27 January 2020

Arvind Krishna Mehrotra awarded the Kanhaiya Lal Sethia Poetry Prize

Many congratulations to Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, who has been awarded the Kanhaiya Lal Sethia Poetry Prize. According to a report, tthe renowned Rajasthani scholar and poet in whose honour the prize is named would have been a hundred years old this year. This is the fourth edition of the prize, won earlier by Jayanta Mahapatra (2017) and Rituraj (2016).

Arvind, true to form, turned up in faded jeans and jacket, but accounts suggest it was a grand occasion, with a battery of luminaries present -- both literary and political. Sachin Pilot, among those pictured here, is Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan.  

The prize was given at the Jaipur Literature Festival earlier this month. 

Arvind Krishna Mehrotra being awarded the prize. Photo from Jan Prahari Express

25 January 2020

Nature and Nation, paperback

"Digging into a vast historical archive of the subcontinent and carefully moving from the past to
the present, Mahesh Rangarajan’s Nature and Nation complicates long held assumptions that have
informed popular understandings of South Asia’s environment. This marks a historiographical
shift from the dominant trend till the early 1990s where there is often a convergence between the
concerns of the environmental movements and the framing of history. What emerges in turn is a
nuanced picture of a rather dialogical relationship between ‘nature’ and ‘nation’. Bringing together
a selection of essays written between 1996 and 2012, Rangarajan, the longtime environmental
historian, demonstrates – what he has been arguing for quite a while now – the need to examine a
longer-range history with all its attendant regional variations"
Tanmoy Sharma, South Asian History and Culture


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.

360 pp | PB | Rs 595























11 January 2020

SANJAY SUBRAHMANYAM WINS ONE MORE INTERNATIONAL PRIZE

SANJAY SUBRAHMANYAM 

NEWS JUST IN (January 2020) . . .

Admirers of Sanjay Subrahmanyam's many magnificent "connected histories" will be happy to learn that they -- having long lost count of the number of European languages he reads and lectures in, and having lost count also of the number of monographs he has written on Portuguese and Mughal history, maritime history, economic history, cultural history, and travellers' accounts, and God knows what else -- can now also start losing count of the number of international history prizes he has won. As we already know, Subrahmanyam is the only Asian to be made Professor, International Chair in Early Modern Global History at the Collège de France. This happened in 2013. We also recall that he won the Infosys Prize the year before that.

We have now received news that this former enfant terrible of Indian and European history (we can certify that he is, for many years now, entirely sober, mature, and dignified, in line with his stature) has been awarded the Prix International d'Histoire (International Prize of History) by the International Committee of Historical Sciences (ICHS). 

The committee will give Subrahmanyam the award at a ceremony in Poznań, Poland, in August 2020, at the XXIII Congress of the ICHS, which is held every five years. The citation speaks of his "contributions to the progress of historical research and to the dialogue between cultures, opening many new perspectives and training generations of scholars." The prize, like the Prix Goncourt, is not monetised (what a pity), but we believe Subrahmanyam will get a very fancy medal and a very fancy watch! 

More to the point, this prize is open to a historian of any country, of any time period, and any theme!

Sanjay Subrahmanyam (black beard) with Simon Digby (white beard)
It used to be said of the great pianist Vladimir Horowitz and the great violinst Jascha Heifetz that their individual achievements were not only head and shoulders above those of every other past and present pianist and violinist, but that they were likely to remain head and shoulders above those of every future pianist and violinist too. Even if we take such grandiose declarations with a pinch of salt and discount the element of wanton exaggeration in them, there is little doubt that Subrahmanyam's accomplishment as a historian is, quite simply, staggering.

Permanent Black is privileged to have published several of Sanjay Subrahmanyam's books, including most recently IS INDIAN CIVILIZATION A MYTH?, and EMPIRES BETWEEN ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY 1500-1800, and (co-authored with Muzaffar Alam) WRITING THE MUGHAL WORLD.

It may interest readers to know that Sanjay Subrahmanyam's brother S. Jaishankar is India's foreign minister in the BJP government, and that his father K. Subrahmanyam was the foremost advocate of India's atom bomb; and that Subrahmanyam, whose histories have shown the cross-fertilisation of cultures and civilisations and the porousness of political boundaries, has been consistently a staunch defender of secular values . . . So, a variety of opinions and possibly differing positions, all within the same family -- and thus a most potent and heartening example of the coexistence of difference that India is now rapidly in danger of losing.