16 November 2015

Infosys Laureate 2015: Srinath Raghavan

For publishers, the wonderful thing about authorial prizes and honours is getting to bask in the reflected glory. This morning we heard that Srinath Raghavan has been named one of the Infosys Laureates of 2015. Some years ago, we published Srinath's first book, War and Peace in Modern India, and subsequently, 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh. He is also editor of The Collected Essays of S. Gopal.

Previous Infosys Laureates whom we have published include Nayanjot Lahiri, Upinder Singh, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Nandini Sundar, Amit Chaudhuri, Amita Baviskar.

Dr. Srinath Raghavan

Dr. Srinath Raghavan
Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi
Srinath Raghavan’s career path has been unusual. He is possibly the only Indian scholar of the first grade who has also been a second lieutenant. Born in 1977, he joined the Indian army after being at schools in Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Chennai. His bachelor’s degree was in physics from the University of Madras (1997). An infantry officer  in the Rajputana Rifles, he decamped (metaphorically) in 2003 to do an MA, and then a PhD (2007) at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. War and Peace in Modern India came out of the dissertation he wrote there. After being Lecturer in Defence Studies at King’s College London for three years he returned to India and is now Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. Simultaneously, he is Senior Research Fellow at the King’s India Institute of King’s College London. 

Here's what the citation says:

Scope And Impact Of Work

Srinath Raghavan’s three books have established him as the most significant Indian exponent of military history and strategic studies.
His work is marked by conceptual and historiographical sophistication combined with rigorous and original archival work. His research offers new interpretative arguments - based on empirical material and nuanced readings - on important issues: the relationship between India’s domestic policy and the international system, the balance between civilian authority and military power, force and diplomacy in Indian policy, and India’s relations with its neighbors. Raghavan’s history of the 1971 India-Pakistan War judiciously examines its unfolding in the context of global engagements, and reveals the political choices of regional leaders in new light.
Drawing on the tools of the social sciences and of policy studies, Raghavan also uses his own military experience to impart a practical understanding to his scholarly work. From these elements, he builds a remarkable ‘total’ analysis that synthesizes international and strategic perspectives with regional and domestic context, thereby opening new directions of research in Indian scholarship.
By his commitment to teaching, policy engagement, and public commentary, Raghavan’s research is in turn informing debate and helping to deepen India’s strategic thinking at a critical period in the country’s history.

Short Citation

The Infosys Prize 2015 in Social Sciences –International Relations and Strategic Studies is awarded to Dr. Srinath Raghavan for outstanding research that synthesizes military history, international politics, and strategic analysis into powerful and imaginative perspectives on India in global context.

Citation By The Jury

Dr. Raghavan’s early research focused on India’s foreign policy during the Nehru years, analyzing Nehru’s use of diplomacy and coercive power. Raghavan examined a series of crises – including refugee influx from Pakistan, and border disputes with China – bringing rigor and nuance to the historical study of India’s international relations, a trait that marks all his subsequent work. His second book, on the 1971 Indo-Pak war and the creation of Bangladesh, used archival sources across the world, and international political economy, to locate the 1971 crisis in a context of global strategic, diplomatic and economic causalities. In his third book, on India in the Second World War, all Raghavan’s skills are visible, in a tour de force of historical social science analysis. Raghavan has also played a significant role in energizing the study of international relations in India, in mentoring younger scholars, and in contributing to national policy debate and formation.

Jury Quote

Using creativity, Srinath Raghavan has woven different strands of thought and method to shed light on India’s military history and statecraft, thereby paving the way for better strategic thinking, as India takes its seat as a newly-emergent global force. It is uncommon in the social sciences to get a major award at such a young age. Congratulations. – Professor Kaushik Basu
For more news you can look here and here.

