By Som Benegal
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Extra resources for A Panorama of Indian Theatre
Against the backdrop of the vistas of ancient culture unveiled in the works of German-speaking Orientalists, British cultural supremacy could be made to seem illegitimate, placed in the shadow of towering visions of ancient Oriental civilizational grandeur. 141 But by the 1890s, he harped on the apparent superiority of German-language scholarship over the English, and also alluded to the legitimacy of Indian nationalist claims. 142 Führer’s false claims were revealed and Bühler was heavily criticized for promoting Führer’s work.
The German topographer, Wilhelm Filchner (1877–1957), served as the head of the Magnetic Survey of Nepal, and led geophysical expeditions to Tibet in 1903. 83 British colonial geology and botany, at the level of scholarly administration, was a heavily German affair. 86 His text became required reading among British imperial geologists. Suess’s arguments about an ur-continent predating the Indian landmass drew on the work of German-speaking scholars in the Geological Survey of India. 87 German-speaking geologists and botanists focused their attention on northern India, and viewed the Himalayas as an almost magical bridge between the present and the prehistoric past.
8 During the springtime of an enlightened European expansion in the world, spanning twenty-five years on either side of 1800, German nationalists often spoke of themselves as backward, and as suffering the arrested development imposed by absolutism and political fragmentation. In the early nineteenth century, German-speaking intellectuals sought alternative paths to grandeur and respect within the comity of enlightened folk. 9 The kind of Orientalist knowledge they produced through their Germanic philosophical and Orientalist pursuits also served to give the backward Germans a new geopolitical “soft power” to claim distinction vis-à-vis the powers to the west, Britain and France.