The Making of Lahore
Title: Making Lahore Modern: Constructing and Imagining a Colonial City
Author: William J. Glover
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Pakistan (January, 2011)
Pages: 288, Hardback
Price: PKR. 895
In Making Lahore Modern, author William J. Glover keenly investigates the multiple traditions that transformed the once colonial Lahore into its current form and fashion. In particular, he focuses on the conviction that both British and Indian actors who implemented urbanization came to share the basic self-presumed fact that the material fabric of the city could lead to social, economic and moral amelioration of city dwellers. This belief in the power of the physical environment to shape individual and collective sentiments linked the colonial history of Lahore to nineteenth-century urbanization around the world.
Glove highlights three distinct aspects of Lahore’s history that exhibit this process.
First, he extensively examines the concepts through which the British understood the Indian city and envisioned its transformation. Second, through a detailed study of new buildings and the adaptation of existing structures, he explores the role of planning, design, and reuse. Finally, he analyzes the changes in urban imagination as evidenced in Indian writings on the city in this period. Throughout, Glover emphasizes that colonial urbanism was not simply imposed; it was a collaborative project between Indian citizens and the British.
According to the author, most of the scholarship on colonial urbanism was focused on presidency capitals (especially Bombay, Delhi, and Calcutta), to the general exclu- sion of second or third tier cities. Lahore seemed like an obvious choice to start, given the context. Through a brief trip to Lahore in the early 1990s, Glove had already acquired a deep affection for the city. In retrospect, it was as much a personal as it was an intellectual decision.
The second aspect on which the writer dwells is the introduction of Marxist analysis into architectural designs. His Gramscian (Antonio Gramsci’s) thoughts and Foucauldian (Michel Foucault’s) readings on the analysis of a bourgeois society led him to analyze Lahore, which remained a semi-center stage in colonial history.
In Making Lahore Modern, William Glover contributes to the burgeoning and exciting, recent literature on the colonial city in India. While others have primarily focused on the metropolitan centers of Calcutta, Bombay or New Delhi, Glover adopts the Punjab provincial capital of Lahore, as his subject. As he argues at the outset, a provincial city such as Lahore may be broadly representative of urban change in British India. This book is not just a history of Lahore, but uses the history of Lahore to reflect more generally on the “colonial” and “modern” aspects in India.
Glover remains at pains to upend fashionable dichotomies of “colonial difference” which see the “modern” as a European transplant in the colony and thus contrast the European “civil station” with the traditional “old city.” Both new and old