Prof Romila Thapar

  • Romila ThaparRomila Thapar; (born 30 November 1931) is an Indian historian whose principal area of study is ancient India. Her keen interest in understanding how societies disintegrate or integrate and how relationships change over time, led her to history and historiography, and she went on a scholarship to School Of Oriental and African Studies. Working with the famous indologist Dr. A.L. Bhasham, she earned a PhD on the Mauryan era, in 1958.

    An interesting aspect of Prof. Thapar’s work spanning four decades is her ability to constantly expand the horizons of her concerns, but still produce a consistently high quality of research output, as Sanjay Subhramaniam, a Professor at Oxford comments.
    A teacher throughout her life, generations of historians underwent rigorous training at Delhi University and later for two fulfilling decades at Jawaharla Nehru University. One of the founder members of the JNU’s famed Centre for Historical Studies, Prof. Thapar, along with a galaxy of historians was able to expand the quests and concerns of History and move it beyond the narrow confines of chronicling events.
    In her own words, the tenure at JNU led her, “To think of new ways of projecting history, where our courses would reflect interdisciplinary methods of investigating the past. If at all I can take credit for anything, it is for those students who are now teaching history and conducting historical research themselves”. Students vouch for it. It is like entering the tiger’s den, says one. But if you are good, she is the greatest ally you could have, says another who did her Ph.D. under Thapar.
    Professor Thapar’s works range from Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas (1961) to The Aryan: Recasting Constructs (2008). Professor Thapar has been a visiting professor at Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania and the College de France in Paris.
    She was elected General President of the Indian History Congress in 1983, as well as Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy in 1999.Professor Thapar is also an Honorary Fellow at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and holds honorary doctorates from the University of Chicago, the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales in Paris, the University of Oxford and the University of Calcutta. In 2004 the US Library of Congress appointed her as the first holder of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South.