Colloquy, the GSAS alumni magazine, is published three times a year and mailed to PhD and master's alumni around the world. It explores the research and impact of Harvard's outstanding faculty, alumni, and graduate students

Featured Review

An Equal Worth

Women at War book cover

Women at War: Subhas Chandra Bose and the Rani of Jhansi Regiment by Vera Hildebrand

Women at War: Subhas Chandra Bose and the Rani of Jhansi Regiment (HarperCollins India, 2016) interweaves two stories: the life of Indian nationalist Bose (1897−1945) and an account of the first all-female combat infantry unit, the Rani of Jhansi Regiment (1943−45), which he organized. Vera Hildebrand (AM ’79) portrays Bose as charismatic and troubled. Her account of the “Ranis” is far more positive. Drawing on impressive new sources (including oral interviews with virtually every surviving member of the regiment), she offers new detail on the Ranis’ wartime experiences and contributions to the empowerment of Indian women.

In essence, Bose was the anti-Gandhi. With respect to women, his vision was more progressive. Gandhi imagined an agrarian future in which Indian women would retain their traditional role. Bose anticipated an economic transformation and believed that women should participate equally in this new India. But Bose took other, less admirable stances: Instead of Gandhi’s nonviolence, he advocated violence and terrorism. Where Gandhi identified with India’s peasants and dressed in simple homespun cotton, Bose “affected the [military] trappings of European dictators, particularly Hitler and Mussolini.” During World War II, Gandhi suspended anti-British protests and urged support for Britain in its fight against fascism. Bose fled India for Nazi Germany and Japan. 

When Prime Minister Tojo gave him the go-ahead, Bose began raising an Indian National Army (INA) to invade and free India, never fully appreciating his role as stalking horse for the Japanese. He recruited among Indians living abroad, in Singapore, Burma, and especially Malaya. Rather than well-educated, upper-caste Indians, most rank-and-file Rani recruits were low-status, illiterate Tamils who worked in Malaya’s rubber plantations. 

The Ranis, part of the INA, were patriotic and committed to freeing their country from colonialism—and proving their equal worth. Unlike Bose, they didn’t appear to have fascist leanings. Hildebrand also corrects some myths and exaggerations that have grown up over the years. The regiment was far smaller than generally believed: rather than 1,000 to 1,500 women, its roster was probably no more than 450. Of those, only 150 to 170 ever reached the war zone. (None of these engaged in front-line combat, though they were subject to attacks during their retreat.) But Hildebrand’s emphasis is on the Ranis’ achievements. And the women she interviewed—then in their late 70s to early 90s—retained a fierce pride in their accomplishments and legacy.


The Prelude book cover

The Prelude, a new edition of William Wordsworth's poem

In 1805, William Wordsworth shared a brand-new poem with fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was a  book-length account of his Lake District childhood and his maturation into a poet. Now James Engell (PhD ’78, English and American literature and language) and Michael Raymond have published The Prelude (David R. Godine, 2016), a new edition  of Wordsworth’s poem. Engell’s introduction underscores the role of place in Wordsworth’s self-understanding. The Prelude recounts, in Engell’s phrase, a “mutual transformation of place and self.” This edition  aims to present the work in its original 1805 form. (Wordsworth never published the poem but continued tinkering with it until his death in 1850.) The verse glows with optimism and love of nature:

 . . . Ye Mountains! and Ye Lakes, And sounding Cataracts! Ye Mists and Winds 

That dwell among the hills where I was born. 
If in my youth, I have been pure in heart,

*  *  *

The gift is Yours. . . .

This edition is the first to be fully illustrated, featuring contemporaneous paintings and sketches, especially of the Lake District.

