Domestic servants have always been, and continue to be, ubiquitous in the households of middle and upper income rural and urban South Asia. They are also strikingly visible in art forms: paintings, sculptures, photographs, cinema, plays, stories, etc. Yet, they remain absent from scholarly research with very few recent exceptions.
Domestic service was an important category of labour and social relationships in early modern and colonial India but the domestic servant has largely remained absent from historians’ accounts of South Asia. Servants’ Pasts, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century South Asia, Vol. 1, much like Vol. 2, covers a range of polities; it specifically explores the period from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, and provides untold accounts of the ideals and practices of master/mistress-servant relationships during that period.
Nitin Sinha is Senior Research Fellow, Leibniz Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, and Principal Investigator of the European Research Council-funded project, ‘Domestic Servants in Colonial India’.
Nitin Varma is Fellow, Re: Work, IGK Work and Human Life Cycle in Global History, Berlin.
Pankaj Jha is Associate Professor, Lady Shri Ram College for Women.