Dr Mukherjee's research project is titled 'Famine and dearth in India and Britain, 1550-1800: Connected Cultural Histories of Food Security'.

Dr Ayesha Mukherjee awarded large AHRC Early Career Research grant

An Early Career Research grant of £231,144 has been awarded to Dr Ayesha Mukherjee for a research project comparing cultural responses to famines in early modern India and Britain.

Dr Mukherjee, a Lecturer in the Department of English, will be Principal Investigator for the two year project (2014-16) entitled “Famine and dearth in India and Britain, 1550-1800: Connected Cultural Histories of Food Security”.

She will work alongside co-Investigator Amlan Das Gupta, Professor of English, and Director of the School of Cultural Texts and Records, at Jadavpur University, Calcutta, India. The project partner is the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford.

The research theme will provide a different starting point into investigating early Anglo-Indian connections. It will explore the fact that the famine and dearth chronologies of India and Britain in the 16th and 17th centuries ran parallel to each other; for example, early members of the East India Company, who had experienced dearth in Britain, often travelled across famine-ridden terrain in India alongside local migrating populations, joining their caravans.

Dr Mukherjee says, “I am especially looking forward to the multilingual and cross-cultural challenges of the project, which looks at sources from the 16th to the 18th centuries, in Persian, Hindi, Bengali, and English, and geographically reaches across three countries”.

Multilingual archival materials for this study are located across 11 repositories in India, Bangladesh, and the UK. This research will also enable Exeter and Jadavpur to collaboratively build a coherent digital resource, containing the complex literature, rare archival materials, and data on pre-industrial famines, which will benefit the community of humanities and social science scholars studying the subject.

Dr Mukherjee adds ”The creation of the digital resource will allow us to explore how social scientists working on current food security issues might use historical information on famines and evidence of human coping mechanisms from the past, and whether this knowledge might inform food security policy. Working on a project like this at an early stage of my career will be a big challenge as well as a great opportunity to learn, and I cannot wait to begin!”.

Date: 23 June 2014

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