Sunday, 19 October 2014

Kollam in Cambridge: a ninth century Indian document and its nineteenth century rediscovery

In pre-modern South Asia, important legal documents were inscribed onto copper sheets; known as copper plate grants, these are one of the main sources for medieval Indian history. The Kollam plates record endowments and privileges awarded in 849 CE to an Eastern (Syrian) Christian church at the port of the same name in Kerala and are among the most fascinating medieval grant documents from South Asia.

Europeans had known of the existence of the Kollam plates since the sixteenth century, but for a few centuries their whereabouts remained unknown, until they were rediscovered in the Cochin Fort in 1806. It is in this context that Claudius Buchanan, a Cambridge alumnus and Vice-Provost of Fort William College in Calcutta, commissioned a set of copper printing plates to produce prints of what he termed “the Christian tablets of Malabar”. In the pre-photographic era prints were one of the main means of disseminating epigraphic records or other historical documents. While the Kollam plates have recently been studied within an Indian Ocean context, in the nineteenth century missionaries and scholars like Buchanan sought in them evidence for the history of Indian Christianity and the potential for expanded missionary activity in the sub-continent.

Buchanan’s are the earliest reproductions of this important document and sets of prints were circulated to Indian ‘pandits’ and “learned societies in Asia and Europe” in an effort to decipher the main text of the grant.

You can view these incredible copper plates in a free exhibition, Kollam in Cambridge, in the entrance hall of Cambridge University Library until 8th November 2014, where Buchanan's plates are complemented by informative banners produced by De Montfort University and the British Museum.

More information about the copper plates from Kollam, and their value to historians of early and medieval Indian history, is available on the project website: .   The project was led by De Montfort University in collaboration with The British Museum and was funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (grant number AH/I025948/1).

Monday, 13 October 2014

Visual Rhetoric and Modern South Asian history seminar series, University of Cambridge, Michaelmas 2014

Please find below the schedule for the ‘Visual Rhetoric and Modern South Asian history’ seminar series organised as part of the ‘Visual Language and South Asian History’ Programme led by Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes, University of Cambridge. Seminars will take place in Michaelmas Term 2014 on Tuesdays between 4:30 - 6:00p.m. in S3 Seminar Room, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DP. 

This seminar series introduces postgraduate students and researchers to media research skills required when exploring the visual dimension of modern South Asian history. For details see

14th October 
Colonial South Asia: cultural conflicts and racial hierarchies

21st October   
Visual anthropological perspectives on South Asian society

28th October  
Gendered politics in the visual representation of South Asia

4th November  
The Indian National Movement

11th November  
Partition: politics, memory and experience

18th November 
After Independence: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

25th November     
Sri Lanka on film: Ceylon tea and Tamil Tigers

2nd December      
Contemporary South Asian visual constructions of Self & Nation

Contact: Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes, amm230[at]

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Visual Constructions of South Asia new seminar series, University of Cambridge, 2014-15

'Visual Constructions of South Asia' is an annual seminar series launched in 2014 as part of the Visual Language and South Asian History Program led by Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes at the University of Cambridge. The series is supported by the Thriplow Charitable Trust and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH).  For further information see 

Please see below the programme and poster for the Michaelmas term. 
Location and Time: Mondays, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., S2 Seminar Room, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road. CB3 9DT.

13th October:  The Iconography of Alterity: Simla and the Visualisation of ‘British’Enclaves in Indian Highlands (Siddharth Pandey)
27th October:  ‘For a little amusement’: A Brutal Look at Leisure in Early Modern Indo-Danish Relations (Josefine Baark)
10th November:  Death and sanitation: Imperial representations of The Ganges (Cleo Roberts)
24th November:  Before East was East: British Pakistani Cinema in the 1980s (Hamza Beg)