Washington, First Stop: Sikhism, Racism and Steel

  • Ashwani Saith
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Economic Thought book series (PHET)


To avoid a financial burden on his family, Ajit opted for studies at Howard University supplementing a scholarship with work. The Civil Rights Movement was at its height; “both Howard and living in Washington, DC were important formative experiences: direct contact with the black situation made me aware of internal colonialism”. Significantly, his MA thesis focussed on the Indian steel industry, and “I reached the conclusion that to develop properly in the nineteenth century the Indian steel industry would have required protection, a policy which colonial administrations refused”. Ajit’s topic symbolically resonated with the ethos of the era, as steel epitomised the Indian drive for planned industrialisation, and generated resentment against the denial of national choice due to imperial subjugation. This early work initiated Ajit into his future research on industrial economics. Alongside, he encountered Shamsher Singh, another long-term friend, who connected Ajit with the Sikh community in Washington.


  1. Ali, N. (2009, June 29). The heart of Punjab. Wichaar—A Comprehensive Punjabi Journal. Retrieved from
  2. Eatwell, J. (2016). Tribute to Ajit Singh. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 40(2), 365–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Grewal, J. S. (2017). Master Tara Singh in Indian history: Colonialism, nationalism and the politics of Sikh identity. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Rowbotham, S. (2001). Promise of a dream: Remembering the 1960s. New York: Verso.Google Scholar
  5. Singh, A. (2000). Ajit Singh 1940–. In P. Arestis & M. C. Sawyer (Eds.), A biographical dictionary of dissenting economists (2nd ed., pp. 612–616). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  6. Singh, G. (2017, February 6). Grandpa of the Indian US Community. The Times of India. Retrieved from
  7. Singh, S. (1999). Unblossomed bud: A saga of intellectual rebels. Sikh National College, Lahore 1938–1947. Washington, DC: Five Rivers Publishers Inc.Google Scholar
  8. Singh, S. (2015, July 19). Remembrances: Dr Ajit Singh, Professor, Cambridge University, England. The Sikh International. Retrieved from
  9. Singh, S. (n.d.). Vichchoray da Dagh (in Punjabi). Virginia: Wichaar Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ashwani Saith
    • 1
  1. 1.International Institute of Social StudiesErasmus University RotterdamThe HagueThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations