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Swadeshi Steam

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A.R. Venkatachalapathy (1967) was born in Gudiyattam, in the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu and w... Read More

Product Description

A.R. Venkatachalapathy (1967) was born in Gudiyattam, in the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu and was educated in Chennai and New Delhi. A historian and Tamil writer, he is a professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai. Chalapathy has taught at universities in Tirunelveli, Chennai, Singapore and Chicago, and has held research assignments in Paris, Cambridge, London, and Harvard. He is the winner of the V.K.R.V. Rao Prize; Vilakku Virudhu and Iyal Virudhu (both for lifetime contribution to Tamil literature) and the Mahakavi Bharati Award. Chalapathy has published widely on the social, cultural and intellectual history of colonial Tamil Nadu. Apart from his writings in English, he has written or edited over thirty books in Tamil.

In 1906, Britain's grip on the world was unassailable. Its navy ruled the seas, and its trade empire spanned the globe. But in the small port town of Tuticorin, a lawyer named V.O. Chidambaram Pillai—known to the world as VOC—had a revolutionary idea that would challenge the might of the empire itself.

VOC's plan was audacious: to launch the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company, a venture that would compete head-on with the British India Steam Navigation Company, the shipping giant that controlled the region. To make his dream a reality, he rallied native traders and patriotic citizens, raising the capital needed to launch his daring enterprise. But the company faced a formidable foe: British mercantile interests and the imperial state both backed its competitor, giving it deep pockets and brazen government backing. VOC and his allies would have to defy overwhelming odds to make their venture a success.

Swadeshi Steam is a tale of heroism and defiance in the face of colonial oppression. Based on four decades of research in archives around the world, this inspiring saga showcases the power of one individual's vision to ignite a movement.

Swadeshi Steam is the result of Chalapathy’s four-decade-long labour of love. Perseverance and pursuit, both essential traits in a historian, are seen in ample measure. It is more than the biography of V.O. Chidambaram or the history of the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company. Corroborated by a range of rare documents, it conclusively establishes Tamil Nadu’s signal contribution to the Indian freedom struggle. Replete with historical surprises, Chalapathy’s fascinating narrative style and language, imbued with a wide range of emotions, makes this book a compelling read.‘This is a superb work of historical scholarship, which can be read for its intrinsic interest and for the profound resonances it has for our own times. It is a dual biography, of a remarkable individual and of a daring commercial enterprise he founded. With an enviable mastery of sources in Tamil and in English, A. R. Venkatachalapathy takes us through these two interwoven careers, of the radical and recklessly courageous nationalist V. O. Chidambaram Pillai and his Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company that so bravely (and perhaps recklessly) challenged the economic and political hegemony of the British Empire. In a mundane sense both these careers ended in failure and tragedy; it is the historian’s singular achievement to have brought back to us the dignity, courage and resolution which underlay them.’‘“I will not fear,” said VOC. “I will not weary.” How, through the gusty winds of political persecution and the lashing waves of financial misfortunes, the patriot-shipper faced his challenges is a story Venkatachalapathy tells us movingly and unforgettably. A breakthrough in archival retrieval and historical narration.’In a remarkable combination of fabulous research and vivid storytelling, Swadeshi Steam portrays an extraordinary indigenous shipping enterprise and its founder VO Chidambaram Pillai against the backdrop of empire and globalisation. Venkatachalapathy has pursued his subject over four decades and has ensured that no historian need bother again. This is an altogether engrossing and instructive book on a pivotal yet forgotten moment in Indian nationalism.‘Swadeshi Steam is a superb book by one of our finest historians. Written with panache and grounded in painstaking research in Tamil sources, A. R. Venkatachalapathy's riveting account of V. O. Chidambaram Pillai's anti-colonial shipping line sheds new light on how commerce and politics combined in the struggle for a free India.’With his corporate challenge to the mighty British Raj, V.O. Chidambaram Pillai altered the tenor of the Indian freedom movement. A.R. Venkatachalapathy teases out the historical and emotional contours of this understudied contribution in his characteristically vivid style, his work rich with rare material. A milestone in the annals of modern Indian historical writing.An exhaustively researched, finely grained and deeply felt telling of one of the Swadeshi era’s more remarkable stories: one man’s struggle to launch an Indian shipping company to rival Britain’s maritime supremacy

Set against the backdrop of the Swadeshi movement in the Madras Presidency, Swadeshi Steam is a story of an ordinary person’s challenge to the mighty British Empire, especially its command of the seas.
A.R. Venkatachalapathy weaves together a magnificent history of the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company and V.O. Chidambaram Pillai from hitherto unknown sources. Swadeshi Steam is the history of an Indian entrepreneur and visionary who dared to challenge British might; it is a history of business and competition in which the players were at once canny and ruthless; and it is a history of Indian anti-colonialism that begins with Swadeshi and moves into labour movements in the era of World War I. A history of a human actor, his aspirations and heartbreak, Venkatachalapathy’s immensely learned and readable book narrates a multi-layered history of colonial south India.

Swadeshi Steam is an intricately crafted and captivating story about a small-town pleader’s struggles to build up a steamship company—one capable of competing with the British maritime monopoly. It narrates his difficult journey from “setting sail” to “running aground”. The important microhistory uncovers and weaves together many other little-known or unknown histories: Tamil anti-colonial nationalism in the Madras Presidency, life in the port town of Tuticorin, shipping and maritime commerce, and careers of business establishments among several other themes. The masterly narrative is as vivid as it is richly textured. It is a pleasure to read.

Product Details

Title: Swadeshi Steam
Author: A.R. Venkatachalapathy
SKU: BK0484185
EAN: 9780670099597
Language: eng

About Author

A.R. Venkatachalapathy (1967) was born in Gudiyattam, in the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu and was educated in Chennai and New Delhi. A historian and Tamil writer, he is a professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai. Chalapathy has taught at universities in Tirunelveli, Chennai, Singapore and Chicago, and has held research assignments in Paris, Cambridge, London, and Harvard. He is the winner of the V.K.R.V. Rao Prize; Vilakku Virudhu and Iyal Virudhu (both for lifetime contribution to Tamil literature) and the Mahakavi Bharati Award. Chalapathy has published widely on the social, cultural and intellectual history of colonial Tamil Nadu. Apart from his writings in English, he has written or edited over thirty books in Tamil.

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