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Four Recollections of Sunil Kumar (1956–2021)

    by Muzaffar Alam, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Nayanjot Lahiri, Rukun Advani WATCH: Sunil Kumar speaking on Delhi   RUKUN ADVANI   Fourteen years ago, Sunil Kumar held a copy of his first big book in his hands: The Emergence of the Delhi Sultanate (Permanent Black, 2007). He hadn’t bothered trying to publish it with any of the big American or British university presses, though they’d all have taken it like a shot. It had been very long since anything substantially new and eye-opening had been written on the Delhi Sultanate, and Sunil, reckoned a dilatory perfectionist whose motto was much too fervently “Better Never Than Now”, was known to have been writing it for more than a decade. He could have had his pick of publisher. Some years later, he emailed saying he’d had enough of being a Reader at SOAS. He could have been in London forever, or moved on from there to the redder-leaved pastures of the Ivy League. By this time his book had brought him recognition as a s

Sunil Kumar: In Memoriam

SUVIR KAUL Yes, I know that Sunil did a great deal to change the way in with the period of early Islamic rule in North India is understood: he thought of authority in terms of processes and flows, not as singular and unchanging; he did not think of the imposition of Muslim rule over a Hindu land, but demonstrated the multiple motivations that guided local rulers to consolidate their power, including their attempts to define themselves against the confessional, juridical, and philosophical ideas they had inherited; he believed in reading archives creatively and fully, rather than mining them selectively for evidence to buttress prior, and inevitably, partisan, ideas. But there is so much more before all that: There is the walk on the roof of the dining hall at St. Stephen’s College, where both of us, dressed in black trousers and white kurtas, acted as the minor guards bringing up the rear when Hamlet and Horatio see the ghost of Hamlet’s father (we cowered most effectively, we thou

THE GREAT AGRARIAN CONQUEST by NEELADRI BHATTACHARYA

BUY THE PAPERBACK       FROM THE REVIEWS   Review in SOCIAL HISTORY, USA by Benjamin Siegel The Great Agrarian Conquest represents a massive intervention into the contemporary historiography of South Asia, elaborating upon some conventional wisdom but upending a great deal more of it. Readers might well place this book in conversation with works like Ranajit Guha ’ s A Rule of Property for Bengal (1963) and Bernard Cohn ’ s Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge (1997), to which The Great Agrarian Conquest owes some preliminary inspiration. Yet what Bhattacharya o ff ers is a wholly original account of the transformation to agrarian colonialism . . .   Few volumes in South Asian history have been more awaited than this monograph, Neeladri Bhattacharya ’ s fi rst. One of the most celebrated mentors and researchers at New Delhi ’ s Jawaharlal Nehru University, Bhattacharya retired in 2017 after a decades-long career. His formal scholarly output, limited to sev