After a lifetime loving India, historian Simon Digby breathes his last in Delhi at 79

Historians in the News

It was only appropriate that he breathed his last just 500 metres away from the graves of Amir Khusrau and Nizamuddin Auliya, for Prof Simon Digby was no less a Sufi.

A noted scholar of medieval Indian history, Prof Digby lost his brief battle with pancreatic cancer on Sunday. He passed away on Sunday at his rented flat in Nizamuddin West — he was 79.

Even in his last days, Digby did not let go of his scholarly pursuits. Despite having nothing to do with a young 30-something scholar’s research paper on Kashmir, he painstaking leafed through the study....

Born in 1932 in Jabalpur, Digby’s association with India can be traced to his lineage: his grandfather William Digby was with the Indian Civil Services and, together with R C Dutt, critiqued the new economic policies in the late 19th Century. Even after his father migrated to England, Digby kept returning, living briefly in Delhi University and travelling across the country, picking up languages, coins, manuscripts and an array of sources that could tell him anything about the mystery of Medieval India....

A former fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, and former assistant keeper in the Department of Eastern Art, Ashmolean Museum, Digby was the foremost British scholar of pre-Mughal India, who wrote several foundational essays on Indo-Persian Sufism and contributed to The Cambridge Economic History of India, Volume 1. His books, War-horse and elephant in the Delhi Sultanate: a study of military supplies, Wonder Tales in India and papers Sufis and soldiers in Aurangzeb’s Deccan and Qalandars and Related Groups are considered path-breaking.
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