The Department of History, Miranda House, began its journey in the year 1948. A single-member department for the first batch of history enthusiasts, the faculty strength is now a round dozen. The history curriculum addresses issues of change and continuity through a study of human evolution, cultural patterns, political trends, gender and environment, besides intensive focus on the histories of India and of different parts of the world. Students are introduced to reading texts and sources in the form of manuscripts, inscriptions, coins and artefacts. A training in comprehensive, critical and analytical understanding of the discipline equips our students to make career choices in diverse fields. Our alumnae have made a mark for themselves in teaching and research, bureaucracy, media, film-making, theatre, performing arts, corporate service and other fields.
The leap from the school system of education in India (mostly textbook-dependent and based on rote learning) to the requirements of higher education is an enormous one. A strong library culture, fortified by discussion groups, without the pressure to make formal presentations culminating in one final assessment is necessary to develop critical thinking about History. Our students therefore have access to a dedicated department library managed by the faculty and students together besides the college library.
The History Society activities encourage students to engage with history through debates and discussions as also interactions with eminent scholars through an annual event, Tarikh, and regular seminars.
All courses taught by the Department of History begin with extensive reading lists. Lectures are frequently illustrated with maps, even cartoons, and actual objects like stone tools, old coins and ancient pottery from the private collections of faculty members so that students can get a tangible feel of the materials of study. Tutorial discussions often go beyond the syllabus into interesting matters of historical importance and contemporary concern. Screenings of historical films and documentaries go a long way in making the subject both comprehensible and enjoyable. Students are expected to make presentations/ write term papers/ class assignments through which their grasp of the subject can be examined.
Free WiFi is available in the college campus for all students and teachers besides free access to some of the most reputed portals for journal articles as well as e-books, like JStor. All our lecture rooms are ICT enabled with installed over-head projectors and white boards to facilitate power point presentations and use of e-resources.
Eminent speakers from different walks of life are regularly invited to address the students. Besides getting a chance to listen to and interact with renowned historians like Romila Thapar, Kumkum Roy Uma Chakravarti (who was on the faculty of Miranda House), and innumerable visiting scholars from abroad, our seminars and festivals have also been enriched by talks by India’s first feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia, and stalwart media person Ravish Kumar.
Students are introduced to the primary sources of History through an annual visit to the National Museum, besides several excursions to places of historic importance in the national capital region, lead by eminent walk leaders such as Swapna Liddle, Sohail Hashmi and Prof Sunil Kumar. In recent years, we have discovered the stories hidden in the crumbling stones of Tughlakabad and the winding by-lanes of Chandni Chowk, and explored the architecture of Fatehpuri Masjid while sampling the delicacies of old Delhi.
Outstation department trips such as recent ones to Khajuraho– Gwalior– Orchha, Udaipur– Ranakpur– Chittorgarh– Kumbalgarh, and Ahmedabad– Lothal– Dholavira– Bhuj– Patan enrich the understanding of history for both students and faculty. Our students and faculty have been enriched by experiencing first hand, the grandeur of the ancient stupa at Sanchi, the medieval forts of Rajputana, the art of Ajanta and Ellora and the blooming slopes of the Nilagiri ranges described in Sangam literature. One of the most ambitious trips undertaken by the department was to Pakistan where the team visited Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Harappa, Taxila and Takh-i-bahi.
The department takes pride in the two active societies, the heritage walk society, Raahi, and the ‘Discussion Forum’. The latter is a fortnightly, student-run event that engages with current issues. Raahi has generated unprecedented interest among our students to train themselves to lead historic walks exploring the landmarks and communities that make our capital city of so many pasts. Our students have acquired a formidable reputation in the university for their well-curated and exciting walks to different landmark locations every fortnight through the academic year.
The department of history is justifiably proud of the academic achievements of its students. Between 10% and 15% of our students qualify the JNU entrance exam every year, while another 25% to 30% pursue post graduate studies in Delhi University. A fair number go on for MA in history or B.Ed. in other universities, and to prestigious institutions like TISS, Mumbai. Several are engaged in doctoral research in different universities in India and abroad. Many opt for careers in media studies, print and electronic journalism, publishing, museology and archaeology. Yet others have entered the bureaucracy or social service sectors.
The seven permanent faculty members bring a wide range of specialisation and research interests, and have published extensively in their respective fields. Dr. Srimanjari, who was honoured with the Distinguished Teacher Award by the Delhi University in 2009, has examined the history of Bengal during World War II and the Famine of 1943. She aims to undertake further research on aspects of social history of the coastal -belt of Karnataka. The work of Dr. bharati jagannathan, who was awarded the Fulbright-Nehru fellowship for 2012-2013, focuses on issues of religion and community in early South India. Ms. Madhu specialises in the histories of the marginalised, including Dalits and women in the modern period. Dr. Snigdha Singh’s research interests include gender relations, especially as represented in inscriptions and visual sources, with a special focus on the early historic period. Dr. Radhika Chadha, who won a fellowship from the Fundacao Oriente, Lisbon, in 1997-98, specialises in medieval and early modern Indian history. Her research focuses on political and economic formations in coastal Bengal in Mughal times, viewed from the Indian Ocean through Portuguese sources. Sneh Jha has worked on the Baburnama and autobiographies in the Persianate cultures, and is interested in researching literary traditions of medieval north India. The work of Dr Kamini Kumari Das focuses on modern South-east Asia.