Marginalia

Thema is a small publishing house based in Kolkata who have recently published Sarmistha De's Marginal Europeans in Colonial India (1860–1920).

"This study focuses on the particular section of European settlers in India, referred to in contemporary official papers as the ‘low Europeans’ or ‘mean whites’; which loosely meant a white underclass comprising destitutes, vagrants, convicts, lunatics and prostitutes. Primarily a study of the European underworld and marginal classes in two Presidencies of colonial India, viz. Calcutta and Bombay, the condition of the marginal Europeans and white underworld in the mofussil and railway cantonment areas also comes under its purview."

As Arnab Bhattacharya says while reviewing Marginal Europeans in The Telegraph last year, "In the perception of colonized people, the Europeans represented a homogeneous class which was destined to rule. The Europeans themselves engendered this notion ... Obviously, this is an example of essentialism in its crudest form and is divorced from historical truth."

De's well-researched book focuses on the marginalised Europeans, "vagrants, prostitutes and convicts — for her study, because they were, as she explains in the Introduction, the real “offenders” in the eyes of colonial law. These marginalized sections caused administrative problems to colonial rulers and brought them moral embarrassment by challenging the widely circulated notion of their racial superiority that was solemnly upheld to justify their civilizing mission." (From Bhattacharya's review).

New in our History section, Rs 450. In hardcover, 316 pages. ISBN: 9788186017586

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