Applied orientalism in British India and Tsarist Turkestan

Alexander Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Writing in 1872, Sir Alfred Lyall, Governor of the North-Western Provinces of British India, was talking about the reluctance amongst many of the old Muslim scholarly class of North India to embrace the modern, enlightened learning of the West. For Lyall, to be an Orientalist was to be one of those Anglo-Indian advocates of state support for Oriental Learningthe study of Arabic, Persian, and Sanskritin the tradition established by Warren Hastings and Sir William Jones, who had been worsted by the Anglicists led by Lord Macaulay in 1835. To adopt the meaning popularized by Edward Said, we might say that while Lyall makes a classic Orientalist judgment about the value of Eastern civilization, he is also making an observation about the relationship between knowledge and power that still resonates today. Lyall is consciously echoing Macaulay's notorious statement, A single shelf of a good European Library was worth the whole literature of India and Arabia, which has often been taken as a byword for the arrogance of Europeans confronted with an Orient to which they felt themselves superior. The obvious point is that Macaulay had no interest in Oriental knowledge or knowledge of the Orient: he was not an Orientalist at all. Perhaps this is why Said dealt with him only tangentially.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-647
Number of pages29
JournalComparative Studies in Society and History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Applied orientalism in British India and Tsarist Turkestan'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this