06 November 2015


Kabir’s work lends itself to topics that range from subtle inner states to political argument and activism—the relation between the religious-spiritual and social-political. An iconoclastic mystic who criticized organized religion, sectarian prejudice, caste, violence, deception and hypocrisy, Kabir also speaks of self-knowledge, deep inner experience, confrontation with death, and connection with the divine. Ambiguously situated among Hindu, Muslim, Sufi, and yogic traditions, he rejects religious identities and urges fearless awakening.
Bodies of Song is the first scholarly work in any language that studies the poetry and culture of the still popular Kabir through the lens of oral-performative traditions. It draws on ethnographic research as well as on the history of written collections.
It focuses on texts—their transmission by singers, the dynamics of textual forms in oral performance, and the connections between texts in oral forms, written forms, and other media. It attends to context, reception, and community. While demonstrating how texts work in oral-musical performance, it analyzes discourses of authenticity and provides a repertoire of Kabir songs as they might be heard in Central India in the early 2000s. Professor Hess considers theories of ‘orality’, looks at social perspectives, and examines communities of interpretation—including the Kabir Panth (a religious sect), Eklavya (a secular educational NGO), and urban fans of Kabir.
Linda Hess is Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Stanford University. Her various books include The Bijak of Kabir(translations and essays), Singing Emptiness: Kumar Gandharva Performs the Poetry of Kabir, and articles on interpretation and performance of the Ramayana.
Rs 895| 488 pp| HB| for sale in South Asia only

07 October 2015


Theodore Zeldin has been named ‘one of the forty world figures whose ideas are likely to have a lasting relevance to the new millennium’ (Independent on Sunday). His books Conversations and An Intimate History of Humanity are international bestsellers. He has won the Wolfson Prize for history, been elected to the British Academy and the European Academy and been awarded the CBE. He is an Emeritus Fellow of St Antony’s College and an Associate Fellow of Green Templeton College in Oxford. 

What new priorities can people give to their private lives?

How can one escape from work colleagues who are bores and from organisations that thrive on stress?

When the romantic ideal is disappointing, how else can affections be cultivated? 

If only a few can become rich, what substitute is there for dropping out? 

If religions and nations disagree, what other outcomes are possible beyond strife or doubt? 

Where there is too little freedom, what is the alternative to rebellion? 

When so much is unpredictable, what can replace ambition?

These are some of the questions asked and answered in this book by one of the world’s most famous, original, and idiosyncratic historians. Deploying examples from the whole history of human civilization—ranging from China and India to Europe and the Americas—Professor Zeldin comes up with some of the most fascinating insights and answers about the meaning of life and how to live it in the modern world.

22 September 2015


In her Introduction to this book—which showcases her work as a scholar of social, literary, and religious history—Vasudha Dalmia outlines the central ideas which thread her writings: first, to understand in greater historical depth the relationship between language, religion, and society in India, as well as the ever-changing role of its religious and social institutions; second, to recognize that the Hindu tradition, which colonials and nationalists tend to see as monolithic, is in fact a multiplicity of distinct and semi-autonomous strands.

Professor Dalmia’s work reveals a steady focus on Indian religious traditions, sects, and histories which, over several hundred years, came to collectively comprise what in the nineteenth century became known as Hinduism. In her first essay, Max Müller’s study of the Veda is positioned within a larger history of German philosophical interest in eastern thought. Müller appears less an exceptional German scholar and eccentric Oxford phenomenon once his derivation and links with earlier European Indology are made clear.

Subsequent essays look at the building blocks of colonial knowledge-formation, law-making, and pedagogy in colonial India, and the role in these of Banaras; at some of the major components of the Vaishnava Bhakti tradition; at pre-modern vernacular narratives that fed into constructing the modern Hindi novel and the Hindu ‘nari’; and at the history of modern Hindi literature.

Anyone interested in the plurality of Hinduism, women’s issues, and Indian cultural history will find this book immensely interesting.

