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Restructuring Past Edifices

Subbiah Ganapathy

By R. Champakalakshmi
Oxford Collected Essays , Oxford University Press, New Delhi
, 2011, pp. 643, Rs. 1450.00


The decades following the Independence of India witnessed the study of early Indian history taking significant strides in more than one direction and thereby adding new and fresh dimensions in the realm of Indian historiography. In the last quarter of the last century, the study of the early history of the southern part of peninsular India—the dravidadesa i.e., the land lying south of the river Krsna, in particular—was brought under special focus by historians. Oddly, however, most of the leading historians, if not all, who were responsible for taking the study in new directions in this context were not ‘native’ scholars, but those who came from other parts of our country and even from countries outside the subcontinent. How and why did this exceptional situation emerge? There are in fact quite a few important reasons behind it and one of those was the progressive decline of interest in historical study and research in the second half of the twentieth century in the departments of higher learning in nearly all the universities in the southern States. In order to make degrees in the discipline of history consequential and attractive to the fast emerging and ruthlessly competitive employment market, some of the established institutions of higher learning, in the closing decades of the last century, promptly tacked their departments of History with market oriented labels such as ‘Tourism and Travel Management’, ‘Heritage Management’ and so on (‘Management’ is the buzz word here) or, simply allowed their departments to incarnate themselves as department of ‘Applied’ History. This long introductory remark may appear to some irrelevant; but it is, in my view, a necessary prelude to situate the book under review in its proper context and to understand and appreciate its importance in south Indian historiography. To start with, the most striking feature of the volume is the span of time and the number of areas covered by the articles included in it. The articles cover the history of nearly two millennia in south Indian history with particular focus on the Tamil speaking region. A decade and a half back, Oxford University Press, had brought out a volume titled, Trade, Ideology and Urbanization: South India 300 BC to 1300 AD that contained eight long articles written by the same author at various points of time in her long and illustrious career. The present volume is a collection of nineteen long essays written and ...

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