Thursday, July 8, 2010


I am a University of Chicago student who has taken the summer to study my family’s history. Fueled by a passion for social history and the University of Chicago’s Seidel grant, I have come to Chennai, India, to understand my family’s history in the 20th century.

What do I mean by family history? As a history student, I have always been interested in social history. A central question in social history, including the study of families, is how long-term social and political developments change our everyday lives. These long-term developments include urbanization, industrialization, the rise of the professions, and the spread of higher education, especially for women. Our homes and our families and our relationships with our loved ones are deeply affected by these developments (and, of course, our family lives and personal relationships in turn impact on society and politics, but that is a different project). The question is, what is the relationship between our experiences as members of a family and these larger social developments? My purpose in taking on this project is to understand what changes my family underwent—in terms of structure, living arrangements, and individuals' identities—in the 20th century, and how the results of those changes were perceived by the members of my family.

I arrived in Chennai on July 4th to begin collecting my sources, and I will be back in Chicago in September, when I will synthesize my findings. This blog will contain regular updates and reflections as I carry out my project.


Kannan said...

Great start. Wish you all the best.

Sudha said...

Digging up roots does make you sound like a gardener. How about-
The roots and the morphing vines or Yesterday's seeds ? all seem to come out with the gardening theme. How about Knots, Ties and Bonds somewhat like eats shoots and leaves? Will think more and better!! Proud of you,
lots of love
Sudha Periamma

geneabloggers said...

Wonderful! I've spread the word about your blog to our group of close to 1,200 genealogy bloggers. I know they will be fascinated by this project and by your journey.

Viswanathan said...

Good job Sravab. I would like to dwell a little more on separation from family and cultural shock.
After graduation in 1954 I joined Madras State Public works Department and worked for a few months. Then I went to Calcutta in West Bengal to join Associated Electrical Industries Ltd as Graduate Trainee. This was on the job training for two years. Moving away from Tamil Society to Bengali Society was a cultural shock for a young man. I could manage with English as common language. It was easy for me to pick up Bengali easily because of my learning Sanskrit in my schooling.
Then I had to write and pass All India Public Service Commission Examination. I was selected for a job in Durgapur Steel Plant that was coming up in the Second Five Year Plan. That was in beginning of 1957. Since the Steel Plant was getting built up from green field stage, I was sent to Tata Steel Industries in Jamshedpur in Bihar for Orientation Training. Since Durgapur Steel Plant was being built by a British Consortium, British Steel Industries undertook on the job training for all engineers selected for D.S.P. I was to go to a steel plant in Irlam,Manchester in the beginning of 1958 for a year.
My family decided to get me married before I left Indian shores! So I married in June 1957. So the pangs of separation and cultural shock were greater when I left for England.
The rest of your observations are ok.

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Srinivasan said...

Your blog has come out very well.
I am very happy that thru this effort you are able to bring out many facts and details hidden deeply in individiual minds.Your perseverence , patience and passion towards the project shown during the interviews have been outstanding.
Our culture lays emphasis on remembering and respecting our predecessors and your project will definitely help towards this goal

Let me wish you the very best in this important endeavour

Padmini Mami