Vasudha Dalmia established her reputation with a monumental monograph, The Nationalization of Hindu Traditions (1997)—her classic study of the origins of Hindu and Hindi nationalism in the ethos of nineteenth-century Banaras. She is known as a scholar in the classic Indological mould. She has also written widely on the theatre, including Poetics, Plays and Performances: The Politics of Modern Indian Theatre (2007). She has co-edited books on Hinduism, literary history, and modern Indian culture, and taught at the universities of Heidelberg and Tuebingen. She was for several years Professor of Hindi and Modern South Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She retired in 2014 as Professor of Hindu Studies at Yale.

HB/ Rs 895/978-81-7824-399-3/374 pp

24 August 2015

The Calling of History

A leading scholar in early-twentieth-century India, Sir Jadunath Sarkar (1870–1958) was knighted in 1929 and became the first Indian historian to gain honorary membership in the American Historical Association. By the end of his lifetime, however, he had been marginalized by the Indian history establishment, as postcolonial historians embraced alternative approaches in the name of democracy and anti-colonialism. The Calling of History examines Sarkar’s career—and poignant obsolescence—as a way into larger questions about the discipline of history and its public life.

Through close readings of more than twelve hundred letters to and from Sarkar, along with other archival documents, Chakrabarty demonstrates that historians in colonial India formulated the basic concepts and practices of the field via vigorous—and at times bitter and hurtful—debates in the public sphere. He shows that because of its non-technical nature the discipline as a whole remains susceptible to pressure from both the public and the academy even today. Methodological debates and the changing reputations of scholars like Sarkar, he argues, must therefore be understood within the specific contexts in which particular histories are written.

Insightful and with far-reaching implications for all historians, The Calling of History offers a valuable look at the double life of history and how tensions between its public and private sides played out in a major scholar’s career.

Dipesh Chakrabarty is the Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History and South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. He is the recipient of the 2014 Toynbee Prize, which is given to a distinguished practitioner of global history.

978-81-7824-469-3/ Hardback/ 314 pp/ Rs 795/ Rights: South Asia only

18 August 2015

Nature and Nation

Writing India’s environmental history is not easy. The country’s territorial vastness, geographical complexity, and unusual biodiversity make the task difficult. Relatively few scholars have shown the historical range and intellectual depth required to tackle the area compellingly and with sophistication.

Mahesh Rangarajan is among the foremost scholars in this field. The papers and books he has written or edited over more than two decades have helped craft and enlarge Indian environmental thought as a whole. They have established his reputation as a stimulating and wide-ranging historian-thinker in the discipline.

The present collection comprises ten essays showcasing the core of Rangarajan’s thought and interventions. They include comparisons of the subcontinent with the world beyond, most specially with societies in Asia and Africa once under Western domination. They also include studies of specific historical conjunctures under regimes such as those of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, Jomo Kenyatta and Julius Nyerere.

Environmental shifts and continuities in a massive Asian society and polity are the central focus of this book. It discusses events and processes to show how specific environmental changes happened. It discusses the global ecological dimensions of Indian transformations. Economy and ecology, state-making and identity, nature and nation converge and cohere to make this a book for every thinking person.

MAHESH RANGARAJAN, has been Director, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. His many books include Fencing the Forest (1996), India’s Wildlife History: An Introduction (2000), The Oxford Anthology of Indian Wildlife (2 vols, edited, 2001–2), and India’s Environmental History: A Reader (2 vols, 2012, coedited with K. Sivaramakrishnan). Mahesh Rangarajan studied at Hindu College, Delhi. A Rhodes Scholar, he was at Balliol and then Nuffield College, Oxford. He has been Professor of History, University of Delhi, and Visiting Faculty at Cornell University, Jadavpur University, and the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru. In 2010, he was chair, India’s Elephant Task Force, and was for many years a political analyst and columnist in print media as well as on television. 
978-81-7824-459-4 | 360 pp | HB | Rs 795

