What is the relationship between the British colonial project and English literature in India? How did official pronouncements on the role of English in culture and education help define modern India? How can postcolonial theory contribute towards an understanding of this history and its aftermath? In this historical study, Prem Poddar shows how colonisers and the nationalists who succeeded them tended to inhabit the same discursive space. True difference and heterogeneity became the first casualty in the name of a united nation. The book details the ´civil violence´ of such policies in independent India. If the study of English is to remain relevant in ex-colonies like India, Poddar argues, it must take cognisance of postcolonial critiques that recognise other voices and locate English literature in its varied cultural and historical contexts. Violent Civilities will speak most obviously to scholars of English, India or postcolonial studies. But it is also for anyone interested in how contemporary academe can negotiate the relationship between national identity, language and culture.