Historians of India, Pakistan and Ceylon

Historians of India, Pakistan and Ceylon

Historians of India, Pakistan and Ceylon

Historians of India, Pakistan and Ceylon

Excerpt

Between the years 1956 and 1958 the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, held a series of study conferences to survey and evaluate the course and character of historical writing on the peoples of Asia. To bring this large subject down to manageable parts the method of analysis by region was adopted; and South Asia, South East Asia, the Near, Middle and Far East were in turn examined. In historical depth the survey of each region extended from the period of the early empires and literatures, through the age of Western dominance and the freedom movements down to the present day. Writings in both Western and Asian literatures were analysed.

The conferences brought together the leading authorities in these studies from Asia and the West and had the effect of making them more keenly aware not only of the underlying assumptions, predilections and prejudices of past writers but also of their own standpoints as historians. These investigations, which are continuing, have an enhanced value because they are taking place at a time when historians are seeking to rewrite Asian history and the peoples of Asia and the West are adjusting their relationships.

In preparing for each conference the same methods were used. Seminar groups, including a judicious balance of mature scholars and younger historians in training from Asian and Western countries, were established to analyse in detail the papers which had been prepared according to an agreed, comprehensive plan by the prospective members of the forthcoming conference. The business of the conferences therefore consisted not in reading papers but in attempting to solve the problems thrown up by the seminars.

Believing that these conferences have made a contribution to 'the wellbeing of mankind' I wish to affirm my deep appreciation of the Rockefeller Foundation, which met the major part of the financial costs, and also of the farsightedness and support of its officers, who contributed substantially to the effectiveness of the work done.

In the view that the papers which were submitted to the conference possess an intrinsic and comparative value the School of Oriental and African Studies has generously provided funds for their publication and, suitably edited and introduced, they will appear under the following editors:

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