15 August 2015

REVIEWING ASHOKA: Breathing Life Back into an Emperor

The buzz around Nayanjot Lahiri's new biography of Ashoka (Permanent Black and Harvard University Press) 
is growing into a clamour.  Professor Kumkum Roy, historian at JNU, writes: 
The Mauryan emperor Ashoka has attracted the attention of scholars and laypersons with access to formal education for nearly two centuries since his ‘rediscovery’ in the 1830s. Nayanjot Lahiri’s work is the latest in a long, rich and diverse series of biographies of the ruler. It is significant as being the first major reassessment of Ashoka by a historian of ancient India in the twenty first century, also because it is explicitly meant for a general audience, and attempts to move, remarkably successfully, beyond a dry academic narrative.

And if you read this excellent review below, 
it'll be clear why.

Ashoka in Ancient India 
by Nayanjot Lahiri 

Steve Donoghue

As University of Delhi history professor Nayanjot Lahiri writes in her richly thoughtful new book Ashoka in Ancient India, the third-century BC object of her attentions stands out from the near-innumerable run of rulers, princes, officials, and emperors to a very marked degree. “The contrast with the archetypically self-serving politician,” she writes of the emperor Ashoka, “is so stark and rare that Ashoka arouses in historians a knee-jerk admiration virtually unseen in South Asia until the appearance of Mahatma Gandhi.”

In fact, that near-innumerable run of rulers tending to blend into each other raises all the more insistently the question of where Ashoka’s appeal originates (Professor Lahiri seems endearingly unaware that this appeal stops dead on the borders of her country and that Ashoka is as unknown outside of India as Ashurbanipal is unknown outside of Turkey; when it comes to name-recognition in Piccadilly, the Mahatma has the field quite to himself), and a significant and intriguing portion of this book is an attempt to understand that appeal. “In large part,” Lahiri thinks, it’s due to “his own keenness to appear to posterity as neither recondite nor imperious but instead as a flesh-and-blood emperor guided less by power than by compassion.”

That compassion was the result of the emperor, horrified by the carnage of his own conquests, adopting Buddhism and dedicating himself to becoming a merciful, enlightened ruler, someone who appears, from the records of his own time (many admittedly commissioned by himself), to be “the prototype of benevolence.” He made himself more accessible to the people he ruled than had any monarch in Indian history, encouraging the populace to petition for his wisdom or judgement on any manner of subject. Indeed, as Lahiri drolly puts it (this is, against all odds but wonderfully consistently, a funny book), “one is tempted to imagine the king’s eating and love-making interrupted by people with problems rushing in and out of his private chambers.”

In addition to some early Buddhist biographical tracts about Ashoka, he himself left behind many edicts carved in stone and erected in public gathering spots throughout his kingdom. Lahiri gives a full account of these carved edicts, sifts carefully through the ancient written sources, all in search of the man underneath the accretions of myth, and along the way, she does an understatedly effective job of dramatizing Ashoka’s entire world, from diet and entertainment to the royal peregrinations that formed so vital a part of keeping a big kingdom knit together:

Ancient India’s royalty travelled in style: that is what sculptural representations of large royal processions of chariots and elephants suggest. Some of the earliest such reliefs can be seen at Bharhut in Central India of the second century BCE, where historical kings figure. Prasenajiit of Kosala, for instance, is shown on a chariot drawn by four richly caparisoned horses with attendants and riders, while Ajatashatru of Magadha is depicted sitting on a state elephant with the others accompanying the leader controlled by female mahouts. Like military expeditions, the itineraries of travelling kings were presumably planned well in advance, with calculated halts on the way in villages, towns, and forests. The forethought that went into these expeditions was crucial because, to facilitate the movement of sovereigns and armies, travel tracks had to be made suitable for such retinues.

