November 02, 2005

Task of a Historian

In the preface of the Volume IX and Volume VI, The History and Culture of the Indian People, the General Editor R. C. Majumdar, has defined the following three tasks of a Historian.

a. That history is no respecter of persons or communities. Hence, the historian has to rise above the fear of being accused by either of them.

b. That its sole aim is to find out the truth by following the canons commonly accepted as sound by all historians.

c. To express truth.

In case of the first task, it has more relevance for the volumes and the context in which it has been enunciated. The General Editor faced the issue of discussing the Hindu Muslim relation during the Mughal period and in the nineteenth and twentieth century and also the relation of Britain as an imperialist power with Indians. The author has claimed that he would be unbiased in his judgement but accepts that he is a human being and there is every possibility that the passions and prejudices would reflect on his analytic faculty. Though it is an argument but somewhere it is justifiable on his part to emphasis that even the British historians have been pleading for the acts of omission and commission of the British Indian government. No doubt, that the volume IX, titled the British Paramountcy and Indian Renaissance turns up as a pamphlet (though spread over too large a number of pages) on bringing before the future generation the injustice and unlawful activities undertaken by the Governor Generals. The other British scholars and especially the Cambridge History have performed the role of justifying the act of the compatriots.

As far as the second task is concerned, I have great reservation about the techniques and the practices adopted by the whole world of historians. I am unable to convince myself till this day that it is fruitful activity to perform to evaluate the written records and then reinterpret the activities of the bygone days in the light of present demands as it is being done. I believe that there is need to establish more well defined techniques, practices and methods on the world level which should be invariably followed and practiced by all the historians. The journalistic works should be clearly identified and excluded from the field of history writing. They have done the biggest harm to this subject. Yes, this is what the historians do all the time. General public may not accept that it is useful to read history or what is the fun in digging out the graves when one is moving towards the future. Well, I have to ask them one thing. Go and ask the people of Croatia, Herzegovina, Kashmir, Pakistan, Taiwan, North and South Korea, or even Hawaii that how far they are being made to live the history. You may just look at Iraq. You may look at the issues before UN concerning TNC (MNC for Asians), the so called the presently most happening and in-things which will take you to the future and tell you that if you can not predict the future than make the future. Somewhere, if you are not able to appreciate the need of historic perception of the present, then you are bound to grope in dark. Make yourself satisfied that you are moving towards future with firm feet but the truth remains that just like an anthropoid you are still blind about you present submit and forget of making a future. At the most, God may save you from tragic accident. But before that historians themselves have to set their research techniques and methodology in order and stop digressing in every new way of putting their findings in form of literature or even movies.

Yes, the last task has always reinstated my faith and hope that there is need to study history. But the question of methodologies being adopted and the absence of the fixed methodology in field of history always make me unstable again and again in my pursuit of history as a faith and vocation.

R. C. Majumdar passed away in 1980. He was M. A. Ph.D, associated with International Commission for a history of the Scientific and Cultural Development of Mankind established by UNESCO, Fellow of Asiatic Society, Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Former Vice-Chancellor of University of Dacca and visiting professor of Indian History, Universities of Chicago and Pennsylvania. He was also member of the Board of Editors established by Government of India in 1953. However, it was disbanded latter when the issue of Modern Indian history was taken up and latter that period was got written by Tara Chand. For a photograph of R. C. Majumdar you may visit the following link and that is

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