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This paper argues that history-writing is not the recreation of a past that is always-already there, lying mute and waiting for the historian to give it voice, but is instead a code or genre or technology, one which constructs the past in ways that make it amenable to representation through the code of history. Enquiring into the elements which constitute the code of history, the paper concludes by considering whether this code is adequate to representing non-Western pasts.

Professor Sanjay Seth has published in the fields of modern Indian history, political and social theory, postcolonial theory and international relations. He is particularly interested in how modern European ideologies, and modern Western knowledge more generally, ‘travelled’ to the non-Western world- and what effects this had both on the non-Western world, and on modern, Western knowledge. His current work is focused on whether the presumptions that inform our modern knowledge are ‘universal’, meaning adequate to all times and places – as is usually supposed – or whether they are in fact parochial, presumptions that are specifically modern and Western but that illegitimately pass themselves off as universal. He often uses his Indian archive to raise and pursue these broad social, cultural and epistemological questions.