The result of all this careful, well-presented thought and research is what is certainly the best biography of Ashoka the Great ever written in English. “It is clearly not possible to write up Ashoka’s life in a way that meets modern biographical criteria,” Lahiri confesses early on in her book, and then, like a market conjuror, she proceeds to do what she’s just declared to be impossible. Certainly there have been longer biographies in 2015 of much more recent figures in history – presidents, Civil War generals, famous athletes and singers – that did, shall we say, a far less impressive job of bringing their subjects to life, despite having far more documentation at their disposal. It’s comforting to know, in fact, that the tenacity and the imagination of the biographer is still the deciding factor in books of this sort. Readers who know nothing of Ashoka – surely the majority of readers who will encounter this Harvard University Press hardcover with its bizarrely funereal charcoal-colored cover – are urged to let Lahiri make introductions.

PS by PERMANENT BLACK ---- Pity Mr Donoghue did not see the jacket of our edition, shown above.

17 July 2015

Unifying Hinduism: Statements from the Author and from the Publisher

Ads by MacVxAd Options
I am the author of Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History (Columbia University Press, 2010, and Permanent Black, 2011), a work that was extensively plagiarised in Rajiv Malhotra’s Indra’s Net. I had planned to stay silent, as I usually avoid comment on heated, politicised issues such as this.

However, when Rajiv Malhotra described me as an “ally” of his on his Twitter feed, I knew that the time had come to speak out to clarify the differences between his views and my own. As upset as I am about his plagiarism of my work, I am even more upset about his distortions.

One of the more puzzling aspects of this whole affair is that Malhotra praises my work effusively while vilifying the work of my mentor and dissertation supervisor, Sheldon Pollock. Pollock is literally the first person I thank in the acknowledgements of Unifying Hinduism, and knowledgeable readers will see that it is chock-full of

Ironically, some of these ideas are the very same ones that Malhotra quotes and praises in his book! I am enormously fortunate and proud to have had one of the world’s preeminent scholars of Indian intellectual history as my supervisor at the University of Chicago.

Rajiv Malhotra does not know Sanskrit, so he has to rely on others who do in order to amass the raw materials he needs for his books.

But he twists the words and arguments of respectable scholars to suit his own ends. He has used my work and the work of the great historian of philosophy Wilhelm Halbfass in such a parasitic way.

It is likely that a careful reading of his books will uncover plagiarised and distorted passages from other scholars as well. Harper Collins should take this into consideration and thoroughly check the book for other instances of plagiarism before it reissues Indra’s Net.

Regarding the substantive mistakes Rajiv Malhotra makes, it is hard to know where to begin, as there are so many. Here I will briefly describe one. Malhotra seems to have missed the part of my book where I say that “‘Unifying Hinduism’ is a process, not an entity,” and then go on to describe the unresolved conflict between Bhedabheda and Advaita Vedanta visions of that unity (p. 202). Malhotra ignores this distinction, as can be seen in his plagiarism of a part of page 14 of my book.

There he steals my words but replaces the name “Vijnanabhikshu” (a 16th century Bhedabhedavadin) with “Vivekananda” (a 19th century Advaitin), as if they were interchangeable. Vijnanabhikshu actually considered Advaita Vedanta to be a perverse Buddhist interpretation of the Vedas. Had they lived at the same time, these two philosophers would have been adversaries, and indeed Vijnanabhikshu would not have even considered Vivekananda a Vedic (vaidika) thinker. Malhotra elides such differences, as his project in Indra’s Net is to homogenise and de-historicise Hindu philosophy.

On page 201 of my book, I actually predict that my words will be taken out of context to support a Hindutva agenda.

Sadly, this prediction has come true. Malhotra even has the gall to suggest that he has not plagiarised my work but rather that he uses my words, often without proper attribution or quotation marks, to “add value” to them.

