March 10 marked the official publication of UCLA history professor Sanjay Subrahmanyam’s latest book, “Europe’s India: Words, People, Empires, 1500–1800,” by Harvard University Press.
Throughout the book, Subrahmanyam tracks Europeans’ changing ideas about India over the entire early modern period, exploring the connection between European representations of India and the fascination with collecting Indian texts and objects that took root in the 16th century. European notions of India’s history, geography, politics and religion were strongly shaped by the manuscripts, paintings and artifacts that found their way into Western hands.
Subrahmanyam rejects the opposition between “true” knowledge of India and the self-serving fantasies of European Orientalists. Instead, he shows how knowledge must always be understood in relation to the concrete circumstances of its production. Rather than compare civilizations, Subrahmanyam’s work further develops the concept of global history, or connected history, which seeks to demonstrate how civilizations interact with one another over time.
Subrahmanyam holds the Irving and Jean Stone Endowed Chair in Social Sciences at UCLA and, from 2005 to 2011, served as founding director of UCLA’s Center of India and South Asia.