The Bangladesh Reader

History, Culture, Politics

The Bangladesh Reader

The World Readers

More about this series

Book Pages: 568 Illustrations: 80 illustrations (incl. 17 in color); 3 maps Published: April 2013

Asian Studies > South Asia, General Interest > Travel, History > Asian History

Bangladesh is the world's eighth most populous country. It has more inhabitants than either Russia or Japan, and its national language, Bengali, ranks sixth in the world in terms of native speakers. Founded in 1971, Bangladesh is a relatively young nation, but the Bengal Delta region has been a major part of international life for more than 2,000 years, whether as an important location for trade or through its influence on Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim life. Yet the country rarely figures in global affairs or media, except in stories about floods, poverty, or political turmoil. The Bangladesh Reader does what those portrayals do not: It illuminates the rich historical, cultural, and political permutations that have created contemporary Bangladesh, and it conveys a sense of the aspirations and daily lives of Bangladeshis.

Intended for travelers, students, and scholars, the Reader encompasses first-person accounts, short stories, historical documents, speeches, treaties, essays, poems, songs, photographs, cartoons, paintings, posters, advertisements, maps, and a recipe. Classic selections familiar to many Bangladeshis—and essential reading for those who want to know the country—are juxtaposed with less-known pieces. The selections are translated from a dozen languages; many have not been available in English until now. Featuring eighty-three images, including seventeen in color, The Bangladesh Reader is an unprecedented, comprehensive introduction to the South Asian country's turbulent past and dynamic present.


“This revelatory volume brings alive Bangladesh’s tormented history and vibrant culture through a selection of excerpts and illustrations from works of history, journalism, literature, and visual art.” — Andrew J. Nathan, Foreign Affairs

“Here are the key reasons I found the volume very useful: (a) before this, the history of Bangladesh was a mere appendage to what happened in India and later Pakistan. Its politics was looked at as a mere response to the stimuli provided by India and Pakistan. This book is the first attempt on a grand scale to make the history and politics of Bangladesh stand on its own feet, (b) it is as wide as it is deep. It is wide in the sense that it covers the entire history of this nation from the ancient times until today.” — Subhajyoti Ray, Economic and Political Weekly

“This is a unique, impressive and imaginative approach to compiling a volume of this nature. . . . Does The Bangladesh Reader fulfill and even exceed our expectations at times? Insofar as it is possible to compile a general text on the eighth most populous nation on earth, the answer is an emphatic yes.' — Ali Raza, Dawn

“The essays, stories, reports, documents, photographs and cartoons in this volume offer an escape from the stereotypes and a real encounter with the country and its people. The way the editors have ensured this is remarkably refreshing. The result is more rewarding than dry academic research or journalistic simplifications.” — Ashishis Chakrabarti, Telegraph India

“The latest addition to Duke University Press’ World Readers series is a gem. It offers both general readers and specialists an unprecedented and much-needed array of information, voices, images and perspectives on Bangladesh’s history, politics and culture. . . . Overall, this is a hugely impressive feat of scholarship for which the two editors should be congratulated.” — David Lewis, Pacific Affairs

" . . . one quickly comes to understand the complexity of Bangladesh's history and society, and the author's intention of making the reader aware of the multi-cultural, multi-dimensional nature of the modern country is achieved." — Robert H. Taylor, Asian Affairs

"The Reader is exceptional because of the eyes of the editors for details of everyday life and the pot-pourri nature of the entries. ...The two distinguished scholars compile the rich narratives with an eye for the ordinary. It is this subaltern view that gives the Reader its distinctive character. While other compilers look for the contributions of the most scholarly and the well-known writers, the Reader provides voices to the voiceless, it gives them a rightful place, and they remain not in the margin, but in the mainstream. The weaving of the illustrations, reports, stories and scholarly pieces produce a compendium that should be a mandatory reading for anyone interested in understanding where and how Bangladesh came from. The innovative style of this compendium is of great value and the Reader sets a standard for inclusivity." — Habibul Haque Khondker, Asian Journal of Social Science

"Bangladesh is a new nation but an old land. It comprises the world's largest delta and one of the most densely populated areas. It has been home to diverse linguistic, religious, and cultural traditions. Yet its past strength and present achievements are often overshadowed by accounts of natural and man-made disasters. In this book, scholars from across the globe put together written and visual materials to provide facts about and perspectives on a vibrant Bangladesh." — Anisuzzaman, Professor Emeritus, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

"There is nothing else like The Bangladesh Reader. The range of materials included is stunning, and the volume conveys the feeling of Bangladesh speaking for itself, in many voices. The Reader will definitely be a useful introduction for people who know little or nothing about the country. It also has much to offer people who know a great deal about it. I have studied Bangladesh for years, and I learned a lot reading through this volume." — David Ludden, author of Early Capitalism and Local History in South India


Availability: In stock
Price: $29.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Meghna Guhathakurta is Executive Director of Research Initiatives Bangladesh, a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes research on poverty alleviation in Bangladesh.

Willem van Schendel is Professor of Modern Asian History at the University of Amsterdam and Head of the South Asia Department at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations xi

Ackowledgments xv

Introduction 1

I. Voices from Bangladesh 7

II. Early Histories 31

III. Colonial Encounters 71

IV. Partition and Pakistan 157

V. War and Independence 221

VI. Dilemmas of Nationhood 291

VII. Contemporary Culture 367

VIII. The Development Gaze 411

IX. Bangladesh beyond Borders 469

Suggestions for Further Reading 521

Acknowledgment of Copyrights and Sources 527

Index 541
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5318-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5304-1
Publicity material