Scrolls & Leaves: World History Podcast

Scrolls & Leaves Podcast

Epic histories from the Indian subcontinent, through the eyes of the marginalized. Hear about ruthless emperors, cunning corporations that colonized half the world, a world-renowned sci-fi writer who stumbled on a treasure ship, and other stories from history, science and cultures. Journalists Gayathri Vaidyanathan and Mary-Rose Abraham reflect on how these histories define our present.

Made in 3-D sound to immerse you in the past.

Season 1: Trade Winds Trailer
Trailer 2 min 57 sec

All Episodes

In the 1800s, more than a million Indian indentured labourers migrated to British colonies like Fiji, Guyana and South Africa to work on plantations

Nov 24

38 min 8 sec

The world’s borders are clamping down for un-vaccinated people, most of whom are poor and/or from the Global South. This echoes events following a 19th century pandemic of cholera which killed millions of people worldwide

Nov 10

36 min 55 sec

Season 1, Episode 3 The Curse of the Kohinoor The ‘Curse of the Kohinoor’ is this: Any man who wears the diamond will suffer a terrible fate. But is this true? Or was this simply a story that conveniently allowed the British Empire to justify the colonial appropriation of the diamond?  Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the last Indian owner of the Kohinoor diamond. He was a fair and secular king of Punjab, the Land of Five Rivers, with Lahore as the capital. He was chosen as the greatest ruler of all time by the BBC World Histories Magazine in 2020. When he died in 1839, his 9-year-old son Duleep Singh took over the throne. The British East India Company was watching like a vulture, and conquered the Sikh Empire through treachery. Its representatives plundered the immense wealth of the kingdom and unravelled the socioeconomic fabric of the state in just 6 months.  The Earl of Dalhousie, who was the governor general at the time, further wanted to destroy all symbols of Sikh power. And to this end, he separated the 9-year-old Duleep Singh from his mother, who was jailed for most of her life. And Dalhousie presented both Duleep and the Kohinoor as trophies to Queen Victoria.  That’s when news of the terrible curse of the Kohinoor began making the rounds even as the diamond made it onto British shores. Even today, only women in the British Royal family wear the diamond. But is there really a curse? And should the diamond be returned? This episode reveals the true history of the Kohinoor that is conveniently forgotten by the British. Time Markers (mins: sec) 00:24 - Prologue - visit to Lahore Fort 03:35 - Intro - What the episode is about 08:33 - Chapter 1 - A Fair King 13:29 - Chapter 2 - Funeral of a King 16:37 - Chapter 3 - A Boy King 20:29 - Chapter 4 - Plunder 30:48 - Chapter 5 -  Reshaped 39:58 - Credits Podcast Guests Gurinder Singh Mann Friederike Voigt Singing by Deepthi Bhaskar Resources Transcript Reading Suggestions Share Episode Twitter Facebook WhatsApp  Sign up for updates     EMAIL Reading List Amini, I. The Koh-i-noor diamond. (Roli, 2004). “Casualty of War: A Portrait of Maharaja Duleep Singh.” National Museums Scotland, Dalrymple, W. & Anand, A. Kohinoor: the story of the world’s most infamous diamond. (Juggernaut Books, 2016). The East India Company: The original corporate raiders | William Dalrymple. the Guardian (2015). The jewel in the crown: The curse of Koh-i-Noor. The Independent (2006). Kinsey, D. C. Koh-i-Noor: Empire, Diamonds, and the Performance of British Material Culture. J. Br. Stud. 48, 391–419 (2009). Nast, C. Why the British Crown Jewels still fascinate today. Vogue Paris (2021). See the Crown Jewels. Historic Royal Palaces Sheikh, M. Emperor of the five rivers: the life and times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. (I.B. Tauris, 2017). Victoria and Albert Museum, O. M. The Court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. (2011).  Voigt, Friederike. Mementoes of Power and Conquest: Sikh Jewellery in the Collection of National Museums Scotland. Manchester University Press, 2020., Voigt,

Oct 27

41 min 13 sec

The Jewels of the Maharajas symbolized power and a connection with the divine. Anyone who wanted to be a greater ruler would want one of them. This is the first of a two-part series on the Kohinoor diamond.

