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Kajal Meghani

MA work

Title of Dissertation: Indian 'Handymen': Thomason College and Technical Education in Colonial India (1847-1947)

Perusing through the extensive British Pathé website and inputting a search under ‘Indian craftsmen’, the search engine responded to my query with a film clip titled The Indian ‘Handymen’. The film title triggered all sorts of questions in my mind – who were the ‘handymen’? Why were they called ‘handymen’? And more importantly, what relation did this have with Indian craft?

These are the key questions that my dissertation seeks to answer. The Indian ‘Handymen’ turned out to be a recruitment clip, filmed during the Second World War, urging more Indian civilians to aid the war effort. The film focuses on the non-combative role of the Sappers and Miners, also known as the engineers of the army, to entice potential recruits. The promise to these new recruits was technical education through trades such as carpentry and blacksmithing, which would be useful for civilian life, once the war was over. This I investigate through the institutional history of Thomason College in Roorkee, in the United Provinces of British India. The institution, which had a unique relationship with the military throughout its history, was chosen as a site for training new war recruits during the Second World War.

Thomason College, one of the oldest institutions in India to formally teach engineering, was established during a period in which the definition and implications of ‘technical education’ was being debated. Consequently, the development of the institution is entwined with the development of technical education where it was used as a tool to modernise ‘traditional’ craft.

Info

  • Kajal Meghani profile image
  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2013

  • Title of Dissertation: Indian 'Handymen': Thomason College and Technical Education in Colonial India (1847-1947)

    Perusing through the extensive British Pathé website and inputting a search under ‘Indian craftsmen’, the search engine responded to my query with a film clip titled The Indian ‘Handymen’. The film title triggered all sorts of questions in my mind – who were the ‘handymen’? Why were they called ‘handymen’? And more importantly, what relation did this have with Indian craft?

    These are the key questions that my dissertation seeks to answer. The Indian ‘Handymen’ turned out to be a recruitment clip, filmed during the Second World War, urging more Indian civilians to aid the war effort. The film focuses on the non-combative role of the Sappers and Miners, also known as the engineers of the army, to entice potential recruits. The promise to these new recruits was technical education through trades such as carpentry and blacksmithing, which would be useful for civilian life, once the war was over. This I investigate through the institutional history of Thomason College in Roorkee, in the United Provinces of British India. The institution, which had a unique relationship with the military throughout its history, was chosen as a site for training new war recruits during the Second World War.

    Thomason College, one of the oldest institutions in India to formally teach engineering, was established during a period in which the definition and implications of ‘technical education’ was being debated. Consequently, the development of the institution is entwined with the development of technical education where it was used as a tool to modernise ‘traditional’ craft.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons), History of Art, School of Oriental and African Studies, 2010
  • Experience

  • Volunteer, The Clothworkers' Centre for Textiles, Victoria &Albert; Museum, London, 2013–present
  • Awards

  • Student Travel Award, Design History Society, 2012; Anthony Gardner Travel Award, Victoria &Albert; Museum, 2012; , Friends of the Vi&A; Scholarship, Victoria & Albert Museum, 2011–13
  • Publications

  • Encyclopaedia of Asian Design, Soumitri Varadarajan, Berg, forthcoming