I invite open-minded people to read the concluding chapter in Unifying Hinduism and compare it to Malhotra’s conclusions in Indra’s Net. Then they can decide for themselves whether he is improving upon my work or merely distorting and dumbing it down to fit his own Hindutva worldview.
“Pollockian” ideas.
-Andrew J. Nicholson

The Publisher Permanent Black adds:

The South Asia edition of Andrew J. Nicholson’s Unifying Hinduism, published in 2011 by Permanent Black and distributed by Orient BlackSwan, very quickly attracted attention in the form of complimentary reviews as well as responses, both favourable and hostile, to our blogpost on the book. Scholars and serious readers recognized it as an unusually thought-provoking and thoroughly researched monograph on the history of Hindu philosophical ideas in the late medieval period. The book has circulated very well and we are honoured to be its South Asian publisher.

The usual trajectory of such a book in the world of scholarship is for it to become the focus of academic exchange, debate, and critique, and for its ideas and arguments to percolate through readers and teachers to students in colleges and universities. Naturally, therefore, it is deeply disturbing for us, as a publisher of the finest international scholarship on South Asia, to find that Unifying Hinduism has been used unethically by Rajiv Malhotra in Indra’s Net (HarperCollins), the nature and varieties of misuse having been exposed in the media. Such exposure is currently the best available redressal mechanism in our context, and Professor Nicholson’s statement, which we endorse, provides weight and specificity to the charges against Rajiv Malhotra.

As for HarperCollins, their willingness to rectify future editions of Rajiv Malhotra’s book would be welcome were it not for the fact that there may be nothing left for them to put in a “corrected” edition: much of the book has been shown up as a patchwork of other people’s work minus attribution. This is usually defined as plagiarism.

Rukun Advani 

Read this where is was first published, at Scroll.in

07 July 2015


Nayanjot Lahiri

Ashoka in Ancient India

Ancient rulers regarded him as the iconic Buddhist king. Jawaharlal Nehru considered him the greatest emperor of all time. H.G. Wells portrayed him as the sole shining star of antiquity. But who was the flesh-and-blood Ashoka?

The third emperor of the Maurya dynasty, Ashoka ruled an empire encompassing most of India as well as its western borderlands. He was normal as a ruler of uncommon ambition, but utterly unusual as the pioneer of a model of humane governance.  In fact the candour and emotion of his messages on stone show him less as a political figure than as a self-reflective individual.

Recovering Ashoka’s life and times from legend, Nayanjot Lahiri crafts a wonderful biography of this most extraordinary emperor. She provides him with contextual flesh, teasing out his psychology and personality from his edicts and archaeological data about life in India over the last few centuries BCE.

This is the most historically rich and readable book on Ashoka and his context.

established her reputation as an accessible historian of Indian antiquity with Finding Forgotten Cities: How the Indus Civilization was Discovered (2005). Her books include Marshalling the Past: Ancient India and Its Modern Histories (2012) and The Archaeology of Indian Trade Routes (1993). She won the Infosys Prize 2013 in the Humanities—Archaeology. She is Professor, Department of History, University of Delhi.

Hardback / 410pp + 4pp colour / Rs 895 / ISBN 81-7824-388-1 / South Asia rights /  july 2015 / copublished  by harvard university press

07 June 2015


Europeans and Americans tend to hold the opinion that democracy is a uniquely Western inheritance. In The Common Cause Leela Gandhi recovers stories of an alternative version. Using ethics as a lens, she describes a transnational history of democracy in the first half of the twentieth century.

She identifies a shared culture of perfectionism across imperialism, fascism, and liberalism — an ethic that excluded the ordinary and unexceptional. But she also illuminates an ethic of moral imperfectionism, a set of anticolonial and antifascist practices devoted to ordinariness and abnegation that ranged from doomed mutinies in the Indian military to Mahatma Gandhi’s spiritual discipline.

Reframing the way we think about some of the most consequential political events of the era, Leela Gandhi presents moral imperfectionism as the lost tradition of global democratic thought.

She offers it to us as a key to democracy’s future. In doing so, she defends democracy as a shared art of living on the other side of perfection and mounts a postcolonial appeal for an ethics of becoming common.

