Past Continuous is a 6-part video series about how history still affects us today. Each episode looks at a current social or political issue and traces its roots in history. Every episode tries to explain how the past affects the present we live in.

Table of Contents

1. Does the Indian Middle Class Really Exist?
2. How the “General Category” Became Modern India’s Greatest Scam
3. Why India Became Independent But Its Women Did Not
4. British Rule Made India Poor. So Why Did It Make Some Indians Crazy Rich?
5. How Indian Politics Uses Hindu vs Muslim To Cover Up Caste

Episode 1:
Does The Indian Middle Class Really Exist?



1. Quote from Colver about middle class in India

2. Data that says if you live in a city and spend more than 6300 rs per month, you’re in the top 5% of the whole country

3. The quote from Macauley is from his Minute on Education


1. Joshi, Sanjay, ed. “Introduction.” In The Middle Class in Colonial India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010.

2. Pandian, M. S. S. “One Step Outside Modernity: Caste, Identity Politics and Public Sphere.” Economic and Political Weekly 37, no. 18 (2002): 1735–41.

3. Cutts, Elmer H. “The Background of Macaulay’s Minute.” The American Historical Review 58, no. 4 (1953): 824.

4. Torri, Michelguglielmo. “Westernised Middle Class, Intellectuals and Society in Late Colonial India.” Economic and Political Weekly 25, no. 4 (January 27, 1990): 7–8.

5. Chatterjee, Partha. The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories. Princeton University Press, 1993.

6. Sarkar, Sumit. “Identity and Difference: Caste in the Formation of the Ideologies of Nationalism and Hindutva.” In Writing Social History. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Episode 2:
How The “General Category” Became Modern India’s Greatest Scam


Correction #1: In our section about the Mandal Comission’s population estimates, we said the Commission estimated that the OBC population was 56%. It’s actually 52%.

Correction #2: In the video, we quote a 2009 study as saying that applicants with upper caste names were twice as likely to get selected as applications with Dalit names. The original paper actually says the odds of a Dalit being called for an interview were 0.68 of the odds of an upper caste applicant. We regret the error. The full paper is accessible here:



1. Data about IIT Admissions for 1969 and 2011

2. Data about upper caste in general category in IIT Madras in 2018

3. Gender ratio at IIT in 2017

4. Dominance of upper castes in courts

5. Dominance of upper castes in newsrooms

6. Dominance of upper castes on corporate boards

7. Studies about caste discrimination in elite educational institutions:

8. For examples of violence against Dalits for riding horses, just google it.


1. Subramanian, Ajantha. 2019. The Caste of Merit: Engineering Education in India

2. Deshpande, Satish. “Towards a Biography of the ‘General Category.’” Economic & Political Weekly, no. 15, 2013. (Read our summary of the paper.)

3. Satyanarayana, K. 2014. “Dalit Reconfiguration of Caste: Representation, Identity and Politics,”Critical Quaterly 56 (3). 46–61

4. Mandal Commission Report

5. Ambedkar, BR. 1936. Annihilation of Caste

6. Galanter, Marc. 1984. Competing Equalities.

7. Omvedt, Gail. 1990. “Twice-Born Riot Against Democracy,” 1990

8. Roy, Rajat. 2020. “From Postcolonial Irony to Dalit Truth: A Perspective on Experience,” EPW

Episode 3:
Why India Became Independent But Its Women Did not



1. Number of women MPs

2. Number of female IIT students

3. Women in the labour force

4. Percentage of agricultural land owned by women


1. Refashioning Mother India: Feminism and Nationalism in Late-Colonial India Author(s) – Mrinalini Sinha

2. Maps and Mother Goddesses in Modern India Author(s) – Sumathi Ramaswamy

3. A post-colonial patriarchy? Representing family in the Indian nation-state – Eleanor Newbigin

4. The Nationalist Resolution of the Women’s Question – Partha Chatterjee

5. Whatever happened to the Vedic Dasi – Orientalism, Nationalism, and a script for the past – Uma Chakravarthy

6. Law, custom, and statutory social reform: the Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act of 1856 – Lucy Carroll

7. Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India – Lata Mani

Episode 4:
British Rule Made India Poor. So Why Did It Make Some Indians Crazy Rich?


1. Colonialism and Indian Economy.
Author: Amiya Kumar Bagchi
Source: Oxford University Press, 2010.

2. From Little King to Landlord: Property, Law, and the Gift under the Madras Permanent Settlement
Author(s): Nicholas B. Dirks
Source: Comparative Studies in Society and History , Apr., 1986, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Apr., 1986), pp. 307-333

3. Zamindars under the Mughals
Author: S. Nurul Hasan
Source: Land Control and Social Structure in Indian History, edited by Robert E. Frykenberg

4. Impact of British Colonialism on Different Social Classes of Nineteenth-Century Madras Presidency
Author: K.A. Manikumar
Source: Social Scientist , May–June 2014, Vol. 42, No. 5/6 (May–June 2014), pp. 19-42

5. Dubashes of Madras
Author: Susan Neild-Basu
Source: Modern Asian Studies, Vol 18, No 1, 1984 pp 1-31

6. Trading Firms in Colonial India
Author: Tirthankar Roy
Source: The Business History Review , SPRING 2014, Vol. 88, No. 1, Business, Networks and the State in India, pp. 9-42

7. The Comprador Role of Parsi Seths, 1750-1850
Author: Amalendu Guha
Source: Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 5, no. 48, 1970, pp. 1933–36.

8. Sociologists and Inequality in India: The Historical Context
Author: Satish Sabherwal
Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Feb., 1979, Vol. 14, No. 7/8.

9. Capital and Crowd in a Declining Asian Port City: The Anglo-Bania Order and the Surat Riots of 1795.
Author: Lakshmi Subramanian
Source: Modern Asian Studies, vol. 19, no. 2, 1985, pp. 205–37.

10. For the Love of India: The Life and Times of Jamsetji Tata
Author: RM Lala
Source: Gardner Books, 2004.

11. The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire
Author: William Dalrymple
Source: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019.

Episode 5:
How Indian Politics Uses Hindu vs Muslim To Cover Up Caste


1. William Gould. 2005: “Contesting secularism in colonial and postcolonial north India between the 1930 and 1950s”. Contemporary South Asia, 14-4,….
2. Khalid Ansari, 2017, “Caste should be seen as the overarching category in Indian society: Khalid Anis Ansari,” Round Table India,…
3. Papiya Ghosh. 1997, “Partition’s Biharis,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, xv-2, Partition’s Biharis | Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East | Duke University Press (
4. Ali Anwar, 2000, Masawat ki Jung, New Delhi: Vani Prakashan.
Nandini Gooptu, 2001, The Politics of the Urban Poor in Early Twentieth-Century India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
5. Santosh Kumar Rai, 2012, “Muslim Weavers’ Politics in Early 20th Century Northern India,” Economic & Political Weekly, 47-15,…
Data about Muslim employment and other indicators from Sachar Committee Report, 2006,…


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