The Department of History, Jadavpur University, was born in August 1956 because of the SpecialImportance Attached to History by the National Council of Education (NCE) which was a product of the Swadeshi Movement. The NCE, born on 14 August 1906, laid great stress on the study of Indian history and culture and on original research in the field of Indology. The subsequent history of the Department shows that this centre of historical studies has played an important role in many areas of historical knowledge and fundamental research.
The Department of History had a humble beginning. It started with one single Honours student and two History Subsidiary students in the year of its birth with no class room, no office, no maps, no charts and not even a teachers’ room. Classes were taken in a corner of the corridor, in the workshop, in a laboratory, in a tent, and when none was available, in the playground itself. The roll strength improved with the opening of post-graduate classes a few months later. In keeping with the tradition of the NCE, a new course on the ‘Life and Thought in Bengal in the Nineteenth century’ was introduced in the post-graduate class. Those were the days of formation and consolidation and the first to join were Dr. Nemai Sadhan Bose, Dr. Sachindra Kumar Maity, Sri Bimala Prasad Mukherjee and Prof. Sushobhan Chandra Sarkar.
Prof. S.C.Sarkar took charge of the Department a few months later. His reputation as a teacher and scholar and his organizing capacity went a long way in laying a solid foundation for the Department. Later, Dr. Amitabha Mukherjee, Sm. Sipra Sarkar, Dr. Bimal Kanti Mazumdar and Prof Pratul Chandra Gupta joined and further strengthened the Department. If Professor Sarkar’s period was one of consolidation, Professor Gupta’s was one of expansion. The post-graduate students now had before them a wide range of options for selecting their fields of specialization. These comprised: Ancient Indian History, Medieval Indian History, Modern Indian History, History of the United States of America as also History of the Soviet Union. By then the Department had an entire floor to itself in a new building and the teachers had separate rooms for themselves. The roll strength went up, the number of teachers increased and great emphasis was laid on promoting research activities among the teachers, ex-students and other scholars as well. The Department has expanded over the last few decades with new faculty, facilities and growing area of research.
THE DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY, JADAVPUR UNIVERSITY, was initiated in 1956 as one of the fundamental disciplines within the newly formed Faculty of Arts and Sciences. At present, it is one of the leading centers of research and teaching in History in the country. Eminent historians like Susobhan Sarkar, Pratul Chandra Gupta, Anil Chandra Banerjee and Nemai Sadhan Bose have been associated with the Department at various moments. Present faculty members are engaged in research on major aspects of human history across geographical and chronological divides with particular focus on the socio-cultural, intellectual, economic and political histories of Bengal, from ancient to contemporary times. The full faculty strength of the Department is about eighteen. The Department’s core strength is teaching graduate programmes. Each year the department admits more than fifty five students at the undergraduate and about sixty students at the postgraduate levels. The principal focus of these programmes is to enhance the analytical proficiency of students and develop disciplinary and professional skills. To this effect students are encouraged to explore various methodologies and different ways of relating to the past. The Department also has substantial research degree programs at the M. Phil and Ph. D levels. Research students and doctoral candidates are taught to become engaging scholars and effective teachers.
The History Department receives considerable research grants from the University Grants Commission through the latter’s Departmental Research Scheme (DRS programs). The DRS program specializes in Histories of Environment, Science, Technology and Medicine and holds regular annual seminars and research projects. The Department’s Center for European Studies aims to support and enhance teaching and research on histories of European societies, relating them to understandings of European colonial empires and cultures of postcoloniality.
The Department updates and revises its syllabi at regular intervals. It was revised last in 2011. The recent one is in keeping with the guidelines mentioned in the booklet circulated by the UGC on ‘Model Curriculum’. The course contents of a number of papers at both the undergraduate and post-graduate levels have been restructured to incorporate recent developments—political and economic—of many regions or countries as well as the trends in recent historiography. The Department now offers new special papers like ‘Social History of Modern India’ and ‘History of Science and technology’ at the post-graduate level.The Department is the first of its kind in Eastern India to introduce a full-scale specialization on the ‘Social History of Science and Technology’.
The Department has been running a UGC-SAP programe since 2004 on ‘The History of Environment, Environmental History and other related themes’. This programme is the first of its kind in the country. In phase II of the said programme, it has included Science and Technology as one of the main ‘related themes’. The Faculty has undertaken numerous projects under the DRS programme and has earned recognition by holding International Conferences every year such as those on ‘History of Water’, ‘Environment, Science, Technology and Culture: Trajectories of History’ and ‘Social systems, Science and Environment: Experience of different Countries’—the last one being held in January 2013. The Department has published books and articles relating to the central theme, the last one being: Exploring the Green Horizon: Aspects of Environmental History. We have associated academicians both from India and abroad as Visiting Fellows under this programme. Many of our courses reflect a deep engagement with the History of Environment and the History of Science and Technology.
