"When the War Began We Heard of Several Kings": South Asian Prisoners in World War I Germany
Franziska Roy, Heike Liebau and Ravi Ahuja (Eds.)
140 x 216 mm
Year of Publishing
Territorial Rights
Social Science Press

The age of catastrophe devoured lives from many parts of the globe. Yet the ‘Great War’ also occasioned new encounters and experiences. Never before had ten thousands of non-elite South Asians moved across Europe. About two thousand of them, mostly sailors and soldiers who hailed from villages in Bengal, Nepal, the Northwest Frontier and Punjab, were held for years in German prison camps. They attracted the close attention of army officers, diplomats and secret agents, of emigrant revolutionaries like Har Dayal and Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, of German artists, academics and industrialists. The captives made sense of these unusual encounters in their own ways. This volume approaches their difficult engagements from various angles. It introduces and makes available rich German archives as yet unknown to the non-German speaking world.

The CD Rom attached to this book goes beyond the written word. It includes the Hindi and Urdu editions of the propagandistic camp journal Hindostan, transcripts of sound recordings in which the sailors and soldiers speak in their native tongues about their experiences as they are taken from place to place, perhaps in the hope that these might reach their families. There is nostalgia in their voices as they sing songs about their homes, while acutely critical comments on their lives in ‘vilayat’ give the lie to the notion of the apolitical peasant-soldier.

The CD Rom also includes pictorial documents of paintings by the soldiers, and some powerful photographs of war camps in Zossen and Wünsdorf. The CD Rom also carries the Bibliography which is a special feature of this book. It is both extensive and rich, covering rare books which will be of enormous value to scholars and interested readers.

Franziska Roy is d octoral candidate at the Department of History of the University of Warwick.

Heike Liebau is Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Modern Oriental Studies (Berlin).

Ravi Ahuja is professor of modern Indian history and the director of the Centre for Modern Indian Studies at the University of Göttingen.

Introduction: Franziska Roy, Heike Liebau

Part I: Histories of the Prisoners

Lost Engagements? Traces of South Asian Soldiers in German Captivity, 1915 -1918: Ravi Ahuja
South Asian Civilian Prisoners of War in First World War Germany : Franziska Roy
The German Foreign Office, Indian Emigrants and Propaganda Efforts Among the ‘Sepoys’ : Heike Liebau
German Perceptions of Enemy Colonial Troops, 1914–1918 : Christian Koller
South Asian Soldiers and German Academics: Anthropological, Linguistic and Musicological Field Studies in Prison Camps: Britta Lange

Part II: Histories of the Sources

Recordings of South Asian Languages and Music in the Lautarchiv of the Humboldt University Berlin : Jürgen Mahrenholz
Indian Prisoners of War in World War One – Photographs as Source Material: Margot Kahleyss
Hindostan - A Camp Newspaper for South-Asian Prisoners of World War One in Germany: Heike Liebau

Short Biographies
Archival Collections
Index of Persons
Index of Places

‘Soldiers don’t speak; they are spoken to. In this fascinating collection of disturbing essays Indian soldiers who survived the killing fields of World War I (serving a colonial King and Country) are made to speak to us directly as POWs from German camps. … A stunning achievement of empathetic modern German scholarship. Going to India Gate in New Delhi (built to commemorate the Indian soldiers of the Great War) will never be the same again.’

- Shahid Amin, Delhi University

‘This is a valuable collection of articles that gives access to a rich archive in the German language, which had remained largely inaccessible to an Anglophone readership . The use of that archive can help broaden the approach to the problem of the participation of Indian soldiers in the First World War on the Western front, a topic which has not yet attracted sufficient scholarly attention.’

- Claude Markovits, Centre d'Etudes de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales

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