D.A.T.A.H. Digital Archive of Tamil Agrarian History – February 2017


The aim of the DATAH project was to create a digital archive of documents of socio-historical relevance to historians, anthropologists, sociologists and linguists. Most of the documents digitized during this five year project (2011-2016) are destined to disappear in the near future given both the very humid climate of southern India and neglected condition in which they are stored. These documents, recorded on paper, palm-leaves and copper plates provide a rare and unique opportunity to glimpse a variety of aspects of social history of village life in the more remote parts of the Tamil region at a time when new power structures and social identities were being forged both with and against local traditional feudal systems and British colonial legislations.

One of the specificities of DATAH is that the documents we digitized are scattered in the homes of Tamil villagers, especially the descendants of traditional power holders, who are unaware of the importance such documents can have for understanding social history. Though unaware of the scholarly value, the document holders are not prepared to part with their forefathers’ documents, such as depositing them in the local archives- as was recently demonstrated by the failure of the Madurai District Archives and Historical Records office to collect such documents despite repeated appeals to the public. Furthermore, local archives do not have the means to carry out fieldwork and will not pursue digital preservation of documents that are not destined to be in their keep. The documents contained in the DATAH archive open new avenues of analysis at the level of micro-history of rural India, a field for which there is a lack of research material since the colonial Revenue Records as well as the “Village Notes” of the Settlement Surveys do not contain the types of documents that were collected.

DATAH presently contains 82 collections comprising 5 314 digitized documents and consisting of 83 378 images. These documents are viewable on the website of the EAP:

This exhibition was presented with the support of

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