Dr. Ramachandra Guha, a leading historian in India, is internationally well known for having pioneered the new horizon of environmental history, viewed from the varied perspectives of the general public. His book, India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy, published in 2007, vividly describes the actual state of Indian democracy after the country’s independence. The book, which obtained a large readership despite its considerable length, solidified the author’s position as a great historian.
Dr. Guha was born in 1958 in Dehradun, a city located at the foot of the Himalayas. His father was a researcher at the Forest Research Institute in the city. After graduating from the University of Delhi with a master’s degree in economics, he enrolled at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, from which he received his Ph.D. in sociology. His doctoral thesis provided a basis for his work that brought him recognition: The Unquiet Woods, which he published in 1989. The book describes the public’s anti-deforestation movement in the Himalayas, dating back to the British colonial rule in India. Incorporating both historical and sociological perspectives, the book attracted attention as a pioneering work in Indian environmental history. Subsequently, with his excellent co-author, Prof. M. Gadgil, Dr. Guha published This Fissured Land in 1992 and Ecology and Equity in 1995. These books invigorated research activities and academic discussions in the field of environmental history and environmental philosophy in India. In Environmentalism, published in 2000, Dr. Guha describes diverse environmental protection movements around the world and the historical development of environmental philosophy by incorporating viewpoints of the general public in developing countries.
In addition to environmental history, Dr. Guha is a pioneer in the history of various other issues. In particular, his work on the history of cricket illustrates the process in which the sport originated in Britain, the former colonial power, and then developed into the Indian national sport. In the book, Dr. Guha vividly portrays people involved in the assimilation of the sport. Readers are likely to find various themes essential to modern Indian history interwoven in the stories about cricket, themes such as the caste system and the rise of nationalism. In this way, the book is regarded as a masterpiece of Indian social history.
Dr. Guha proved his extraordinary capacity as a historian particularly when he published India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy. Currently, India attracts global attention not only because of its rapid economic growth, but also because of being the world’s largest democratic power. In this regard, Dr. Guha’s work presents clues to resolving a mystery: why has India been able to maintain social order under a democratic system despite the wide diversity in the country in terms of languages, ethnicities, religions, castes, and other social systems. Based on studies of great many documents and materials, Dr. Guha reviews the modern history of India, a country with a continental scale, gaining deep insight into diverse aspects such as politics, economics, diplomacy, and culture. Moreover, his arguments feature exquisite balance between these aspects. In his coherent sentences, he presents an extremely clear explanation about complex Indian history after gaining independence. This tremendously helps international readers understand modern Indian history, while at the same time it bestows high praise on the author.
In today’s world, which is becoming increasingly diversified and chaotic amid advancing globalization, Indian people’s experiences in their modern history provide us with important lessons, as well as a ray of hope for the world’s future. Having served as a storyteller of Indian history, Dr. Guha is a truly worthy recipient of the Academic Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.