LEELA GANDHI is Professor of English and Humanities at Brown University. She is the founding co-editor of the journal Postcolonial Studies. Her publications include Postcolonial Theory: A Critical Introduction and Affective Communities: Anticolonial Thought and the Politics of Friendship. She is John Hawkes Professor of English and Humanities at Brown University. She is the founding co-editor of the journal Postcolonial Studies.

495.00/978-81-7824-457-0/252 pp/Paperback

22 May 2015

Niraja Gopal Jayal Winner of the A.K.Coomaraswamy Prize 2015

How wonderful that Citizenship and its Discontents, by Niraja Gopal Jayal has won the 2015 A.K. Coomaraswamy Prize. Here's the citation from the Association for Asian Studies. All the praise in the citation is richly deserved.

It's about to come out in paperback with this lovely new cover.

Paperback/ Rs 595

19 May 2015

All Crown, No Hollow


some of them even write books.

NICHOLAS B. DIRKS, FAMOUS FOR HIS MONOGRAPH THE HOLLOW CROWN (1988), knows south india intimately because he spent several years there as a child and spoke tamil fluently. 

he is now chancellor, university of california, berkeley. 

he must have written this book (below) before he became the burra sahib. 

in fact, perhaps he got the big babu's job because he wrote it . . .

Nicholas B. Dirks
Autobiography of an Archive:
A Scholar’s Passage to India

The decades between 1970 and the end of the twentieth century saw the disciplines of history and anthropology draw closer together, with historians paying more attention to social and cultural factors and the significance of everyday experience in the study of the past. The people, rather than elite actors, became the focus of their inquiry, and anthropological insights into agriculture, kinship, ritual, and folk customs enabled historians to develop richer and more representative narratives. The intersection of these two disciplines also helped scholars reframe the legacies of empire and the roots of colonial knowledge.

In this collection of essays and lectures, history’s turn from high politics and formal intellectual history toward ordinary lives and cultural rhythms is vividly reflected in a scholar's intellectual journey to India. Nicholas B. Dirks recounts his early study of kingship in India, the rise of the caste system, the emergence of English imperial interest in controlling markets and India's political regimes, and the development of a crisis in sovereignty that led to an extraordinary nationalist struggle.

He shares his personal encounters with archives that provided the sources and boundaries for research on these subjects, ultimately revealing the limits of colonial knowledge and single disciplinary perspectives. Drawing parallels to the way American universities balance the liberal arts and specialized research today, Dirks, who has occupied senior administrative positions and now leads the University of California at Berkeley, encourages scholars to continue to apply multiple approaches to their research and build a more global and ethical archive.

Nicholas B. Dirks is Chancellor, University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a professor of history and anthropology. An internationally renowned historian and anthropologist, he is known for his work on the history of kingship and the institution of caste in India, as well as for his writing on the British empire. His major works include The Hollow Crown: Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom; Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India; and The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain. He has edited several books, including Colonialism and Culture, Culture/Power/History: A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory, and In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century.

Hardback / 400pp / Rs 895.00 / ISBN 978-81-7824-458-7 /  South Asia rights / Copublished with Columbia University Press / May 2015


When the influential Marxist historian Perry Anderson ventured into Indian territory, he did not bargain for this . . .

Partha Chatterjee, Sudipta Kaviraj, Nivedita Menon
The Indian Ideology
Three Responses to Perry Anderson

With an Introduction by Sanjay Ruparelia

When the Marxist historian Perry Anderson published The Indian Ideology—his scathing assessment of India’s democracy, secularism, nationalism, and statehood—it created a furore. Anderson attacked subcontinental unity as a myth, castigated Mahatma Gandhi for infusing Hindu religiosity into nationalism, blamed Congress for Partition, and saw India’s liberal intelligentsia as by and large a feckless lot.

Within the large array of responses to Anderson that appeared, three stand out for the care and comprehensiveness with which they show the levels of ignorance, arrogance, and misconstruction on which the Andersonian variety of political analysis is based. Collectively, these three ripostes represent a systematic critique of the intellectual foundations of The Indian Ideology.