Oct 13

28 min 13 sec

For more than a decade, archaeologists have been searching for the lost port of Muziris on the southwest coast of India. Incredible finds point to maritime trade and links with many ancient cultures, including the Roman Empire: amphorae, semi-precious stones and beads, intaglios, and pottery from throughout the Indian Ocean world. Join us on a visit to a sleepy village in Kerala to learn more about these artifacts and whether this site really is the lost port of Muziris.

Sep 29

40 min 38 sec

In Season 1, Trade Winds, each episode tells a story set on the Indian Ocean as global civilizations connect with South Asia.

Sep 22

2 min 57 sec

Indigenous knowledge protects biodiversity. There are three reasons why scientists should speak to traditional communities and learn from them

Sep 8

11 min 22 sec

A Sanskrit scholar narrates a pandemic story from an ancient Ayurveda text warning about the perils of polluting nature and human health

Aug 25

12 min 46 sec

How indigenous residential schools erased identities and subjected children to horrific abuse across countries and centuries

Aug 11

35 min 47 sec

Anthropologist Nayanika Mathur discusses why there's human animal conflict in India and the importance of non-expert voices

Jul 28

15 min 37 sec

British scientist Sir Ronald Ross tries to stops a deadly cholera outbreak in 1895 Bangalore. He applies learnings from the new field of epidemiology

Jul 14

13 min 32 sec

Can the great divide between Ayurveda and modern science ever be bridged? We talk to biologist Annamma Spudich who's studied traditional medicine.

Jun 30

19 min 25 sec

This is the first edition of the Scrolls & Leaves Quiz! See how much you can guess. Also, we're going on a short break to prepare for Season 1. Stay with us!

May 26

17 min 34 sec

Arghya Manna is a cartoonist who communicates the history of Indian science through comics. He discusses art and famine

May 12

20 min 23 sec

From the mountains of Central Asia comes a musical form that borrows from Nature. Ft. Saylyk Ommun.

Apr 28

23 min 52 sec

A painting of a Maharajah by the Singh Twins complicates the Western narrative of a faithful British subject

Apr 14

12 min 38 sec

From the mines of South America, tons of silver travel to Mughal India to fill the coffers of Emperors

Apr 2

10 min 19 sec

The rise of Desi Hip Hop is the result of the South Asian diaspora looking for ways to express their identity. It’s spread across the world.

Mar 17

14 min 4 sec

The appearance of severed breasts on a windowsill reveals lessons about the perils of harsh policing

Mar 3

12 min 38 sec

The British took Indians to Fiji to work on plantations. There, they would sing bidesia, lamenting for a lost homeland.

Feb 17

13 min 29 sec

The influx of technology such as pocket watches beginning in the 1860s transformed India’s traditional medical systems

Feb 3

10 min 31 sec

Indians are sharing space with predators and wild animals, with deadly consequences. How can we co-exist? Ft. Nayanika Mathur

Jan 20

15 min 21 sec

In India, each illness was assigned a Disease Goddess who was believed to both cause and protect from the disease

Jan 6

10 min 24 sec

British scientist Sir Ronald Ross tries to stops a deadly cholera outbreak in 1895 Bangalore. He applies learnings from the new field of epidemiology

Dec 2020

13 min 12 sec

A Sanskrit scholar narrates a tale from one of the oldest Ayurvedic texts, Charaka-samhita, that has surprising resonance with our current lives

Dec 2020

11 min 52 sec

A public health vacuum left by governments over decades is being filled by tech companies, which have increased surveillance as a response to Covid-19

Nov 2020

23 min 2 sec

Can the great divide between traditional medicine like Ayurveda and allopathic medicines ever be bridged? We look at the evidence with biologist Annamma Spudich

Nov 2020

19 min

A history of colonial neglect in Calcutta has led to an unusual mode of water delivery. Historian Pratik Chakrabarti also discusses pandemics and discrimination

Oct 2020

32 min 24 sec

Folk Healing is the most ancient form of medicine. G. Hariramamurthi has visited more than 12,000 villages across India to document folk medicine practices

Oct 2020

23 min 18 sec

An old draconian law from 1897, when plague hit Bombay, has been reinstated for Covid-19. Interview with historian Tarangini Sriraman

Sep 2020

35 min 50 sec

What should nations dowhen a pandemic hits? Historian Alison Bashford talks about the various kinds of borders that define pandemics and immigration

Sep 2020

24 min 25 sec

Season 1 Trailer Coming Soon! Resources Transcript  Share Trailer Twitter Facebook WhatsApp  

Jul 2020

3 min 7 sec