At India Ink, our mission is to communicate Indian history in a way that’s simple and accessible.
Why is this important?
Because history is relevant. The violence and the wonders of the current moment have their sources in the distant past. And if we don’t understand that past, we can’t understand the present. Once we understand how we got to the present juncture, it becomes possible to think about where we’re headed. To borrow a phrase from Yuval Harari, India Ink isn’t focused on the past, it’s focused on change.
Because history is complicated. Historians are constantly rediscovering and rethinking the past as new facts and ideas come to light. Following these debates can be hard. And pop culture – movies, TV, memes – tends to care more about being entertaining than being accurate. And we now have to wrestle with fake news and conspiracies as well. But just because the truth is complicated doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Because history is inaccessible. Textbooks are often over-simplified or just plain wrong. Academia, despite its many discriminatory practices and structures, remains our best source of credible knowledge. But these credible sources of history are often locked behind expensive paywalls and technical language, only available to the most dedicated – and privileged – readers.
What are we going to do?
We want to simplify academic history and explain why readers should care. Academic writing can be dense and abstract. We want our summaries to be conversational and connected to the debates and issues in the public sphere. But at the same time, we want to keep the spotlight on the original authors and their work. We want to make sure that our readers know whose work we’re building on and how to dig deeper if they’re interested. So we cite our sources and link to publicly-accessible versions (when they exist).
We will leverage the strengths of the Internet. We want to design our content to take advantage of the Internet and the interactivity that it enables. We’re also committed to going to our readers rather than making them come to us. Our articles will exist – in the fullest extent possible – as threads on Twitter, as posts on Instagram and Facebook, as broadcast messages on Whatsapp, as email newsletters and so on. Our website will archive all our content but you don’t ever have to visit it unless you really need to.
We will learn, grow, and adapt as we go. We are approaching this as journalists, not historians. The goals of this project are limited to communicating the work of professional historians and boosting accessibility to the social sciences. We see India Ink as an experiment. And we foresee the form of this experiment necessarily changing and evolving over time as we test our ideas and receive feedback. This means we will make mistakes. So when we err, we hope to be transparent and accountable and learn from our errors.
If you’d like a behind-the-scenes look as we build in public, see our posts here.
Who are we?
Visvak is a journalist who has worked in print and digital, as an editor and as a reporter. He studied South Asian history and politics at the School of African and Oriental Studies on a Chevening Scholarship and prior to that he worked as a features editor at BuzzFeed and The Hindu.
Thomas Manuel is a writer from Chennai, India. His work has appeared at Lapham’s Quarterly, The Nib, The Wire, The Hindu, among others. His play, Hamlet and Angad, won the 2016 Hindu Playwright Award. His first book, a narrative history of the opium trade in colonial India, is to be published by Harper Collins in 2021.
Shireen Azam is a DPhil researcher at the University of Oxford, where she works on the invisibilisation of caste among Indian Muslims. She was previously at the Economic & Political Weekly, where she founded the digital initiative EPW Engage, a project which explored new grounds in making Indian academic research accessible and exciting for scholars and non-scholars alike.
Who’s paying us to do all this?
This project is funded by a social impact grant for education and historical research from the Community Health Research Trust run by Dr. Aniruddha Malpani. The grant is worth ₹3.60 lakh over a period of six months.
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