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Homage to Thorner

S. Bhattacharya

By Daniel Thorner
Allied Publishers, New Delhi, 1980, pp. xviii 404, Rs. 125.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 3 November/December 1980

It is given to few to sow new seeds in their field of academic specialization and to even fewer to do so beyond the narrow confines of the groves of academe. Daniel Thorner was one of them. He' did this with the generosity of effortless fecundity, perhaps with a fine careless­ness and no thoughts to the profits of harvesting scattered pieces in the shape of such volumes as lesser academics pro­duce. Thus, in the form of unpublished notes from which his students profited, in essays published in anthologies, in occasional pieces published in news­papers, and in papers buried in the pro­ceedings of eminently forgettable semi­nars and conferences, Thorner's writings were scattered. A collection of such writings, many of them not easily acces­sible, has been long overdue. The Sameeksha Trust is to be congratulated that at last, six years after Thorner's death such a collection has been put together. After all, a publication programme was as much a part of the Trust Deed of Sameeksha, as the sponsorship of the Economic and Political Weekly. An unexpected gift that accompanies this collection is a piece by Alire Thorner. She recounts some delightful anecdotes. For instance, she tells us how Thorner was appointed as a. transport specialist in US Board of Economic Warfare and how he confounded his colleagues, who had worked on various US railway lines by declaring that; he had worked on railway lines in India in the middle of the nineteenth century. Or there is the story of K.S. Shelvankar who, upon being told of Thorner’s parti­cipation in a project (on cultural regions outside of USA and Western Europe) entitled ‘Rest of the World’, commented drily: ‘Humph, the rest of the world! Most of the world, I should say’. This essay by Alice Thorner is intended to provide a running commentary that links together Thorner's writings over a. period of twenty-five years which have been reproduced here. Ms Thorner's piece together with this representative collec­tion, serve to provide the basis of an intellectual biography of Daniel Thorner. One sees roughly three phases in Thorner's intellectual life. The first phase, up to let us say 1952, was brought to a close by the inquisition associated with the name of MacCarthy. In this period Thorner's interests were entirely histori­cal and strictly ‘academic’, i.e., with no explicit political involvement on his part. ...

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