The History Major at Ashoka University seeks both to equip students with the Historian’s toolbox and trains them on how to use it. A historian combines the skills of a detective, a scavenger, a judge and a ventriloquist. S/he is an artist and a skilled craftsperson who spins and weaves narratives of the past. Historical creativity lies in gathering, wrestling with and connecting the traces of the past to construct a rich tapestry of human lives, emotions and ideas. These traces come in various garbs – gravestones, burial sites, forgotten cities, mud pots, musical notes, folklores, war songs, memoirs, archival records, speeches, letters, newspapers, cartoons, cave art, paintings, architecture, clothes, food, cinema, advertisements – all and any remnant of human creativity.
A historian’s ability to make effective use of these materials requires inculcation of two core ideas: empathy and imagination. Empathy fuels and glues our connection with other humans. It helps us recognize others’ perceptions, feelings and ways of being. Empathy is a vital tool of a historian because it obligates a historian to question and challenge a single conception of the world in order to access other worlds and other lives. Thus the spirit of questioning and the consciousness of one’s own frames of reference is the starting point of historical inquiry. The second feature of imagination is the creative faculty which enables us to form images and feelings that ordinary senses cannot perceive. It is a critical instrument for a historian who studies worlds that are removed both in time and space from his or her own. Conjuring up those historical worlds requires a leap of imagination, a willing suspension of disbelief and a readiness to encounter the unknown.
The History programme (B.A. Hons.) requires students to take a total of 12 courses in their three years in order to receive the bachelor’s degree, according to UGC guidelines.
Please look up the History Programme Handbook to get a detailed overview of all the courses taught under this programme.
HISTORY CORE COURSES
These courses are taught every year (in the semester listed).
HIS 101 Modern Europe (Spring)
HIS 201 Ancient India (Monsoon)
HIS 202 Medieval India (Monsoon)
HIS 203 Modern India (Spring)
HIS 301 Reading History (Spring)
HIS 302 Reading Archaeology (Spring)
HIS 401/402 Senior Capstone (Spring)
PAST & PRESENT COURSE OFFERINGS
These course listings and descriptions are for reference only. The History programme may not repeat all of these courses, or may not repeat them every year. The only courses that will be offered regularly are the seven listed above as History Core Courses. However, the course descriptions of the History Core Courses may change, according to the different faculty teaching them.
This course seeks to introduce students to the plurality of ideas that is at the heart of Indian Civilization. India is like a civilizational sponge that has absorbed various influences. The course will emphasize the mosaic character of Indian tradition through examples from history and from the writings of some eminent thinkers. In the process, the course will draw out aspects of dialogue, dissent, syncretism and tolerance.
Taught by: Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Gopalkrishna Gandhi and Nayanjot Lahiri
Trends in History
This course is an invitation to a journey into the human past of several millennia. At the heart of this journey lies the question – what is history? This course challenges the notion that history is simply a collection of dates, facts, and events, or a story of emperors, kings and great men or a linear tale of human evolution. It introduces the students to ways of thinking about history. This course seeks to initiate the students to the art of historical thinking where they acquire and cultivate – empathy and imagination – the core values and skills that empower us to imagine different lives and different worlds.
Taught by: Pratyay Nath, Gwen Kelly
The books in the Great Books course will come from different cultures, different time periods, different languages, and different subjects.But they all have something significant to offer us as we think about the world today. The curriculum and themes will vary between sections, but readings will include influential books such as the Kama Sutra, the Mahabharata, Smith’s Wealth of Nations, and Darwin’s The Origin of Species, among others. This semester, Professor Menon’s course will focus on Great Books in the history of sexuality; Professor Mukherjee’s course will focus on Great Books in the history of thinking about the state.
Taught by: Rudrangshu Mukherjee and Madhavi Menon
Critical Thinking Seminars
Students may count one, and only one, Critical Thinking Seminar (CTS) towards a major or a minor in History.
