Cambridge University Historian Christopher Bayly Has Died

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, Christopher Bayly



With the death of Cambridge University historian Sir Christopher Alan Bayly, 70, who suffered a huge heart attack in Chicago, the world has lost a top historian who unearthed the roots of Indian nationalism. 

"Chris was one of the greatest historians of India," says Shahid Amin. Bayly's path-breaking research analysed how often overlooked players, from peasants to merchants, money-lenders, mofussil gentry, politicians and spies, contributed to the making of modern India. 

Themes analysed by Bayly radically reshaped understandings of India's past — and remain deeply relevant today. "Studying Allahabad's intricate local politics, he captured two schools of nationalism — Madan Mohan Malaviya's Hindu kind and Motilal Nehru's Western sort. 

From analysing sherwanis and other sartorial styles in the Indian imagination to procuring the entire run of a newspaper edited by Malviya for the National Archives, Bayly's contribution to India was immense," Amin remarks. 

Bayly's work was pioneering in linking local histories to the national — and global. Ramachandra Guha comments, "Chris Bayly was a historian who constantly asked new questions. His work explained important continuities across time - for instance, he showed links between Mughal, British and post-colonial styles of intelligence-gathering. He showed 18th century India as creative and enterprising, not in apathetic Mughal decline. Forever excited about new sources, he wrote about the first wave of globalization to impact the world." 




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