India’s leading historian of Muslim politics and communalism in colonial India has written and edited an engaging and offbeat book. Mushirul Hasan breaks the widely held misconception of the emerging Muslim public sphere as inward looking and degenerate in the wake of 1857 and its aftermath. The underlying politics behind the publication of the book, though unstated, cannot be missed by the reader. By putting together this riotous volume of cartoons Hasan seems to be conveying a subtle but nevertheless strong message to both Western champions of liberty and Muslim fundamentalists.
Ambitiously titled Wit and Humour in Colonial North India, this book is centred on the Urdu weekly Avadh Punch which was published from Lucknow from 1877 to 1936. Even though we know that the Delhi Sketch Book published cartoons even before 1857, the author is not too far off the mark when he states that theAvadh Punch “was virtually the first Indian newspaper to give us cartoons.”