The award intends to promote and recognise recent research and publications in ancient, mediaeval, modern, and contemporary history of Indian subcontinent.

From Dasarajna to Kuruksetra: Making of a Historical Tradition, Kanad Sinha

Is it true that the ancient Indians had no sense of history? The book begins with this question and points out how the ways of perceiving the past could be culture-specific, and that the concept of historical traditions can be useful in studying the various modes of representation and memories.

Ancient India had several historical traditions and the book focuses on one of them – itihasa. The Mahabharata is the best illustration of this tradition and a historical study of the contents, with the help of contemporary sources and traditions, can restore the text in its original context.

Does this mean the Mahabharata is authentic history? This book does not claim so. However, it shows how the text originated as a critical reflection on a period and how it was reworked when it was canonised by Brahmins.

The Boundary of Laughter: Popular Performances Across Borders In South Asia, Aniket De

Combining archival research with ethnographic fieldwork, The Boundary of Laughter examines how spaces of popular performance have changed with the emergence of national borders in modern South Asia.

De traces the making of the popular theatre form called Gambhira by Hindu and Muslim peasants and labourers in colonial Bengal, and explores the fate of the tradition after the Partition in 1947.

Drawing on a rich and hitherto unexplored archive of Gambhira songs and plays, this book provides a new approach to studying popular performances as shared spaces that traverse national and religious boundaries.

Narrative Pasts: The Making of a Muslim community in Gujarat, c. 1400-1650, Jyoti Gulati Balachandran

Narrative Pasts explores the narrative roles of texts – genealogical, historical, and biographical – in creating communities. It retrieves the social history of a Muslim community in Gujarat, a region that has one of the earliest records of Muslim presence in the Indian subcontinent.

By reconstructing the literary, social, and historical world of Sufi preceptors, disciples, and descendants from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, Narrative Pasts reveals how the learned Muslim men accorded a distinct regional and historical identity to Gujarat.

Narrative Pasts also demonstrates that Gujarat was an integral part of the historical and narrative processes that shaped medieval and early modern South Asia. Employing new and rarely used literary material in Persian and Arabic, this book departs from the narrow state-centred visions of the Muslim past and integrates Gujarat’s sultanate and Mughal past with the larger socio-cultural histories of Islamic South Asia.

Indians: A Brief History of a Civilization, Namit Arora

Indians takes us on an unforgettable journey through 5,000 years of history, reconstructing the detail of social and cultural moorings of Indians through the ages. Arora discovers what inspired and shaped them – their political upheavals and rivalries, customs and vocations, and a variety of unusual festivals.

The book makes a pit stop at six iconic locations – the Harappan city of Dholavira, the Ikshvaku capital at Nagarjunakonda, the Buddhist centre of learning at Nalanda, the temple town of Khajuraho, Vijayanagar at Hampi, and historic Varanasi – brightening the narrative with vivid descriptions, local stories, and evocative photographs.

He also chronicles the travels of Megasthenes, Xuanzang, Alberuni, and Marco Polo in India – revealing surprising details about these personalities and the country itself. Indians explores ideas, beliefs and values that continue to shape modern India, while others have been lost forever.

Gandhi’s Assassin: The Making of Nathuram Godse and his Idea of India, Dhirendra K Jha

Born to Brahmin parents after several stillbirths, Nathuram Godse started off as a child mystic. However, he was neither particularly successful in study or work. The expectations and frustrations that mark the path of young men who cannot cope with changing tides form the basis of a spectacular study of this disaffected youth. Godse was one of hundreds, and later thousands, of young Indian men to be steered into the sheltering fold of early Hindutva.

Gandhi’s Assassin lays bare Godse’s relationship with the organisations that influenced his perspectives and gave him a sense of purpose. The reader gets to witness the gradual hardening of Godse’s resolve and the fateful decisions that led to MK Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. Godse’s journey to international notoriety from small towns in western India is, by turns, both riveting and wrenching.

