Room 400, School of Arts and Sciences
Central Campus, Ahmedabad University
If the bloody legacies of colonial violence remain a site of heated debate in postimperial Britain, in postcolonial India it is the history of mercy that continues to court controversy. Feverish debates around which leaders took mercy, and why, continue to appear across newspaper columns, primetime TV debates, and during election campaigns. And yet while the provision of mercy during colonial rule has remained a salient and politically charged contemporary issue, we lack a serious conceptual or historical understanding of the precise role played by mercy in colonial India. Drawing on my current book project, Trials of Sovereignty: Mercy, Terror and the Making of Criminal Law, this paper compares and contrasts the central place of mercy in the political imaginaries of B.G. Tilak and M.K. Gandhi in the first two decades of the twentieth century.
Alastair McClure is a legal historian of modern South Asia and the British Empire with research interests that focus largely on the history of criminal law and state violence. His most recent publications have included studies of courtroom archives, corporal punishment, capital punishment, and censorship. His current book, Trials of Sovereignty, is under contract with Cambridge University Press.