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The Gorkha Conquests

HBE 0027
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The Gorkha Conquests: The process and consequences of the unification of Nepal, with particular reference to Eastern Nepal

by Kumar Pradhan

with a new introduction by John Whelpton

2009, pp. xxxiv+296

ISBN: 978 9937 8144 7 8

US$ 27


Nepal was forged out of the conquests by the principality of Gorkha, and Nepalese historians often view this process as consisting of ‘national unification’. This work is a probe to see whether cohesive elements of nation-building were present in the past to warrant such a description. It examines some of the real motives behind Gorkha’s desire to expand over the neighbouring hills and plains and beyond, together with its consequences on the society and economy of the peoples of great diversity living in those areas.


Eastern Nepal, also called Kirat, was one of the last areas to be conquered by Gorkha, but has received somewhat scant attention from Nepalese historians. This book provides a region-specific coverage to allow for a deeper understanding of the process of Nepal’s political unification, and its impact.


The publication of Kumar Pradhan’s The Gorkha Conquests in India in 1991 marked an important milestone in Nepalese historiography because it was a direct challenge to a ‘nationalist’ orthodoxy presenting the military campaigns of King Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha and his immediate successors as an heroic venture on behalf of all the people of Nepal…The environment in which this book is now being republished is radically different from that in which it originally appeared since Nepal is now no longer a kingdom and an emphasis on ethnicity, regarded as almost taboo before 1990, has now moved to the centre of the Nepalese political arena...In these new circumstances, it is possible that a negative evaluation of Prithvi Narayan himself will become the new orthodoxy…The debate will in any case continue and The Gorkha Conquests will remain an early but very important contribution to it.

—From the introduction by John Whelpton, author of A History of Nepal


Kumar Pradhan received his PhD in history from Calcutta University. He served on the Department of History, Darjeeling Government College, from 1966 to 1984, when he took over as the principal of Kurseong College, Kurseong.


Pradhan is an eminent writer and critic who has edited a number of literary journals and anthologies and published learned articles in Nepali. He is the author of A History of Nepali Literature (1984), published by the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, in the Sahitya Akademi Histories of Literature Series.


His work Pahilo Pahar (1982) was awarded the Bhanubhakta Puraskar for 1983 by the Nepali Academy instituted by the Government of West Bengal. In 2002, he received the Nepali Sahitya Sammelan Puraskar awarded by the Nepali Sahitya Sammelan, and, in 2003, the Agam Smriti Puraskar, an award given every three years for contributions to the Nepali language and literature by the Sikkim Sahitya Parishad.


Since 1993, he has been the editor of the Nepali-language daily Sunchari Samachar, published out of Siliguri, West Bengal, India.


John Whelpton first came to Nepal in 1972 to work as a VSO lecturer in English with Thakur Ram Campus, Birgunj, and Amrit Science Campus, Kathmandu. He later became a student of Nepalese history at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Since obtaining his doctorate in 1987, he has been teaching English, and recently also Latin, in Hong Kong.


He returns regularly to Nepal and continues research on history and politics. His Nepal-related publications include Jang Bahadur in Europe (1983), Nepal (in the World Bibliographical Series) (1990), Kings, Soldiers and Priests: Nepalese Politics and the Rise of Jang Bahadur Rana (an edited version of his PhD thesis) (1991), Nationalism and Ethnicity in Nepal (co-edited with David Gellner and Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka) (1997 and 2008), People, Politics and Ideology (with Martin Hoftun and William Raeper) (1999) and A History of Nepal (2005).

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