Michael Trotter (AM ’59, history) has practiced law since the 1960s and was a partner or senior partner at several Atlanta law firms. In What’s to Become of the Legal Profession? (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2016), he addresses various factors that have challenged the legal profession in the years since WWII. Above all, he emphasizes the sheer expansion of the law itself. In 1969, for example, IRS regulations totaled some 16,500 pages; by 2014, 74,608 pages. Likewise important: the impact of technology (in communications, word processing, information storage and retrieval, etc.); the growth of large law firms and corporate in-house legal departments; and an excessive number of law 
school graduates—exceeding the market’s ability to absorb them. In 2015, 33 percent of graduates hadn’t found work requiring a law degree 10 months after graduating. But Trotter is no gloom-and-doom prophet: he stresses the resiliency of his profession. Despite dire predictions that online resources or the flood of new lawyers would undermine it, Trotter does not “expect the legal profession in the United States to change beyond recognition in the fore-seeable future.”

Schubert's Reputation from His Time to Ours book cover

Schubert's Reputation from His Time to Ours by Geoffrey Block

Although Franz Schubert (1797−1828) died at 31, he was quite prolific, composing “more than six hundred songs and hundreds of larger works,” including chamber music, piano sonatas, operas, string quartets, and several symphonies. Yet he was little regarded in his lifetime. Schubert’s Reputation from His Time to Ours (Pendragon Press, 2017) recounts his rise from obscurity to a place among the giants of 19th-century classical music. Geoffrey Block (PhD ’79, music) alloys biography, musical analysis, and two centuries of critical and scholarly writing to explain Schubert’s growing recognition. For years after his death, his music was criticized as discursive, “feminine” (in contrast to Beethoven’s “masculinity”), and marred by idiosyncratic modulations. Yet a number of later composers—in particular, Liszt, Brahms, and Mahler—championed his work. By the 20th century, Schubert had gained increasing recognition as a composer. Block also incorporates an illuminating chapter dissecting a scholarly contretemps of the late 1980s and ’90s revolving around a question that then seemed quite compelling: “Was Schubert gay?” The bottom line, in effect: “Give it a rest, folks. The music still sounds the same.” 

Scienceblind book cover

Scienceblind: Why Our Intuitive Theories about the World Are So Often Wrong  by Andrew Shtulman

Skepticism regarding science is hardly new, but Andrew Shtulman (PhD ’06, psychology) argues that it’s more significant in today’s science-and-technology-driven world. Scienceblind: Why Our Intuitive Theories about the World Are So Often Wrong (Basic Books, 2017) helps us recognize our own 
“intuitive theories.” He explores children’s understanding of the world, as seen in Piaget’s experiments. Presented with different-shaped glasses filled with equal amounts of water, children believed that a narrower glass, creating a taller column of water, held more. Of course, intuitive understanding can serve just fine in matters close at hand, practical, or short term. Telling time by the sun doesn’t demand a heliocentric theory of the solar system. Shtulman also discuss-es intuitive theories of gravity, causes of illness, evolution, and night and day. (His seven-year-old believed the moon caused night. Asked where it went in daytime, he amusingly replied, “I don’t know. Not by California.”) However, unchecked intuitive thinking can have consequences. In the 1990s, measles was nearly eradicated in the United States, but in 2014 hundreds fell ill—mainly because parents wanted to spare their children the “dangers” of vaccination.


Benjamin C. Waterhouse, PhD ’09, published his second book, The Land of Enterprise: A Business History of the United States, a history of America told through the lens of executives, bankers, farmers, and politicians. Waterhouse works through the development of American business, noting the critical role unnamed laborers played in helping America’s vast businesses grow and shape the country. He is an associate professor and Grauer Scholar at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Jacob Emery, PhD ’06, has published his first book, Alternative Kinships: Economy and Family in Russian Modernism, which delves into the complex nature of the Soviet Union’s effort to create a global sibling-hood of the proletariat, and how those kinships affected the economy and art. Emery is an assistant professor at Indiana University Bloomington, where he teaches Russian, Balkan, and Scandinavian fiction, as well as Marxism and anthropology.

Reading List: July 2017