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Sandip Kana


Twitter Handle: @sandipkana

The birth of a technical nation: Developments in technical education in

India, 1880-1960

This study charts the development of technical education in India, from its origins in

British India, to becoming a cornerstone of post-colonial development in independent

India. The history of technology in India has formed a distinct field of enquiry since the late 1980s. These studies have stressed the development of colonial science because of imperialism. The dominating narrative is that technology was predominantly an instrument of imperial control, where the chief aim of colonial technologies, transplanted from the West, was the extraction of raw materials from the colony and to consolidate imperial power at the periphery away from the metropole.

Ultimately, these studies have stressed the limitation, dependence and subordination of colonial technology to the imperial state. However, this study will show that it would be wrong to assume that there was a single model of colonial technology that could encompass the various trajectories of it in the different parts of the imperial system. While these works form an indispensable starting point, this study will look beyond the argument that technology was inherently imperial in the colonial context, and will examine its appropriation by Indians, the creation of a ‘national education’ and how this determined the type of technical education they pursued. This study will look to move the debate forward by looking into the technological strand of Indian nationalism that emerged in the late nineteenth-century and would drive the use of science and technology by the Government of India as a basis for development after independence.

1st Supervisor: Jon Wilson

2nd Supervisor: David Edgerton


I graduated from Queen Mary University of London with a History BA in 2014. I then completed my MA in Global, Imperial and Post-colonial History at Queen Mary in 2015, before starting a History Ph.D. at King’s College London in 2017.

My research interests focus on the evolution of science and technology within the British Empire, and specifically South Asia. The history of technology is a burgeoning field of study that continues to expand yearly. Whilst I have an interest in exploring how technological and scientific ideas and institutions functioned and changed across the British Empire in the nineteenth and twentieth century, I have a specific research interest in understanding how the natives of the British colonies understood, imitated and invented different forms of technology and science whilst under British control to advance national development. Both the diffusionist and instrumentalist models of the growth of technology within the colonies both suggest that there was limited involvement, or a lack of active participation in the dissemination and development of technologies within the colonies. Rather than directing my research towards the argument that technology was as an instrument of imperial control and exploitation, I am interested in understanding the colonial response, and to an extent resistance to the transplanting or ‘diffusion’ of Western technologies into the colonies. The simplistic diffusionist model doesn’t allow us to consider the colonies pre-colonial technological traditions that were not inevitable set for a confrontation with newer Western technologies, therefore an interactive model may be more useful an approach to adopt. Science and technology were no doubt a source of colonial power, but I hope my research will shed some light on how colonial native actors interacted, invented and imitated their own technologies at a time of imperial dominance.

Grants, Awards and Prizes:


IHR-Royal Historical Society Marshall Fellowship, 2020-21. 

Papers Given:


Britain and the World Conference, ‘Indian nationalism and the imperial state: Situating technical education in British India’, April 2019


European Society for the History of Science Young Scholars Conference, ‘A technical tryst with America: The birth of the Indian technical nation’, September 2019

British Society for the History of Science, 'The role of village-level science and technology in India's developmental state', July 2020.


KCL-UNC Workshop, 'Community Development in Partition's Aftermath: The Faridabad Story', July 2020.


Other professional affiliations and activities:

Member of Young Scholars Network, European Society for the History of Science

Member of European Society for the History of Science

Member of History of Technology Society

Member of British Society for the History of Science

Member of Britain and the World

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