Visions of America: Public Representations of the United States Circulating in India from 1870-1900


About the Project

Inspired by Pandita Ramabai's 1889 travelogue The Peoples of the United States, Visions of America maps the public discourse about America circulating in India in the late nineteenth-century. We imagine digital humanities projects such as this one increase access to histories otherwise unavailable to the public. According to Pandita Ramabai in the Preface to her book:

The “United States of America” is a name that would be familiar to many; and many must have seen the map of the country while studying geography. But very few in our country can have any knowledge of the true worth of the United States, the activities of its people, its social conditions and political system, and other such things (54).

Wanting to explore Ramabai’s claims in detail we headed to the archives in search of newspaper references to the American peoples. Like Ramabai we were interested in what America meant to the Indian public, particularly in areas such as culture, politics, gender, and daily life. Based in the U.S., we are well aware of the insular narratives that shape our views of other cultures and wondered what could be gained from looking at the U.S. from an outside perspective. While Ramabai offered one such vision of America we wanted to collect and organize a more diverse set of perspective on American life in the late nineteenth-century.


Using Ramabai’s 1886-1889 tour of America as our focal point, we collected newspaper articles and editorials published between 1870 and 1900. Our database contains newspaper excerpts from five newspapers printed and distributed in India, includingThe Madras Mail, The Pioneer, The Times of India, The Weekly Ceylon Observer, and Amrita Bazar Patrika. While we were limited to information published in English, we hope that this collection offers useful insight into the impressions about Americans available in India. It is likely that this limits the readership to Anglo-Indians and higher caste Indians who would have been more likely to encounter and be able to read English language news. Within this small subset of English-language Indian news, we included one newspaper that was Indian owned and operated: The Amrita Bazar Patrika. We prioritized this source with the intention to capture visions of America that go beyond the Anglo-Indian perspective.

Future Prospects

Looking forward, we imagine a more robust version of this database which would include Indian language newspapers with translations available as well as letters, travelogues, and other cultural artifacts that contain some glimpse of nineteenth-century American culture and what it came to symbolize for the Indian public. This might include critical commentary, annotations, and footnotes that help to contextualize the information this database makes available. Ideally, we would invite collaboration with other scholars interested in developing a broader vision of America.


Ramabai, Pandita. American Encounter: The Peoples of the United States (1889). Translated by Meera Kosambi. Indiana University Press, 2003.

This page has paths:

Contents of this path: