The first volume of Sulbaltern Studies: Writings on South Asian History and Society appeared in Delhi in 1982. Edited by Ranajit Guha , an extraordinarily brilliant Indian historian and political economist resident in Australia, it comprised six substantial essays- five of them massively detailed and frankly revisionist, one of them, Guha's, fiercely theoretical and intellectually insurrectionary. Guha's claim for the group of scholars his editorship had gathered together was relatively simple -- that hitherto Indian history had been written from a colonialist and elitist point of view, whereas a large part of Indian history had been made by the subaltern classes, and hence the need for a new historiography which these scholars were now going to write -- but its enactment and implementation would turn out to be complex and difficult. For not only was a great deal of new and otherwise neglected or ignored material to be excavated; there was also to be an appreciably greater heightening of the theoretical and methodological element. The point was that if a new, or at least more authentic, history of India was to be written, its authors had better bring forth new material and carefully justify the importance of this material as sufficiently as it was necessary to displace previous historical work on India.
The contents of the present volume, drawn from the five published collections of Subaltern Studies between 1982 and 1987, testify to the robustness of these ventures so far as Indian history is concerned. To the Western reader, however, Subaltern Studies does in fact also have a less specialized, more general importance, which it may be useful to speak about here. The word "subaltern," first of all, has both political and intellectual connotations. Its implied opposite is of course "dominant" or "elite," that is, groups in power, and in