A centenary tribute: Delhi University's History Department has withstood the test of time
As Delhi University celebrates a century of its existence, it's time to acknowledge the role of the History Department, notwithstanding attempts by powers that be to influence teaching and research
If Delhi is the crown and Delhi University a crown jewel, Delhi University's History Department is the centre of historical research in the country. Indeed, if research and teaching in Indian history is to survive and flourish, what is happening in Delhi University matters a great deal!
It is not a false assumption or a tall claim. DU is home to some 500 highly accomplished teachers, right from the top professors to ad-hoc teachers and the guest teachers. They are at the vanguard of history as a discipline. If you don't believe this, try and attend syllabus making meetings here. The board and committee members can shock and awe the best in the business. While petty political or factional concerns are not entirely absent, they are presented in a language adhering strictly to pedagogical concerns. What emerges often is a template followed by the rest of the country.
Senior DU historians have also been at the forefront of historical research, exploring new frontiers, setting new standards and moving with time, even as they ensured that the dominating political ideologies in power do not bog them down. There has to be autonomy for history as a scholarly discipline in the social sciences and humanities. This history is at par with international standards in South Asian history and beyond, across periods from very early historical eras to the more recent decades of our contemporary history.
Historians of all political shades and schools of historiography have flourished here, without openly committing to any kind of ideology to ensure their own credibility as scholars and teachers - with very few exceptions and crude aberrations.
They have shown the way, moving with time to work in fresh and thrust areas of research in different fields, from deeply empirical socio-economic history in specific political contexts to current concerns in culture and identity - as obvious responses to challenges faced by society and politics and its reflections in academia.
This is the most happening time in historical research. DU History Department will have to live up to its past standards and enduring presence as an institution of eminence, as it were.