From one historian to another: Remembering Ranjit Guha, who redefined Indian historiography
Today, May 23, is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the historian Ranajit Guha, founder of Subaltern Studies. To mark the occasion, I am reprinting here a lightly edited version of a review I wrote a decade ago of Ranajit Guha’s collected essays, which was originally published in the Economic and Political Weekly. The book itself was published by Permanent Black under the title The Small Voice of History, and remains in print. Ranajit Guha himself died on April 28, a mere three weeks short of his 100th birthday.
When the first volume of Subaltern Studies was published in 1982, I was studying for a doctorate in sociology at the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata. My teacher, the late Anjan Ghosh, wrote an early review of the book in the weekly journal, Frontier. The review was positive; as I recall, it ended with a sentence expressing the hope that Subaltern Studies would stir up the “arid waters of Indian historiography”.
Anjan Ghosh’s enthusiasm for this new project stemmed from multiple sources. He was a heterodox Marxist interested in culture. He was a sociologist interested in history; this, likewise, a rare commodity. As a former student of literature he had a taste for good prose. These multiple interests were all…