Situating Akshay Kumar Maitreya
Chandrani Banerjee Mukherjee
The writing of Indian history in the modern times began with the orientalist scholars but the process underwent a major transformation during the second half of the nineteenth century with the emergence of the nationalist school. The newly educated middle classes in India became aware of a ‘usable’ past, which needed fresh investigations. Although the nationalists had imbibed the notions of a glorious Indian past from their orientalist predecessors, orientalist literature was not deemed sufficient. The spirit of anti-colonial nationalism had evoked deeper commitments and scholars took up the task of investigation in a new way. Their notion of historical writing gave birth to the writing of regional and sub regional history in the light of the nationalist ideals. Bengali nationalist historiography of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries displayed particular characteristics. A special orientation to the vernacular language was sought as the j?t?ya bh??? or national language of the Bengali speaking people. Following Isvar Gupta, it was chosen as the medium for writing the history of Bengal. Secondly, an effort was made to identify the Bengali nation or sub nation by an assertion of the socio-politico-economic and cultural characteristics of the region. The objective of this article is to situate the works of a pioneer in Bengali regional history writing, Akshay KumarMaitreya (1861-1930), in his specific context as well as comprehend, in a wider sense, his position in the world of empirical history.