CT 111 History, Novel and Cinema (Vaidik) [Spring 2016]
History, Historical Fiction and Historical Cinema are imaginative dialogues with the past. Each creates, retrieves and invents the past – a past that serendipitously seeps into the present. This course explores the intersections, dissimilarities and shared aspects of these different narrative genres that seek to convey the past for the present. The course material is woven around the conceptual and methodological issues that historians encounter while crafting their narratives – time, spatial imagination, memory and narrative distance; and the choices that a historian makes while mapping forgotten pasts, using personal testimonies as historical evidence, unearthing historical silences and taking ethical positions while writing histories of violence. Course material is divided into two parts. Part I consists of a piece of historical writing, a novel and a movie on each theme. We will read works of history alongside novelists such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gillian Flynn, Edward Jones, Mahasweta Devi, Rigoberta Menchu and watch Inception, Rashomon, Hiroshima: My Love, Gangs of New York, The Reader and Motorcycle Diaries. Part II consists of analysis of different kinds of sources – oral, visual, institutional records and material objects that historians use to construct the past.
CT 112 Environmental History (Rangarajan) [Spring 2016]
The course opens up themes in India’s rich ecological pasts. Animal-human relations and water conflicts, ethics and science, landscapes and their multiple meanings come together in a first look as we ask why we stand today vis a vis the human environment.
CT 203 History: Historical Thinking, 15 per section (Vaidik) [Monsoon 2015]
This course introduces the students to the art and science of historical thinking. What does it mean to think and write like a historian? Historical thinking is a training in questioning what we know, challenging the world as it is presented to us and mastering the skill of drawing out connections between disparate events in the human past. The fact that History is an evidence-based field of knowledge distinguishes a historian from creative writers and philosophers. That is, it forces us to ask how do we know what we know; compels us to explain the connection between evidence and conclusion; and to differentiate between an assertion and an argument. In this course the students have an opportunity to conceptualize their own ‘historical-inquiry project’ where they will be choosing and refining a topic of personal and historical significance, digging deeply and critically into that topic, connecting their findings with broader themes, all the way to creatively sharing their conclusions in a public forum. The format of the course will be a series of conceptual lectures interspersed with lab work and discussion.
CT 212 Critical Concepts in Islam (Khan)[Monsoon 2016]
This course will offer students the chance to tackle individual concepts within Islam and then go into an in-depth analysis of their origins, changes in meaning and their relevance to the everyday lives of Muslims by using a longue durée approach. Furthermore, there will be a constant effort to underscore how these issues remain deeply relevant today and thereby introduce students to currents debates as well.
CT 215 A History of the Future: Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (Green) [Monsoon 2016]
With the passing of the Communist era, it is becoming ever clearer that Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, rather than Marx’s Capital, represents the truly prophetic work of nineteenth-century political sociology. This course invites students to consider why Tocqueville chose the United States, not Europe, as his model for the future, how he was able to predict developments in the advanced societies so accurately and the degree to which his insights remain applicable to the wider world today.
CT 218 Animal Histories (cross listed with Environmental Studies ES 201-01)(Rangarajan) [Monsoon 2016]
It is impossible to disentangle the way we look at animals from how we look at people. Mainly but not wholly focused on the modern world, the paper examines the way animal-human relations have changed over time. The paper ranges over hunting and museums, animal science and empire, nation making and nature protection, gender and nature. The ethical and political issue of how we define animals is critical to how we define the human condition in our times.
Gateway and Reading Courses
History majors must take all four gateway courses; History minors must take at least three of the four gateway courses.
HIS 101 European History from Renaissance to Revolution (Mukherjee) [Spring 2015, 2016]
This course will introduce students to the basic trends of modern European history from the Renaissance in Italy to the revolution in Russia.
HIS 201, Ancient India (Lahiri) [Monsoon 2016; Kelly Monsoon 2015 ]
This course aims to provide students with a sense of space, time and culture in ancient India. It looks at the prehistoric hunter-gatherers, the advent of food producing societies, the cultures of interconnected differences (from the Harappan Civilization and its neighbours to the historical world of cities and states), and the landscapes of empire till the end of the Gupta dynasty. Society and religion, art and architecture (and forms of patronage), women and their reintegration into the study of the ancient past, and the environment as a variable form part of the course so as to provide a rounded and balanced perspective of early India.
