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Based on ten years of research, Santanu Das's India, Empire, and First World War Culture: Writings, Images, and Songs recovers the sensuous experience of combatants, non-combatants and civilians from undivided India in the 1914-1918 conflict and their socio-cultural, visual, and literary worlds. Around 1.5 million Indians were recruited, of whom over a million served abroad. Das draws on a variety of fresh, unusual sources - objects, images, rumours, streetpamphlets, letters, diaries, sound-recordings, folksongs, testimonies, poetry, essays, and fiction - to produce the first cultural and literary history, moving from recruitment tactics in villages through sepoy traces and feelings in battlefields, hospitals, and POW camps to post-war reflections on Europe and empire. Combining archival excavation in different countries across several continents with investigative readings of Gandhi, Kipling, Iqbal, Naidu, Nazrul, Tagore, and Anand, this imaginative study opens up the worlds of sepoys and labourers, men and women, nationalists, artists, and intellectuals, trying to make sense of home and the world in times of war.
Santanu Das, educated in Kolkata and Cambridge, is Professor of English Literature at King's College London and joins All Souls College, Oxford as Senior Research Fellow in English in 2019. He is the author of the award-winning monograph Touch and Intimacy in First World War Literature (Cambridge, 2006) and the pictorial history Indian Troops in Europe, 1914-1918 (2014), and the editor of Race, Empire and First World War Writing (Cambridge, 2011) and the Cambridge Companion to the Poetry of the First World War (Cambridge, 2013). He presented the series 'Soldiers of the Empire' for BBC Radio 4 and has contributed to various events commemorating the war, from radio and television programmes to exhibitions, performances, and concerts.