In residence at the Simpson Center as Katz Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities, Romila Thapar conducted a graduate seminar on Early Indian History and contributed to many diverse campus conversations.
Thapar is one of the world’s eminent historians of India, widely recognized for her long career of ground-breaking work. Thapar received her doctoral degree from London University in 1958 and returned to the new nation of independent India to pursue her teaching and scholarship. Her research on ancient India has evolved new ways of reading evidence from archeology, mythology, literature, philosophy, ritual texts, folklore, and other sources. The results have yielded illuminating perspectives on contemporary India as well as new comparative and conceptual insights for historical studies more broadly.
First published in 1966, Thapar’s History of India has been in print ever since. Her subsequent books have secured her reputation as one of the most distinguished and productive scholars in the field. Among the most recent, Sakuntala: Texts, Readings, Histories (2002) traces the transformation of this figure of Indian womanhood across centuries of Indian and European literature. Somanatha: The Many Voices of a History (2004) provides a new framework for understanding a pivotal and contested event.
Thapar has twice refused the Padma Bhushan, one of the Indian government’s highest honors for lifetime achievement. (On principle Thapar does not accept state awards.) In 2004 the U.S. Library of Congress appointed her as the first holder of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South.