book includes a selection of primary source documents—a perceived strength (Mitra 2002, 1403)—designed to illustrate chosen themes, provoke discussion and provide a guide for further reading. Maps and a chronology of the period under review are also provided.

Copland’s study spans the years between the founding of the Congress party and the first years of Indian independence. The author admits that, in selecting the year 1885 as the starting point of his narrative, he was adopting ‘a conventional view of modern South Asian history, one which has the Congress, and the nationalist freedom struggle, as its centrepoint’ (ix). He concedes that this is not an approach endorsed by all scholars. Nor is it one that does full justice to the complex layers of the story of modern South Asia. But although this book deals with ‘only one strand of a much larger story’, it nonetheless describes and explores, within the prescribed limitations of the series, ‘the process by which Indians and Pakistanis emancipated themselves from the seemingly iron-clad yoke of British imperialism’, as it probes the uniqueness (in South Asia) of India’s continuing attachment to parliamentary democracy. The revitalisation of the Congress party under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi at the time of the book’s publication made ‘a fresh assessment of the role of the Congress party during the foundational years between 1885 and 1947 [seem] most timely’ (Mitra 2002, 1402).

Perhaps because of its pedagogic intent, the book does not seem to have attracted many reviews in the scholarly journals. However Mitra (2002, 1402) found the book to have ‘a contemporary resonance far beyond its limited historical theme’. The same reviewer (1402–3) praised the book for its ‘sharp and readable analysis’ and other features, concluding that it was a ‘model text, not only for its academic achievement in compressing a grand historical narrative into limited space without losing richness or the moving power of history but also because of its pedagogic skill… The book is a joy to read.’

Review: Journal of Asian Studies 61/4 (November 2002), 1401−3 (Subrata K. Mitra)

State, Community and Neighbourhood in Princely North India, c. 1900–1950 (Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), xii, 259pp.

According to one reviewer (Brown 2007, 571), this book lies at the intersection of two streams of historical thinking about India before and after the country achieved independence from the British in 1947. The one is the growing interest in that part of India which was under princely rule rather than direct British control, a topic overshadowed by and largely neglected in favour of the larger interest in the policies of nationalism and the struggle for the future of India between the British, the Congress Party and the Muslim League. The other is the enquiry into the origins of the violence that occurred in the name of loyalty to a religious identity—of so-called ‘communalism’, defined by Copland in this book as ‘the process of ethnic or communal assertion’ (p. 3). He focuses primarily on the political relationship between the princely states and various religious nationalists and on an analysis of the idea of communal riots or violence.

The book seeks to provide explanations for two phenomena: the comparative freedom of the princely states from interreligious violence and ‘communal politics’ in comparison with British India before the 1930s, and their manifestation in a small number of the northern states after the 1930s. ‘Copland … [opts] for a rather eclectic, multi-causal approach that he sums up at several places as being the inevitable result of the processes of modernization and democratization in the contemporary world where ethnicity and religion unavoidably become politicized and conflictual.’ … ‘[His] central empirical chapters … on the rise of intercommunal violence in the northern tier princely states are valuable additions to the literature and to our understanding of the subject, and will have to be taken into account in ongoing debates’ (Brass 2006, 640, 641). ‘[Copland] takes us through the complexities of understanding how a large number of different states and their rulers—who were related to the different religious traditions of their subjects—navigated the most tumultuous years of the twentieth century. … It is one of the most complete expositions that we have of how religion and politics relate to each other on the subcontinent’ … ‘This is a splendid book …’ (Brennan 2006, 462).

Reviews: The English Historical Review 122/496 (April 2007), 571−2 (Judith M. Brown); Journal of Asian Studies 65/3 (August 2006), 640−1 (Paul R. Brass); South Asia 3 (December 2006), 460−2 (Lance Brennan).

 

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