HIS 202, Medieval India (Nath) [Monsoon 2016; was Mukherjee HIS-201 Monsoon 2015]
This course is aimed at exposing students to the main areas of research and scholarly debate in the field of medieval Indian history as well as to familiarise them with the works of both established and upcoming scholars. It explores diverse facets of medieval India, including trade and commerce, political economy, art and architecture, state-formation, canonical and popular piety, warfare, social life, literature, and so on. It is geared towards maintaining a balance between offering students a broad overview of the times as well as imparting detailed knowledge of some of the key issues.
HIS 203 Modern India from 1757 to 1947 (Rangarajan/Mukherjee) [was HIS-201 Spring 2016]
This course seeks to discuss some of the broad features of early British rule from the conquest of Bengal to the revolt of 1857. This will form the first part of the course. The post 1857 developments will be taught by Professor Mahesh Rangarajan. The second section of the Modern India course will take the story forward from the onset of Crown rule in 1858 to the early phase of the Indian Union till the early 1960s. The consolidation of imperial rule and the revolts against it each had long term consequences for ruler and ruled alike in a myriad ways, in socio-political, economic and cultural as much as strategic terms. Interweaving different strands of life and attention to regional dimensions can help illumine in many ways the India of today. Themes include the rise of new business groups, contested identities, the disparities between and across states and the challenges of crafting democracy in a climate of Cold War.
History majors must take both reading courses. History minors must take one of the two.
HIS 301 Reading History (Vaidik) [was HIS-203 Spring 2016]
This is a course in Philosophy of History – the philosophical bases for historical study, and Historiography – a review of the development of historical knowledge and the historical profession. It examines the different ways in which different schools of history have made sense of their discipline and of human past from eighteenth century to the present. The course begins with examining the Whig and the Positivist school of historical writing and traces the history of history-writing to the Marxist, Annales, New Historicist, Structuralists, post-structuralists, down to Narrativists, Subaltern Studies, Postcolonial and Postmodern writings. This course aims to familiarize the students with the essentials of the discipline of history.
HIS 302 Reading Archeologically (Kelly) [Spring 2016]
Archaeology as a discipline is comprised of three things: data, methods of obtaining that data, and theoretical frameworks and paradigms in which to interpret and understand the data, in order to create narratives of the past. In this course we will first explore the fundamental sources of data, along with the methods archaeologists use to obtain and analyze the data. Using this basic understanding of the field, we will delve into multiple case studies including Ancient Egypt, pre-colonial Hawai’i, the Missisippians of North America, the Aztec of Central America and others, in order to examine and critique the multiple theoretical frames that have been and can be used to interpret the past through archaeology.
The History programme (B.A. Hons.) requires students to take a total of 12 courses in their three years in order to receive the bachelor’s degree, according to UGC guidelines.History majors must take all four gateway courses in the major, including HIS-101, HIS-201, HIS-202, HIS-203. The four gateway courses in our major present the general patterns and processes of Indian and modern Western history within a global comparative framework. These courses provide students with chronological anchors for more advanced thematic courses.
Along with the gateways, two reading courses, (HIS-301 Reading History & HIS-302 Reading Archaeology) equip students with the basic apparatus of the historical craft. Reading History introduces students to different theories that have influenced historical imagination, the various schools of thought and modes of writing History such as positivism, Marxism, annals, structuralism, post-structuralism, postmodernism and postcolonialism. Reading Archaeology introduces students to the methods and theories of archaeology globally, and engages students with the history of archaeological thought.
Optional and elective courses of the History major seek to stir, whet, and capture a student’s historical imagination through a conceptual, historiographical and methodological study of different historical themes.
