This book offers a new interpretation of the life and legacy of the Indian reformer and intellectual, Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar (1820-91). Drawing upon autobiography, biography, secondary criticism and a range of Vidyasagar's original writings in Bengali, the book interrogates the role of history, memory and controversy, and emphasises the key challenge of pinning down the identity of an enigmatic and multi-faceted figure. By examining lesser-kwn works of Vidyasagar (including several pseudonymous and posthumous works) alongside the evidence of his public career, the author calls attention to the colonial transformation of intellectual and social life, the nature of life writing, the limits of standard biographies and the problem of modern Indian identity as such. Based on decades of research and an original perspective, this book will be especially useful to scholars of modern Indian history, biographical studies, comparative literature and those interested in Bengal.
Brian Hatcher is Professor and Packard Chair of Theology, Department of Religion, Tufts University, Medford, USA.