Confronting Anderson’s claim to originality, Nivedita Menon exposes his failure to engage with feminist, Marxist, and Dalit scholarship, arguing that a British colonial ideology is at work in such analyses. Partha Chatterjee studies key historical episodes to counter the “Great Men” view of history, suggesting that misplaced concepts from Western intellectual history can obfuscate political understanding. Tracing their origins to the nineteenth-century worldview of Hegel and James Mill, Sudipta Kaviraj contends that reductive Orientalist tropes such as those deployed by Anderson frequently mar European analyses of non-European contexts.

Vigorous polemic merges with political analysis here, and critique with debate, to create a work that is intellectually sophisticated and unusually entertaining.

partha chatterjee is Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Columbia University, New York, and Honorary Professor, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. His many books include Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World (1986), The Nation and Its Fragments (1993), A Possible India (1997), The Politics of the Governed (2004), Lineages of Political Society (2011), and The Black Hole of Empire (2012).

sudipta kaviraj is Professor of Indian Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University. He taught for many years at SOAS, London University, following a long teaching stint at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has been a Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as at the University of Chicago. His most recent books are The Invention of Private Life (2014), The Trajectories of the Indian State (2012), The Enchantment of Democracy and India (2011), and The Imaginary Institution of India (2010).

nivedita menon is Professor, Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is the author, most recently, of Seeing like a Feminist (2012) and editor (with Aditya Nigam and Sanjay Palshikar) of Critical Studies in Politics: Exploring Sites, Selves, Power (2013). An active commentator on contemporary issues in newspapers and on the blog kafila.org, she has translated fiction and nonfiction from Hindi and Malayalam into English.

sanjay ruparelia is Assistant Professor of Politics at the New School for Social Research, New York. His publications include Divided We Govern: Coalition Politics in Modern India (2015), and Understanding India’s New Political Economy: A Great Transformation? (2011).

Hardback / 175pp / Rs 495 / World rights / April 2015

24 April 2015


Publishing in April 2015

Thomas R. Trautmann

Elephants and Kings: An Environmental History

Because of their size, elephants have long been irresistible for kings as symbols of eminence. In early civilizations—such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus civilization, and China—elephants were used for royal sacrifice, spectacular hunts, public displays, and their ivory—all aspects driving them toward extinction. The kings of India, however, Thomas Trautmann shows, found a use for elephants that actually helped preserve their habitat and numbers in the wild: war.

This book traces the history of the war elephant in India and its spread as an institution from there to the West, where elephants featured within some of the greatest wars of antiquity. Southeast Asia and China are also examined for comparison and contrast within this environmental history spanning 3000 years and covering a vast terrain, from Spain to Java.

Trautmann shows Indian kings capturing wild elephants and training them, one by one, through millennia. He reveals the political compulsions requiring the protection of elephants from hunters and their forests from being cut down. Taking a wide-angle view of human–elephant relations, he throws into relief the structure of India’s environmental history and the reasons for the persistence of wild elephants in its forests.

Written with uncommon flair and elegance, this is a monumental work of environmental history using Indian antiquity as its entry point. It will interest lay readers, historians, and environmentalists.

Thomas R. Trautmann is Emeritus Professor of the University of Michigan, where he taught the history of ancient India and the anthropology of kinship.  Some of his books are Dravidian kinship (1981), Aryans and British India (1997), The Aryan debate (2005), Languages and nations: the Dravidian proof in colonial Madras (2006), The clash of chronologies: ancient India in the modern world (2009), India: brief history of a civilization (2011) and Arthashastra: the science of wealth (2012).



Hardback / c. 400pp (+ c. 40 b/w pictures inc. 4 full colour) / ISBN 978-81-7824-391-7 / Rs 995 / South Asia rights / 2015 / Copublished by the University of Chicago Press