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Undergraduate Programme History


The undergraduate programme in History at Azim Premji University brings together a committed and critical engagement with the myriad pasts of the peoples of the Indian subcontinent alongside a vision of transformative social change via education. The past, regardless of whether we see it as continuous or as marked by ruptures, is always contentious. And nowhere is this more apparent than in India, where the past is also always present.

The enterprise of comprehending and analysing the past as history cannot be imparted top down. It is something that can only be achieved in collaboration. If history is about reading events, processes and people in context, then it is critical that the classroom where history is taught also actively engages the context and background of students. A diverse student body bears the rich potential of contributing to doing history collaboratively, in a meaningful fashion. Through this pedagogic orientation, the History programme aims to advance in students significant discipline-specific capacities: familiarity with different kinds of archives and primary sources; exposure to different fields of enquiry within the discipline, both theoretical and empirical; and opportunities for practicing history through a variety of methods and sources—from archaeology to oral history. The program will also build skills and capacities that will ensure a solid foundation to our students for pursuing higher education as well as exploring a range of employment opportunities. Towards that aim, our students will learn to read texts and contexts intelligently, write cogently in different genres and on myriad platforms, and think critically and imaginatively. This combination of skills and capacities that will situate them advantageously in whatever future endeavour they choose to pursue.

History cannot be comprehended in an isolated fashion, divorced from other humanistic and social scientific approaches to understanding the human condition in relation to the world in which we live and act. Reflecting the disciplinary capaciousness and fluidity of history, as well as its critical and ethical responsibility to the present, our program is founded upon a strong conceptual investment in interdisciplinarity and an openness towards new forms of engagements with the past that seek to democratize historical discourse. Thus, our courses productively engage the intersections between history and sociology, economics, environmental studies, political science, religion, cultural studies, and literature, such that our students acquire a well-rounded understanding of the past. An understanding that is neither caught in the trap of competitive civilisational claims nor unaware of macro- and micro-historical processes that shape peoples’ lives in concrete social contexts over time.

What we do

Appreciating this context, our programme capacitates students to engage with the past not merely as an artefact, but as something that we constantly encounter, materially and discursively, in the course of our everyday lives. It seeks to engage students beyond the rote learning of “facts” and the usual emphasis on exemplary “history-makers”. Additionally, our courses explore historical processes and how people, with different stations in life, lived and acted within such processes. Overall, our programme seeks to embed the learning of history in practice, in a manner that is informed, inclusive, sensitive, and democratic.

Towards realizing this end, students in the programme are exposed to a wide gamut of themes and methods in the study of History. While often grounded in the Indian context, our courses typically regard this “ground” as historically dynamic and socially differentiated, forged at the intersection of local and global processes. In doing so, they also present to students the methodological plurality of the discipline as it stands today, involving both the staples of historical research as well as innovations drawn from other humanities and social science disciplines. Our program is especially attuned to the possibilities that the digital medium presents in democratising history, its disciplinary and public practices, and its communication.

Hence, by furthering (a) domain knowledge, (b) critical historical sensibilities, and (c) practical skills necessary for effective practice and communication of history, the History undergraduate programme at Azim Premji University involves students in actively engaging with and acquiring a historical perspective on a range of social, political, cultural, economic, and ecological challenges that beset contemporary Indian society.

Our courses

History courses are divided into core and electives. There are 8 core courses and 4 electives that each student will have to take. Core courses will be spread over semesters 1 to 6 and will aim to provide (a) domain knowledge of the discipline (b) provide methodological tools and analytical skills, and (c) introduce historiography to the students. In addition, these courses shall build skills of reading, writing, and analytical thinking. Core courses more or less maintain a chronological framework and progress from being introductory-level courses to developing higher order skills and capacities as of analysis and evaluation.

Core Courses
  1. Doing History
  2. Ancient India (Beyond Kings, Palaces, and Temples: Introduction to the Archaeology and History of Early South Asia)
  3. Medieval India (Millennial Transformations: State and Society in Medieval and Early Modern South Asia (800-1800)
  4. Indian Ocean Worlds
  5. Empires, Imperialisms and Colonialisms
  6. Colonial India
  7. QRE for History
  8. History of the Present
Elective Courses

The electives courses in the History major are aimed at allowing students to pursue a particular interest in a set of themes and/or methods to deepen their engagement with certain aspects of the discipline. There are four broad clusters under which the elective courses are organized. These will be offered sequentially in the programme, starting with semester 3:

  1. Social, Economic, and Labour Histories

    Courses under this header belong to well-established historiographic approaches and subfields in the discipline of history. Focusing on South Asia and India, but often from a global historical perspective, these courses explore key social, political, and economic processes that have had consequential outcomes for the lives and life-worlds of different kinds of labouring peoples and other historically marginalized social groups.

  2. Intellectual and Cultural Histories

    Elective courses in this cluster allow students to explore a set of themes and problematics that are typically identified with a set of cognate subfields in academic history: intellectual and conceptual history, history of ideas and thought, as well as historiography and philosophy of history. Courses in this cluster are often explicitly concerned with history’s relationship with different theoretical movements in the humanities and social sciences, especially anthropology, through which the question of culture takes centrestage in a strand of historical writing. In other words, through these courses, students can explore the ‘meta questions’ of history as well as investigate quotidian and material aspects of social life in different periods that nevertheless indicate enormous historical transformations.

  3. Public Histories

    Elective courses under this header primarily allow students to explore two things: (a) the interface between disciplinary knowledge in history and its popular dissemination through a range of media, including new media technologies; and, relatedly, (b) contemporary practices of historical preservation, from documents to monuments. This set of elective courses will allow students to engage with communicating history for popular audiences and preservation practices within history. Hence, courses with affinity to this thematic remit will engage students in a wide range of practices in and of history—from ‘guide’ narratives, folklore and oral history to institutional practices—both state and non-state—of archiving, memorializing, and monumentality.

  4. Global and Connected Histories

    Courses in this cluster of electives will expose students to history in an interconnected and global perspective. They break away from a nationalist mooring of the discipline of history (and its implicit Eurocentrism) to ask questions about shifting territorial and fluvial frontiers, oceanic worlds, diasporas and migrations, and the travel of people, cultures, and ideas across the globe.


Amit Kumar
PhD (History), Department of History, University of Delhi
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Karuna D W
Ph.D, University of Delhi.
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Sharmadip Basu
PhD, Social Science Program at Syracuse University
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Sunandan K N
M.A. and PhD from the history department of Emory University, Atlanta, USA.
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Tarangini Sriraman
PhD, University of Delhi, Department of Political Science
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Varuni Bhatia
PhD in Religious Studies from Columbia University, New York.
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"We want to make History come alive through the narration of stories, anecdotes, by visiting the archives and expose students to the craft of the historian"

Student Speak - Abhishek Matta (English)

Student Speak - Vasundhara Second video (Malayalam )

Student Speak - Sriniti - (English)

Student Speak - Sonia (English)

Student Speak - Johan - English