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Showing posts from January, 2021


Last year we turned 20 and to mark our birthday, we started a history prize.  The Kosambi Memorial Book Prize.       The prize also celebrates the excellent series of scholarly books we co-publish with Ashoka University. The Hedgehog and Fox series is edited by Rudrangshu Mukherjee and now has 81 titles.  The prize is given to the best student of ancient history at Ashoka University. It is partly funded by a bequest from the historian Meera Kosambi and is given in memory of her grandfather, the historian Dharmanand Kosambi. The winner is nominated by the university. In its first edition the prize was awarded jointly to Revanth Ukkalam and Haritha Govind. (Read our post about it here.) This year the value of the prize is Rs 25,000 and the winner is . . . well, you have to wait till Wednesday 3 February to find out.  

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

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

Premchand and a bunch of keys

The new year is off to a good start with two great reviews of The Book of Indian Essays by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra: "The names here are very good, and their work is delightful. The subjects dealt with are varied..." C. P. Surendran in Hindustan Times "You find within the purview of the anthology the sparkle of academic intellect alongside humour, personal opinions and reflections that engage both the critical eye as well as a non-academic audience" Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury in Scroll The book is like a jar of sweets with many different flavours. If you put your hand in, you pull out something delightful and different each time. Here is an extract from Sara Rai's ON NOT WRITING in which she writes -- with great eloquence -- about finding a voice, language, and subject. About this essay, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra says: "Coming, on her mother’s side, from a feudal Shia Muslim background, similar to Hosain’s, Sara Rai’s Hindi is laced with Urdu words, bu