M.Phil in Historical StudiesJawaharlal Nehru University
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- New delhi
M.Phil in Historical Studies
One of the oldest centres in the School of Social Sciences, the Centre for Historical Studies launched its programme of Post-graduate Studies in 1970 under the guidance of erninent historians Professors S. Gopal, Romila Thapar, Bipan Chandra and Satish Chandra.This group of highly motivated and committed scholars envisaged a centre with innovative academic programmes, making a departure from what was then the conventional pattern.
The course structure which was evolved at the centre was the result of intensive discussions initiated by them. To begin with, the centre consciously sought to integrate in one Department/Centre, specialists in the so-called ancient, medieval and modern periods of Indian history. Specialists in different periods and regions of Indian history and non- Indian history were attracted to the centre by virtue of its potential for devising and introducing courses with contents, methods of teaching and evaluation which are different from those of other universities, where traditional syllabi and methods continued.
The Centre also made an innovation in founding a chair in contemporary history and developing contemporary history as a speciatlisation for the first time in this country. Starting with a nucleus of four, the Centre grew into its present strength of 27 faculty members by the early eighties.The Centre consciously moved away from the prevalent trends and methods in teaching history, which focussed on narrative history, dynastic changes and chronology of political events, treating society and economy as isolated aspects in historical development. The centre shifted the focus to social and economic history, albeit with a firm chronological framework derived from conventional historical research.
The centre also sought to introduce a more logical basis for periodisation in Indian history, taking cognizance of major societal and economic changes. The Centre's aim was to introduce a rigorous and scientific methodology in teaching and research, with a large input of the faculty's research going into the courses devised within the new structure. The idea was to make the study of history more meaningful keeping in view the changing intellectual and social mlieu in India. A more direct need was to create an awareness in the student of history of the importance of theory and analytical concepts in reconstructing the past, while at the same time the emphasis was on a thorough understanding of and command over the primary sources.
The inter dependence of the two - theory and fact- has been constantly brought to the fore in devising the course structure and has been the guiding force in the periodic reviews, assessments and revisions or changes introduced in the various programmes in the light of the experience gained and in response to changing historiographical trends.
Periodical reviews also meant feed-back from the outgoing post-graduate students, apart from continuing discussions among the faculty members. When the CHS came into existence, a shift of focus from politico-administrative history to socioeconomic history was still at an incipient stage: the decade from the mid-sixties to mid-seventies was the period which marked the decisive transition, though of course a study of the socio-econonal structures was not unknown earlier, nor has politico-administrative history been completely abandoned since.
By focusing its teaching and research on the socio-economic dimensions across the dividing lines of Indian history as well as non-Indian history, the CHS has contributed significantly to the decisiveness of the transition. Within the broad spectrum of socioeconomic history, the CHS showed a predilection tow" the neglected areas of popular protest movements, or of life at the lower end of society comprising the mass of Indian people, peasants, artisans, workers etc. If these aspects claimed a considerable share of the CHS faculty's and research scholars' attention, explorations were also made into several other themes: the history of ideas, of techniques and of art and literature.
The research publications of the faculty and research towards the M.Phil/Ph.D. by students in the above areas reflect these interests. One of the objectives of the J.N.U. has been that research should be inter-disciplinary in nature, drawing the best from many disciplines. Towards this objective, many centres have appointed specialists in related disciplines. The CHS has, generally followed the principle that no historian can remain a true researcher without basic equipment in other disciplines related to his/her concern e.g. either as an economic or social historian drawing from economics or sociology or as an archaeologist, who draws from anthropology or ethnography to interpret data.
The expanding frontiers of history have also made it imperative that the historian's efforts should be directed towards correlating historical method with those of other disciplines.A more explicit stimulus to interdisciplinary study of history was provided by the inclusion of sociology as a sister discipline in the centre and the option, available to the students, of taking courses in other disciplines Re economics, political science in the other Centres of the School of Social Sciences with relevance to the set of courses done by them in their own specialisations in the CHS.
The Centre has endeavored not only to familiarise itself with the advance made in other disciplines but also to induce students to update their knowledge of such advances. It has felt a constant need to redefine the approaches and methods of studying history. Students with no background in history but with knowledge of other social and physical sciences have also been admitted to all the post-graduate programmes and have proved to be good students of history and have later taken up important academic assignments.