Health, Race and Family in Colonial Bengal

  • Satadru Sen
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Childhood book series (PSHC)


In the second half of the nineteenth century, the norms of Indian childhood were substantially reinvented and disseminated by new forms of children’s literature and adult autobiography.1 Drawn into the nursery of Indian nationalism, children were imagined as an alternative nation that could be either better or worse than the colonized reality inhabited by parents, teachers and writers. Simultaneously, in India as in western Europe, remembering childhood as a life apart and intervening in shaping its contours and content became central to adulthood and freedom.2 While these shifts were consistent with the novelty of Victorian childhoods, in India the changes were fundamentally schizophrenic, framed as they were by expectations of continuity — articulated as tradition and culture — even as tradition and culture were redefined.3 Child-rearing became a complex response to colonial rule, which itself became not so much an act of education, punishment and government, as an act mandating the education, punishment and government by natives of their own offspring. Indeed, child-rearing came to encompass the rethinking and supervision of a broad range of relationships within the family, since wives and even husbands would often themselves be children. Conjugality and childhood cannot be separated in histories of the Indian family.


Colonial Rule Child Marriage Joint Family Conjugal Relation Saving Money 
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