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How to Become a Native Explorer: English Education and the Making of a Professional

Tapsi Mathur, History

This paper is part of a larger doctoral research project examining the creation of a professional class of native explorers employed by the colonial state to survey and explore regions beyond the frontiers of British India in the nineteenth century. In my dissertation, I trace a history of native exploration that emerged in conjunction with, though always subordinate to, the European exploration of parts of South and Central Asia. Here, I will locate the first group of these explorers as they were educated at the Delhi College at the height of the education debates of the 1830s. These students, some of whom were part of the first English class established in Delhi, were educated not only in English but in surveying, and are some of the earliest of the “class of interpreters” that Macaulay imagined would result from the introduction of English Education to public institutions in British India. However, if the aim of an English Education was to produce an ideal professional, it only went so far in the making of a native explorer. By examining the evidence of their syllabus and the essays they wrote, as well as several texts they read, I want to tease out the many traditions that informed the professionalization of these explorers. I identify a shifting set of professional norms that these explorers adhered to, shedding new light on the ways in which knowledge and authority get constructed in this moment.