About The Department
The History Department of Presidency University (with its lineages in history teaching in the Hindoo College and in Presidency College) offers one of the most globally renowned academic environments for South Asian historical studies and research. Following the recognition of Presidency as a university, new members of the faculty have recently been recruited, and new pedagogic objectives are also currently being fashioned. Keeping in line with its genealogies, the Department focuses on teaching Indian history from prehistoric times till the early postcolonial period, European history from ancient Greece and Rome till the twentieth century, and world history for the twentieth century.
In concordance with these traditional teaching areas, the members of faculty of the History Department mainly research and specialize in the interfaces between South Asian history and global history, from the early modern to the colonial and postcolonial periods, focussing especially on India’s interactions with the Islamic world and with Europe and North America. Reception of antiquity in early modern and modern times is also a significant area of expertise for the Department. Intensive scholarship on South Asian communities is combined with transnationally-oriented studies of entangled intellectual and social-political networks that span the extra-Indian world. Faculty members typically combine empirically-dense scholarship with theoretically-grounded interrogation of the social issues that historical scholarship raises. Political theory perspectives are foregrounded. Within this frame, the department’s core areas of expertise lie in intellectual history and cultural studies, art history, social history, and economic history. Examples of research areas of the faculty include: conversations and contestations between early modern Indian, Indo-Islamic and European intellectual traditions; ideas of kingship, theology, political legitimation and governance in South Asia and the British Empire; socially-grounded religious studies of Indic, Islamic and Christian traditions; Dalit and Adivasi studies, and scholarship on marginalized communities; notions of nationhood in India, and their colonial and precolonial roots; artisanal technologies and modes of production in the late precolonial and early colonial periods in South Asia; public spheres and the social production of satire in colonial India; reception of precolonial art, architecture and archaeological traces in modern India; investigation of scientific-technological discourses as they developed through interactions between South Asian societies and European institutions and discourses; postcolonial studies-oriented interrogations into the making of international law; and notions of development, political economy, statehood and progress in late colonial and postcolonial India, and their entanglement with global movements and discourses.
The Department follows a multi-pronged teaching approach, balancing a curriculum which can equip the students for careers anywhere, in academia or outside (following all-India requirements in this regard), with a sharp focus on developing cutting-edge research potential among students, to make them nationally and globally competitive. Teaching combines standard lectures (accompanied by visual and audio-visual aids) with student-focussed interactive sessions, discussions, and presentations, including analysis of primary texts by students to equip them for research. Focus is also placed on interdisciplinary approaches to studies, with faculty members collaborating with faculty from other departments (such as Philosophy and English) to carry out joint classes and discussions. Department members often take part in national and international conferences, and the department itself also often organizes conferences and workshops. The Department every year organizes a number of special seminars and lectures, including Professor Kuruvila Zachariah Memorial Lecture and P.C. Sen Memorial Lecture. In collaboration with the Paschimbanga Itihas Sansad, Kolkata, it organizes every year the Professor S. C. Sarkar Memorial Lecture. Students are thus exposed to the excitement of academic debates and discussions from their first undergraduate year itself. Student presentations, workshops and essays enable the students to put forward their own perspectives before their peers and before the faculty. The Department also conducts annually an educational trip to historical places in India, such as to Udaipur, Jaipur, Delhi, Agra, Ajanta, Ellora, Jabalpur, and Murshidabad.
Apart from having these specific academic objectives, the broader aim of the Department is to help students to become socially-aware citizens so that they can use the conceptual resources provided by the study of the distant as well as proximate past (of India and of the wider world) to better understand the universe around them, and to negotiate with that world in a socially responsible manner, deploying, among other things, the analytical techniques offered to them by classroom teaching and interactions. Pedagogic methods followed in the Department are tailored to these broader civic concerns.