Saturday, 6 August 2016

Enhancing Family Archives

This is an example of a historian building a narrative based on archival resources.

While working on the biography of Cooverji Bhabha, independent India’s first Commerce Minister, I had access to the the Bhabha family’s collection of archival materials. It had the degree certificates that Cooverji Bhabha had obtained from the Bombay University. There were three of them, namely, BA in History (Hons) (1930), BCom with Advanced Banking (1932) and MA History by thesis (1933).

These certificates were the archival resources on the basis of which I, as the biographer, built the narrative of the ease with which students of Bombay University were allowed to move from one discipline to another in the pre-Independence era – in this case, from history to commerce and back to history – a facility that has been discontinued since.

I was also able to enhance the family’s archival collection by getting the image of the cover page of Cooverji Bhabha’s thesis and the topic of his dissertation which none of the next generation of family members knew about.

Cooverji Bhabha’s MA dissertation on “Old Fort William and the Black Hole” has been preserved at the Heras Institute at St Xavier’s College.

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