The age of catastrophe devoured lives from many parts of the globe. Yet the ‘Great War’ also occasioned new encounters and experiences. Never before had ten thousands of non-elite South Asians moved across Europe. About two thousand of them, mostly sailors and soldiers who hailed from villages in Bengal, Nepal, the Northwest Frontier and Punjab, were held for years in German prison camps. They attracted the close attention of army officers, diplomats and secret agents, of emigrant revolutionaries like Har Dayal and Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, of German artists, academics and industrialists. The captives made sense of these unusual encounters in their own ways. It introduces and makes available rich German archives as yet unknown to the non-German speaking world. The CD Rom attached to this book goes beyond the written word. It includes the Hindi and Urdu editions of the propagandistic camp journal Hindostan , transcripts of sound recordings in which the sailors and soldiers speak in their native tongues about their experiences as they are taken from place to place, perhaps in the hope that these might reach their families. There is nostalgia in their voices as they sing songs about their homes, while acutely critical comments on their lives in ‘vilayat’ give the lie to the notion of the apolitical peasantsoldier. The CD Rom also includes pictorial documents of paintings by the soldiers, and some powerful photographs of war camps in Zossen and Wünsdorf. The CD Rom also carries the Bibliography which is a special feature of this book. It is both extensive and rich, covering rare books which will be of enormous value to scholars and interested readers.
About the Authors
FRANZISKA ROY is doctoral candidate at the Department of History of the University of Warwick.
HEIKE LIEBAU is Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Modern Oriental Studies (Berlin).
RAVI AHUJA is professor of modern Indian history and the director of the Centre for Modern Indian Studies at the University of Göttingen.