We have consciously introduced a gender component in many of our courses. The overall versatility of the curriculum is visible in the courses offered to the undergraduate and postgraduate students. We have introduced entirely new courses on Chinese Civilization, Colonialisms and Colonial Africa at the UG level. That on Colonialisms is the first of its kind in West Bengal, if not also in the country. The courses on the Economic History of Modern India have been substantially revised to meet the changing needs of the time. We have also included Mediaeval Indian History as optional general courses at the PG level. In the optional general courses on South-East Asia at the PG level, we have recently included Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia, along with courses on Burma, Vietnam and Indonesia. In 2011, we also introduced two other new courses at the PG level—one on Military History as a special course and the a second general course on the Twentieth Century World, which has been remodeled as ‘Twentieth Century: The Age of Extremes?’. The special course on ‘Military History’ too is a first of its kind.
The History Faculty has introduced various innovative methods for teaching to generate enthusiasm among the students. Holding of extension lectures and occasional lectures is an integral part of the academic culture of the Department. On these occasions, eminent scholars from different Universities and Centres are invited to address the students on various subjects. Over the years, the Department has invited scholars both from India and abroad to deliver extension lectures to our students. The countries include UK, the Netherlands, USA, France, Germany, Bangladesh, Australia and some others. Other teaching innovations include presentations by the students in the class, field trips or educational tours, visits to museums and archives, use of visual aids like slide and video shows. Students of postgraduate classes are encouraged to write short dissertations and projects as well as book reviews. Many students have produced excellent project works. The students are equipped not only to teach in schools, colleges and universities, carry on research, join the administration, but also pursue careers in new age professions like media and management. The History Faculty guide both Ph. D and M. Phil students in their research endeavour on a regular basis on varied themes. Research students of the M.Phil and Ph.D undergo painstaking research and presentations before they are able to submit their dissertations.
The Department is engaged in various research activities, many of them being inter-disciplinary in nature. There is an ongoing collaboration with the School of Women’s Studies(JU), School of Environmental Radiation and Archaeological Studies(JU), Centre for Refugee Studies and a host of other Centres of advanced research. Very recently a Scholar Exchange Programme has been signed between the History Department and the Humboldt University in Germany. Many members of the Faculty have won prestigious awards like the Fulbright Fellowship, the Commonwealth Academic Staff Fellowship, the Charles Wallace Fellowship etc. One senior Professor of the Department has been awarded the D.Litt degree of this University. Many Faculty members have been invited over the decades to attend conferences and seminars in India as also in such countries as UK, USA, Japan, France, Brazil, Bangladesh etc. Members of the Faculty have received grants for Major Research Projects for pursuing post-doctoral research from the UGC, ICHR, INSA and other funding institutions.
The Department has been publishing the refereed annual Journal of History in a regular manner and this has been acclaimed as one of the standard publications by the practitioners of our discipline. Recently we have decided to make it an online journal. The first online version will be uploaded shortly.
The Faculty is in constant touch with the students who constitute the nerve-centre of the Department. They make their presence felt in all academic and extra-curricular activities of the Department and the campus. Many of our former students are currently engaged in such professions as academia, civil service, the media, Tourism, politics, films, Civil rights movement, government service as well as the corporate world. The Department has initiated plans for preparing a contact base with the alumni, as they prove to be valuable resource persons. Re-unions are engaged for the purpose.
Centre for European Studies
In 1996, Centre for European Studies, affiliated with the Department of History, Jadavpur University was established under late Professor Pranjal Kumar Bhattacharya (Coordinator). Later, Dr. Rila Mukherjee and Dr. Kunal Chattopadhyay acted as coordinators. The Centre has organised many local, national and international workshops, seminars, lectures and hosted experts from outside and within the university. Among the diverse themes of academic interest that have been treated are the many transitions of Europe, the demise of the Soviet Union, fascism and neofascism, the European Union today, cultural and ideological interactions between Europe and Asia. An emphasis on the history of Europe has not prevented the Centre from engaging with interdisciplinary concerns. The Centre hopes to continue with its original aim of generating interest in the study of Europe within the campus and beyond.