The teaching of History at Panjab University during its first three decades of existence (1882-1913) was in its colleges. The university at this time was merely an examining body with its entire library, the Vice Chancellor reported in 1903, occupying just two almirahs. Then in 1913 Ramsay Muir, the modern historian joined as a visiting lecturer to give instruction at the Panjab University to the advanced students from the colleges.
In 1921 the first university professors were appointed as also a Dean University Instruction. In 1925 a much larger Honours school embracing the subjects of English, History, Philosophy and Economics was instituted but this could not take off due to the complexity involved in coordination between the different subjects. Then in 1932 a distinct Honours school in History was begun with Professor J F Bruce at its head. Other subjects, Economics, English, Philosophy and Political Science too set up their separate Honours school which came to be known as 'departments'. Local historical archives were set up under the guidance of the department of History with Mr. H L O Garrett, the Keeper of Panjab Government Records being given the task of collecting and arranging the archives.
The independence of India in 1947 also resulted in the partitioning of the Panjab University. The department of History reassembled after partition at Hoshiarpur. With the construction of the present campus at Chandigarh the department shifted to its present premises in 1956.
Currently the Department of History offers M.A. and M. Phil courses and opportunities for doctoral research. The range of teaching and research includes Ancient, Medieval, Modern and Contemporary Indian History. Given its geographical location most of the research concerns the study of the broad North-Western Region (including the present Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh and Pakistan Punjab). Our researches have included inquiries into the polity, economy, society and culture since the earliest times in a pan Indian, integrated and inter-disciplinary perspective. This region is being studied comparatively and in relation to the neighbouring areas within India (i.e. Rajasthan, Utter Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir) and countries outside India (i.e. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia) that interacted closely with North-Western India.
The Department has had an illustrious faculty and many areas of Indian History have been defined by the researches done by them. Professor B.N. Goswamy charted his own course in Indian art history and raised it to a new height. Professor Ravinder Kumar gave a new meaning to Modern Indian and Contemporary History. Professor Hari Ram Gupta pioneered nationalist historiography on the Sikhs. Professor J.S. Grewal produced seminal studies in Historiography, Urban History, Sikh History and the Punjab as did Professor Indu Banga. Professor Parshotam Mehra unraveled the threads of India's connection with Central Asia. Professor Kamlesh Mohan is well known for her interventions in feminist and cultural history. Professors S S Bal, J S Grewal and Ravinder Kumar also occupied important administrative positions in Higher Education each leaving his own foot print onto the practice of history in India.
The researchers and faculty associated with the department have over the years published more than 90 books/monographs and over 550 research papers. They have pioneered research in some uncharted areas. The faculty and students have been active in providing inputs to the print as well as audio visual media.
The Department has organized from time to time more than 60 International and National Seminars, Conferences, Refresher Courses and Workshops. The products of the Department have made their mark also in other walks of life, including the civil services, military, media and the legal profession.
The MA programme of the department is spread over 4 semesters involving 96 credits; the study of the history of Punjab is compulsory. Students of the department are allowed to take up courses in other departments of the university and students of other departments are welcome to take courses offered by the department.
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