I am deeply grateful to the many people who over the past decade or so have given me valuable assistance during the various stages of preparing the present work. The idea of the book took shape in early 1980, when I was a fellow at the National Humanities Center at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. In fall 1981 and spring 1982 a fellowship with the American Institute of Indian Studies and a Fulbright-Hays Training Grant, administered through the American Cultural Center in Dhaka, enabled me to undertake exploratory field research in India and Bangladesh. Thanks to a University of Arizona Humanities grant, in fall 1984 I returned to Bangladesh for more research, and in spring 1985 I began analyzing data while a fellow with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem. In spring 1987 I was able to work on the manuscript while at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, and a sabbatical leave of absence from the University of Arizona in 1988–89 enabled me to complete the bulk of the writing. For funding my travel, facilitating my support, and opening the doors of my research generally, I wish to thank all the then directors and officers of the above institutions—in particular P. R. Mehendiratta and Tarun Mitra of the American Institute of Indian Studies, Ahmed Mustafa of the American Cultural Center, William Bennett of the National Humanities Center, Nehemia Levtzion of the Institute for Advanced Studies, and Marc Gaborieau of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.
I could never have undertaken this project without the generous assistance of the many librarians and staff at institutions whose holdings provide the book’s documentary basis. Special thanks go to the British Library and the India Office Library, London; the Bodleian Library, Oxford; the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the National Archives of India, New Delhi; the Aligarh Muslim University Library; the Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna; the National Library, the Asiatic Society, and the West Bengal Secretariat, Calcutta; the Varendra Research Museum, Rajshahi; the Dhaka University Library and the Bangla Academy, Dhaka; the Chittagong University Museum; and the Muslim Sahitya Samsad, Sylhet. I am especially indebted to Qazi Jalaluddin Ahmed, secretary of the Bangladesh Ministry of Education, for facilitating my research and making it possible for me to examine Mughal documents preserved in the various District Collectorates.
For supplying me with photographs used in the book, I wish to thank Catherine Asher (fig. 6) and the Smithsonian Institution and its photographer, Charles Rand (fig. 1). For granting permission to make my own photographs, I thank G. S. Farid of the Asiatic Society in Calcutta (figs. 2, 3, 11), Shamsul Husain of the Chittagong University Museum (figs. 16, 17), and Omar Farooq and A. R. Khan of the Chittagong District Collectorate (figs. 22, 23, 24).
Many of the themes in this book were first proposed in lectures I presented at various stages in the book’s evolution. These took place at Duke University, Calcutta University, the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, the University of Pennsylvania, Ohio State University, the University of Arizona, Rutgers University, Utrecht University, Leiden University, the Centre d’Etudes de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud in Paris, Heidelberg University, Cornell University, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Washington, Arizona State University, Pomona College, and the University of Chicago. I wish to express my gratitude to all the learned colleagues who attended those lectures and who generously offered comments and suggestions. I am also indebted to the many colleagues with whom I have privately exchanged views on various themes in this book, and from whom I profited much. In particular, I would mention Will Bateson, Elaine Scarry, Peter Bertocci, Ralph Nicholas, Muzaffar Alam, Shireen Moosvi, Paul Jackson S. J., Rajat Ray, Gautam Bhadra, Jagadish Narayan Sarkar, M. R. Tarafdar, Sirajul Islam, Perween Hasan, Kamalakanta Gupta, Thérèse Blanchet, France Bhattacharya, Dale Eickelman, André Wink, Anupam Sen, Abdul Karim, John Voll, Yohanan Friedmann, David Shulman, Marc Gaborieau, Sushil Chaudhury, Asim Roy, Marilyn Waldman, Tony Stewart, Carl Ernst, the late S. H. Askari, the late Sukumar Sen, and the late Hitesranjan Sanyal. My thanks also go to friends and colleagues who took the time to read through drafts of all or parts of the manuscript, and who made valuable comments and suggestions. These include Mimi Klaiman, Callie Williamson, Norman Yoffee, Margaret Case, Rafiuddin Ahmed, Carol Salomon, Dharma Kumar, and Barbara Metcalf. For whatever shortcomings may remain in the study, however, I alone bear responsibility.
Numerous other friends supported me in nonacademic ways, and to them I acknowledge my sincere gratitude. Among these I am pleased to mention Father G. M. Tourangeau and Joseph Sarkar of the Oriental Institute, Barisal, who introduced me to the language, culture, and society of Lower Bengal; Jim and Naomi Novak, who gave hearty welcome and kind hospitality whenever I turned up in Dhaka; Jan “Van” Paxton, who bravely persevered in transcribing my early handwritten drafts; and Tad Park, who more than once rescued me from extremely stressful computer crises. Finally, I record my thanks to Pushpo (née Blossom), a canine friend who, curled at my feet, faithfully and supportively accompanied the writing of the following chapters.