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Among these, Najmul-Ghani Rampuri’s encyclopaedic chronicle was an empirically rich account of the intrigues and dynastical conspiracies within the Awadhi court, reflecting new tastes for authoritative historiography in Urdu literature (Rampuri 1919).
Other texts catalogued the so-called fashions () of the Nawabi city’s courtly elite, from dress to dining, in a style that smacked of colonial ethnographies as much as Sharar’s historical reflections (Lucknowi 1912).
This article’s approach, arguing that Lucknow acquired a distinctive urban mythology that could be applied to many contemporary ends, draws closer to the approach of some recent anthropologists who have suggested that cities might be considered to hold their own so-called ‘urban charisma’.
As these scholars argue, cities might be considered to possess their own certain distinctive ‘‘soul’ or mythology’ that lives through both their physical spaces and their residents, and that links their past and present (Blom-Hansen & Verkaaik 2009: 5-9).
the place in which this court was established had a greater distinction and importance than any in India.
Sharar’s essays on his city, then, need to be taken not as historical fact, but as projections of history influenced by his contemporary concerns and the background against which he wrote.
It suggests that it was, in fact, in the colonial era, and particularly the early decades of the 20th century, that this distinctive historical mythology of old Lucknow was constructed.
While many terms were used to evoke the distinctive cultural life of Lucknow in colonial-era writing (.
This ‘semantically rich’ (Stark 2011: 5) term, often translated as ‘refinement’, in fact blended together ideas of urbanity, civility, morality, erudition and sophistication. Naim has argued:then, remains key to understanding the mythologisation of the city’s history.
While the term had been used earlier to describe specific cultural accomplishments within the city, its holistic application to describe the totality of Lucknow’s historical culture is something that was consolidated long after the fall of the city to the British rather than beforehand. Seeking to offer a survey of a large body of recent academic historiography on the city, and also engaging a range of predominantly Muslim-authored Urdu publications from the city dating from the period in question, this article explores how this imagined version of Lucknow’s historical was produced, disseminated and applied by a number of authors, public figures and organisations in the colonial city.