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ERIC Number: EJ765692
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Jun
Pages: 21
Abstractor: Author
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0030-9230
Bad Language in the Raj: The "Frightful Encumbrance" of Gottlieb Leitner, 1865-1888
Allender, Tim
Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education, v43 n3 p383-403 Jun 2007
This article traces the exceptional career of Gottlieb Leitner, one of the most significant European educators in north India in the second half of the nineteenth century. Leitner's career is important because he was responsible for changing government attitudes about teaching in the local languages and he was pivotal in the foundation of the Punjab University. The article is also part of a move since the mid 1990s to rediscover the European educator in India. This has been necessary because postcolonial research has neglected such men and women and subalternist approaches have concentrated, instead, on using European-constructed text to decipher the histories of mostly marginalised and oppressed indigenous groupings on the subcontinent. Leitner's appointment as Principal of Lahore Government College in 1865 was a deliberate step on the part of authorities in Calcutta and London to see a language expert and educator take up the position. The Punjab, the province where the college was located, was of importance to the British. It had been annexed just fourteen years earlier and it contained the strategic North West Frontier, adjacent to Afghanistan. Its languages were especially difficult for the British to understand and Leitner's expertise offered a chance to facilitate translations of Western knowledge into the local languages, and especially the medium of instruction which was Persian Urdu. However, his brash approach to raj governance soon provoked hostility from his superiors that was to endure until his departure from the province 33 years later in 1888. This article demonstrates that Leitner's long career in the Punjab was part of a generally fruitless debate about education in the province. It also shows how other political agendas easily intervened in educational matters in British India in a way not found elsewhere in the empire. However, Leitner's thinking, the strategic alliances he was able to form with indigenous groupings, and his ability to understand the politics of the raj, resulted in an important change in government attitudes, especially concerning university education taught in the local languages. The structure of the Punjab University and the local language degrees it could confer were unique in the raj at the time of its foundation in 1881. Much of this was the result of Leitner's clever lobbying that Calcutta, despite its distaste for the troublesome Lahore College principal, ultimately could not afford to ignore. Most significantly, Leitner's career is illustrative of how the British lost the initiative on the question of "language and education" in little over one generation despite a deeper understanding of the subject in the early half of the nineteenth century. At the time of Leitner's departure from India in 1888 this increasingly polemical issue was being incorporated, instead, into nationalist narratives that were to grow more stridently anti-British in the early twentieth century. (Contains 88 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: India