The British Library together with Chevening held its’ Chevening Explores: The Great War and World Literature event on 23 May at the British Library with a talk by Dr Santanu Das. The event was also an opportunity to showcase the research of Chevening Fellow, Partha Bhaumik during his 2017/2018 British Library Fellowship.

The Chevening British Library Fellowship offers international experts a year-long project-based placement at the British Library. As the UK’s national library and one of the world’s leading research libraries, fellows of this programme have the opportunity and the privilege of working with the library’s extensive collections whilst also benefiting from the availability of professional expertise found here. Partha has contributed to the collections by cataloguing and digitising content related to the Partition of India. He will be taking this knowledge and skill back to India where he intends to use them to create an online archive of collated sounds for researchers to access in the future.

Partha Bhaumik introducing research at British Library
Chevening Fellow Partha Bhaumik introducing his research to scholars

During the event, Chevening Fellow Partha Bhaumik presented his research on, ‘Nationalism, Independence, and Partition in South Asia, 1900-1950’. During the presentation, he discussed narratives of history in relation to the Partition of Bengal in 1905 and the protests which ensued from common people including a memorial signed by 60,000 people in this region which was sent to the India Office in London.

Unexpected discovery

Partha’s British Library supervisor, Antonia Moon (Lead Curator, post-1858 India Office Records) was also present at the talk and of his supervisor, Partha said that despite being a ‘hard-core archivist’, she encouraged him to pursue unofficial histories and it was during this research that he discovered a signature by his own ancestors in the signed protest memorial.

Antonia Moon and Partha Bhaumik
Partha Bhaumik and supervisor, Antonia Moon, Lead Curator, post-1858 India Office Records

Partha said of his fellowship, that it has been hugely beneficial to his research both now and on an ongoing basis. He explained that he was given full access to the Basement Collections and that he had worked closely with the sound team on oral histories.

Dr Das at the British Library
Dr Das during his talk on ‘The Colour of First World War Memory’

Expanding historical narratives

Headlining the event was Dr Santanu Das who gave a lecture in which he discussed the millions of Asians and Africans whose experiences of World War 1 are documented in a very limited capacity. He discussed his thoughts for why this may be and presented the idea that the, ‘world of narratives can’t be confined to the written word or the text’ and that, ‘if we have to take the world literature seriously we need to be far more expansive and flexible.’ He concluded that we have to consider all sources of literary materials when forming historical narratives to ensure we have as full a picture as possible.

Marcie Hopkins, Head of International Office at the British Library
Marcie Hopkins, Head of International Office at the British Library introducing the Chevening Explores event

Talking about the unique fellowship, Head of International Office at the British Library, Marcie Hopkins commented that they were very happy for having the support of the FCO and Chevening to further access materials found within the British Library and that they were looking forward to meeting next year’s fellows too.

The event concluded with a brief tour of The British Library for guests to enjoy.

More information about this programme can be found here.

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