The Language of History: Sanskrit Narratives of Muslim Pasts, Audrey Truschke

The Language of History analyses a hitherto overlooked group of histories on Indo-Muslim and Indo-Persian political events, including a few dozen Sanskrit texts that date from the 1190s until 1721. As soon as Muslim political figures established themselves in northern India in the 1190s, Indian scholars produced dozens of Sanskrit texts on Muslim-initiated political events. These works span Delhi Sultanate and Mughal rule, including texts that deal with Deccan sultanates and Muslim-led polities in the subcontinent’s deep south.

Texts written in Sanskrit about Indo-Muslim political power came to a halt only when the Mughal Empire was fractured beyond repair in the early 18th century. Meaning, Sanskrit scholars produced histories of Indo-Persian rule throughout the entire time span when Muslims dominated Indian politics.

For the first time, Sanskrit histories of Muslims who were an integral part of Indian cultural and political worlds have been collected, analysed, and theorised. This book also lends insights into formulations and expressions of premodern political, social, cultural, and religious identities to contribute to ongoing debates in the Indian public sphere.

The Tale of the Horse: A History of India on Horseback, Yashaswini Chandra

Horses are a thread that connects Indian history, mythology, art, literature, folklore and popular belief. Chandra takes us on the trail of the horse into and within India, covering caravan-trade routes originating in Central Asia and Tibet, sea routes from West Asia, and the dominions of different sultans and Mughal emperors, the south Indian kingdoms as well as the Rajput horse-warrior states.

We learn about the political symbolism of the horse, its vital function in social life, religion, sport and war, and forging crucial human bonds. Then we familiarise ourselves with local breeds of horses and the fabulous horsewomen, grooms, farriers, breeders, traders, and bandits who worked and lived closely with the animals. Chanda also remembers the iconic horses of history and equestrian portraits.

The Tale of the Horse is a tale of migration, permanent intermingling, and the deep bond that the master shared with their horses.

Revolutionary Pasts: Communist Internationalism in Colonial India, Ali Raza

Revolutionary Pasts reveals the lives, geographies, and anti-colonial struggles of Indian revolutionaries and how they sought to remake the world. Driven by the utopian visions of Communist Internationalism, Indian revolutionaries yearned and struggled to overthrow European imperialism and radically transform India.

In an age marked by political tensions, intellectual ferment, collapsing empires, and global conflicts, Indian revolutionaries stood alongside countless others in the colonised world to usher in a future free of colonialism and capitalism. Drawing from a wealth of archival materials, Raza demonstrates how Communist Internationalism was a crucial project in the struggle for national liberation and decolonisation.

India’s First Dictatorship: The Emergency, 1975-55, Christophe Jaffrelot and Pratinav Anil

In June 1975 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed a state of emergency. This resulted in a 21-month suspension of democracy across India. India’s First Dictatorship focuses on Indira Gandhi and her son, Sanjay, who was largely responsible for the mass sterilisation programmes and deportation of urban slum-dwellers.

The book also exposes the facilitation of authoritarian rule by Congressmen, Communists, trade unions, businessmen and the urban middle class, as well as the complacency of the judiciary and media. Those who resisted the Emergency, in the media or on the streets, were few in number.

While a tiny minority of citizens fought for democracy during the Emergency, most caved in. Equally importantly, Hindu nationalists were endowed with a new legitimacy. Yet, the Emergency was not an isolated incident, but the concentration of a style of rule that is very much alive today.

Tata: The Global Corporation that Built Indian Capitalism, Mircea Raianu

After getting their start in the cotton and opium trades, the Tatas, a Parsi family from Navsari, Gujarat, rose to commanding heights in the Indian economy by the time India gained independence. Over the course of its 150-year history Tata spun textiles, forged steel, generated hydroelectric power, and took to the skies.

In this sweeping history, Raianu traces the growth of Tata – a complex process shaped by the eclipse of imperial free trade, the rise of nationalism and the developmental state, and the return of globalisation and market liberalisation. Today Tata is the leading light of one of the world’s major economies while also operating philanthropic institutions. Tata elucidates how a titan of industry was created and what lessons its story may hold for the future of global capitalism.