Appeal for John F. Richards Prize in South Asian History

Posted by sepoy on October 03, 2009 · 5 mins read

Via Manu Bhagavan and the Society for Advancing the History of South Asia:

Please support the establishment of an endowed South Asian History book prize by the American Historical Association!

Historical work on South Asia has become increasingly prominent and influential in the world academy in recent decades. Numerous books written about the region have deeply influenced scholarship on other parts of the world. South Asian history is now taught at a growing number of colleges and universities worldwide. This tracks an increasing interest among students in the topic and foretells an increasing volume of research on it. Nowhere is this truer than in the North American academy.

Its size, antiquity, and influence unquestionably make the American Historical Association the premier professional association of historians in the United States. South Asian historians are increasingly visible within the Association, with a growing representation at its conferences and in its flagship journal, the American Historical Review. Recognition of South Asian history reached another level in the selection of Barbara D. Metcalf, a leading historian of the subcontinent, as the current President-elect of the AHA.

These developments make it all the more necessary for supporters of South Asian scholarship to come forward to assist the AHA in its effort to create an endowed prize for the best book on the history of the region. This is all the more pressing because every other major world region is now represented in the list of twenty book prizes awarded by the AHA. Omitting trans-regional prizes such as the Joan Kelly Memorial Prize in Women's History, we see that in 2010 there will be ten prizes for work on the history of Europe, individual European countries, or European expansion. Then there are is the John K. Fairbank Prize in East Asian history, now joined by the Martin R. Klein Prize for the best work on African history.

By bringing the best new work to the attention of the scholarly and journalistic communities each year, a book prize will be a means of reaffirming the significance of South Asian history to the historical discipline as a whole. It will signal the vibrancy of the field at a time of economic contraction, and it will cast a well-deserved spotlight on at least a few of the many excellent scholars whose collective efforts have advanced South Asian history so notably during the past several decades.

We therefore hope that you will join us by making a contribution to the endowment needed to support the creation of an annual prize. South Asian historians in the AHA decided this spring to name the prize in memory of John Folsom Richards, a distinguished historian who was noted for his generosity, breadth of vision, and the collegial quality of his many academic ventures.

Gifts to the John F. Richards Memorial Prize fund of the American Historical Association will be tax-deductible as permitted by law and each will be acknowledged by the Chair of the fund-raising committee as well as the AHA office. A pledge form with full instructions accompanies this appeal. You may also contact any member of the Campaign Committee for further information. We are confident that we shall be successful with your support!

Sumit Guha (Chair), Rutgers University,
Frank Conlon, University of Washington,
David Gilmartin, North Carolina State University,
Munis Faruqui, University of California-Berkeley,
Anupama Rao, Barnard College,
Cynthia Talbot, University of Texas at Austin,
Yasmin Saikia, University of North Carolina,
John McNeill, Georgetown University,
Bruce B. Lawrence, Duke University,
Chitralekha Zutshi, College of William and Mary,
Ron Witt, Duke University,
Barbara Ramusack, University of Cincinnati,
Daud S. Ali, University of Pennsylvania

John F. Richards was a noted Mughal historian who has left a tremendous legacy, not only in terms of his scholarly output but also the scholars he trained and developed. I hope all of you can spread the word for this book prize and/or contribute some funds towards it.