In response to the discussion in this journal following the publication of “Nationalism, Internationalism and Cosmopolitanism: Some Observations from South Asian History”, this article looks closely at some methodological questions of comparative history. If the dissolution of the British Indian Empire is compared with that of the Ottoman, differences will emerge with respect to the historical formation of the national-popular in the European and non-European Ottoman provinces, the creation of modern state structures in British India, the linguistic foundations of the national imagination in India and international interventions in the Ottoman Empire. The degree to which mass political movements such as nationalism are amenable to the disciplinary methods of intellectual history or biographical studies is also doubtful. Finally, it is arguable that non-European pasts may contain resources for plausible cosmopolitical imaginings, but these must be subjected to critical debates within currently available discursive formations.

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