TITLE: Romila Thapar: Perceptions of the Past in Early India
SPEAKER: Romila Thapar
EVENT DATE: 2009/05/12
FORMAT: Video + Captions
RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes
TRANSCRIPT: View Transcript (link will open in a new window)
One of the world's foremost experts on the history of early India, Romila Thapar, winner of the 2008 Kluge Prize, discussed the rich and ancient civilization in a lecture titled "Perceptions of the Past in Early India." In her talk, Thapar critiqued the notion that the civilization in India lacked a sense of history, and discussed the recognition of historical traditions in the early texts of Northern India.
Speaker Biography: During her career, Romila Thapar opened the study of early India to inquiry and conceptual frameworks arising out of the modern social sciences. She formulated new questions about the social development within nearly 2,000 years of Indian history and challenged existing paradigms of historians from both the colonial era and from the more recent nationalist era. Thapar has portrayed complex interplay among political, economic, social, religious and other factors, and has always taken a holistic approach. Faced with the absence of reliable dating, she has found new information in ancient texts -- Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit and Jain -- in Old Tamil traditions and folklore, and integrated it all with findings from archaeology, numismatics, linguistics and inscriptions. She has persistently championed a history grounded in evidence drawn from multiple sources, in multiple languages from all levels of society across time. Making innovative use of familiar archaeological and literary sources and mining new data, Thapar has stretched the world's understanding of India, a nation of more than 1 billion people. Thapar has written and coauthored 15 substantial books, beginning in 1962 with "Asoka and the Decline of the Maurya" and including the 1969 classic "A History of India" and its revision in 2004, "Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300." An emeritus professor of ancient Indian history at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, Thapar has held visiting posts and received honorary degrees from universities on three continents. In 2008, Thapar was the co-winner, with historian Peter Brown, of the prestigious Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Study of Humanity.