The Road to Macaulay: Asiatic Society and Reinvention of India's Culture
Asiatic Society's work also impacted the Hindu religion and the imagination of Indian nation. Whether one should celebrate this, however, is a matter of perspective. For the Society's work provided the Historiography that the Indian nationalists generally accepted, and its texts provided a 'scriptural uniformity' that the Hindu religion previously lacked. However, ascribing the credit of creating national awareness to English Colonists is a difficult thing to do; in fact, doing so is to precisely agree with the imperial historians, who maintained that Indians did not have a national awareness before the arrival of the British. Hence, Indian national historiography is largely silent about the contributions of the Society, and the credit of the renewal of interest in Ancient India were generally given to a later, nineteenth century, generation of Indian writers, religious figures and historians.
Indeed, it is possible to view the Society's work, as Marxist, Subaltern and Post-colonial scholars have come to do, as a producer of 'colonial knowledge'. The Society helped create a particular vision of Indian culture, literature and tradition, applying the 'gaze' that Edward Said accused Europeans of doing, and transforming Indian history and culture accordingly. Producing the kind of work that the Society did invariably meant privileging some information over others, telling history in a particular way and not in another, and applying the Enlightenment ideas and value judgements on a pre-modern society: These were their contribution to the Colonial Architecture, in which such knowledge played in important role.
The standard book on Asiatic Society's history remains O P Kejariwal's The Asiatic Society of Bengal and the Discovery of India's Past 1784 - 1838 (Oxford University Press, Delhi; 1988). I found Bernard Cohn's Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British In India (Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersy, 1988) deeply insightful on various aspects of production and dissemination of Colonial Knowledge. David Kopf's British Orientalism and the Bengal Renaissance: Dynamics of Indian Modernization 1773 - 1835 (University of California Press, Berkley, 1969) presents a different and very helpful perspective. Christopher Bailey's point about scriptural unity and nineteenth century revival of religions can be found in his Empires of Religion, Chapter 9 (Pp 325 - 365) of The Birth of the Modern World 1780 - 1914 (Blackwell, Oxford, 2014).