The History Major’s Senior Capstone course is an essay or thesis. It gives students an opportunity to put into practice their understanding of the discipline of history by undertaking independent inquiry on their chosen historical theme.
History minors must take six total courses in History. They must take two out of four of the Gateway courses (HIS 101, HIS 102, HIS 103, HIS 104). They must also take one of the two reading courses (HIS 201, HIS 202). History minors must take three additional courses in total, which may be elective courses, independent reading modules, CTS, and/or a Capstone course. Note: No more than one CTS can count towards the Minor in History.
History majors must take at least four electives towards the fulfillment of their degree requirements. History minors must take at least two electives.
HIS 301-01, Revolt of 1857 (Mukherjee) [Monsoon 2016]
In this course, students will deal with the events, the sources, the historiography and the events of the uprising.
HIS 302-01, World Hegemon: Britain in Comparative Perspective, c. 1832-1914. (Green) [Monsoon 2016]
Victorian Britain was the world's greatest power since Roman times. Its population quadrupled. It became, and long remained, the leading industrial power. It dominated international trade. It acquired an empire covering one-quarter of the world's surface. This course explains how that happened and what its consequences were, both for Britain and the rest of the world, down to the outbreak of the first World War.
HIS 303, Politics and Society in India, 1937-77 (cross-listed as POL 304) (Rangarajan) [Monsoon 2016]
The era of Congress dominance, from the victory in most provinces in the 1937 provincial elections to its first defeat in a general election in 1977. The course spans an era though freedom, Partition and constitution making to the emergence of the parliamentary system and the early years of independent India. Socio-political and economic changes in India are viewed in relation to the changing role of the republic in Asia and the world.
HIS 304, Indigenous Histories (cross-listed as SOA 303) (Kelly) [Monsoon 2016]
This course is focused on ‘indigenous peoples’ — known in India as ‘tribals’ — communities who are often thought of as outside mainstream society, isolated, ‘backward’, and perhaps anachronistic remnants of ages past.
Recent interdisciplinary work in History and Anthropology has focused on understanding the specific histories of indigenous and ‘tribal’ communities, to break out of the timeless mold, and understand how and why they have existed alongside states and empires, and continue to co-exist within and along side nation-states. In order to do this, we explore a variety of case studies in indigenous histories from all over the world including South Asia, North America, Hawaii, Africa and Australia.
HIS 305, International History of the Twentieth Century (cross-listed as IR 201-01) (Raghavan) [Monsoon 2016]
This course will chart and analyse the transformation of the international and global politics over the long twentieth century. It will focus on events and processes from the late nineteenth century to the present, covering the two world wars and the cold war, the fall and rise of global capitalism, revolutions and decolonization, international institutions and economic development, ideologies and religion, new discourses of neoliberalism and human rights.”
HIS 399-01, War, Empire & the Hapsburgs in Early Modern Europe: 1477-1714 (Independent Studies Module) (Nath) [Monsoon 2016]
The course starts at the outbreak of the War of Burgundian Succession (1477-1482). Next, it explores the involvement of the Empire in the Italian Wars (1494-1559), the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648) in the Netherlands, and the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) in Central Europe. The module will also study the unfolding of Europe’s overseas colonisation and the Protestant Reformation as well as their interaction with Habsburg empire-building. It also looks at Habsburg war and diplomacy with the Ottoman Empire in Eastern Europe. It closes with the end of the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714).
HIS 399, Independent Studies Module
In consultation with a member of the History faculty, a student may design an independent studies module, on a topic of their choosing. A faculty member must agree to supervise the module, and determine the modes of evaluation. Faculty and student together will determine an appropriate reading list and schedule of weekly meetings to discuss the readings. This option may not be available every semester, depending on the availability of faculty.
Sample Curriculum Structure
|Intro to Critical Thinking
|Trends in History
||HIS 203 Modern India
||HIS 301 Reading History
||HIS 101 Modern Europe
||HIS 201 Ancient India
||HIS 302 Reading Archaeology
||HIS 202 Medieval India