Professor Romila Thapar is a distinguished historian of modern Asia, and is an internationally renowned scholar of Indian history, particularly the history of ancient India. She has made three major contributions to the studies of Indian history.
First of all, Professor Thapar has brought an innovative viewpoint to the studies of Indian history. Before India obtained its independence, two views on Indian history predominated. One was the notion supported by scholars from Britain, the then ruler of India, that embraced a historical view of stagnation and regarded India as, so to speak, "a warehouse of historical facts that Europe had already lost". The other was a concept, advocated by Indian scholars, which emerged from the independence movement against Britain. The latter group of scholars described precolonial Indian society as idyllic and harmonious without any conflicts. Professor Thapar moved beyond these traditional views to establish a more scientific method in historical studies.
Secondly, Professor Thapar succeeded in presenting Indian history not only as the chronicles of Indian matters, but also as a regional history in the context of human history. Conventional research method of ancient India, in particular, relied on documents written in Sanskrit, and applied a method which traced the deeds of successive dynasties. Professor Thapar has researched more varied materials, including oral sources, and has sought to interpret economic and political documents in their cultural context. Using methodologies from the fields of cultural anthropology and sociology, in addition to historical theories, she successfully rebuilt the historical study of India in the context of world history.
Thirdly, it is noteworthy that Professor Thapar presents a broad historical description, written in a lively, animated style. She skillfully and convincingly weaves together closely correlated facts, derived from disparate sources to paint a coherent historical picture. It is the kind of work only an exceptionally able historian can ever produce. Professor Thapar's honorary doctorates and fellowships from many countries attest to her international renown, and the fact that, in Japan, her translated works enjoy a large readership even outside of the Indian Studies circle is another measure of the breadth of her achievement. Moreover, she has visited Japan several times, and has had a great influence on Japanese scholars.
These accomplishments of Professor Romila Thapar have made a great contribution to the advancement of the study of both Indian history and world history, and thus make her particularly worthy of receiving the International Academic Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prizes.