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Digital South Asia Library
American Institute of Indian Studies and Digital South Asia Library, University of Chicago
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Reviewed by:
Robert DeCaroli
George Mason University
August 2003

The information and source materials presented on this site are extremely wide ranging, rare, and occasionally quite specific. Given the amount of content, this specificity should be seen as an asset rather than a drawback.

The visual materials offered by the site can primarily be found in two sections: “Maps” and “Images”. “Maps“ offers historical maps from two collections. The first contains 24 images from the Imperial Gazetteer of India and the second presents a sample of two early (17th- and 18th-century) maps of the subcontinent. Although neither collection has a search engine, the collections are small and the thumbnails are clear enough for browsing.

Images“ contains five collections of photographs (with a fifth on the way). The amount of material contained within these collections is truly massive. The photographs can only be accessed through a search engine, so visitors to the site must have some idea what they are looking for to utilize the site’s resources. Although it is difficult to get a sense of the entire collection without browsing, the quality and number of images that various searches produced were impressive. Of the five working collections, the most expansive is the American Institute of Indian Studies collection based in Gurgaon, Haryana, India. The collection boasts more than 125,000 photos and all are publicly available. This collection is an ideal resource for finding images related to specific locations, architectural sites, or works of art from the subcontinent.

Along with the impressive collections of visual materials, this site offers a range of bibliographic information including links to library catalogs, indexes of South Asian scholarship, four online journals, one newspaper, four books, and one gazetteer. The online journals, books, and gazetteer have been made available in their entirety. Many of these texts are rather specific, such as a 1910 monograph on wire production and art, but the information is fascinating and surprisingly relevant to broader historical discussions. Even the most unusual sources are well worth a look.

An equally unusual and fascinating section of this site is its remarkable collection of statistics. The site hosts a database of about 1,200 Excel spreadsheets of statistical information on British India between the years 1840 and 1920. The information can also be viewed in a digital book format. These pages are actual scans of the original documents from the British record offices and provide a clear sense of the original documents. Current census information is also available for India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

This statistical information is of great value to researchers and historians, but it can also be used creatively in the classroom. For example, it is interesting to investigate the kinds of information that the colonial government recorded and to consider how and why these numbers were of value to the British authorities.

Also of interest is the extensive collection of reference resources, including 30 South Asian language dictionaries (with more than 20 additional dictionaries forthcoming). One review can hardly do justice to a site this expansive. In short, the nature and number of the resources provided make this one of the most significant online sources for studying South Asia.

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