UP honours renowned Indian historian

Historian Romila Thapar awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Pretoria. Photo: Supplied

The University of Pretoria (UP) conferred an honorary doctorate on a renowned Indian historian last week.

Romila Thapar, one of India’s foremost intellectuals and author of several books including A History of India, was awarded a doctor of literature degree.

As she was unable to travel to South Africa her speech was read out at a graduation ceremony, according to UP spokesperson Jocelyn Newmarch.

Thapar is professor emerita at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and a recipient of several prestigious awards.

This doctorate is her nineteenth award and the first from an African university.

Newmarch said Thapar’s work reminded the reader that history was not a singular narrative, but an unending dialogue between the past and the present providing a counter-narrative to Orientalist, colonialist, and nationalist narratives of ancient India.

“For Thapar history is not just a list of events and their corresponding dates, but the interactions of many voices, sources and narratives that must be examined critically, checked for their reliability, and be put together for a view of history that is full of nuance, where complexity is not set aside in favour of a view of history that is homogeneous and simplified.

“By means of her ideas and practice, Thapar has not only changed perspectives on Indian history but has also changed our idea of what history can be and how it can work.”

Dean of the Faculty of Humanities professor Vasu Reddy said: “Thapar has dedicated her career to championing the discipline of history. We are honoured to be able to formally recognise her achievements.”

Fact box: Felicia Nkhwashu

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Felicia Nkhwashu
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