Excursus in History: Essays on Some Ideas of Irfan Habib

A Social Scientist – Tulika Books series

Modern Indian Thinkers 1

edited by Prabhat Patnaik

December 2010

This is the first in the series of volumes on ‘Modern Indian Thinkers’ which are being brought out by Social Scientist and Tulika Books. It is an examination of Professor Irfan Habib’s work in different areas and an attempt to capture the totality of his thought. The ‘Modern Indian Thinkers’ series seeks to celebrate those who have blazed new trails and produced new ideas outside the beaten track which serve to carry forward India’s social revolution. It is only appropriate that Professor Irfan Habib should be among the first to be celebrated as such a thinker. 

The essays in this volume are quite heterogeneous: some are in the nature of surveys of particular areas of Professor Habib’s work, some critically examine his positions, some elaborate upon his ideas and some carry his ideas forward. To familiarize the reader with Professor Habib’s overall intellectual project, there is an exhaustive interview with him, in which he dwells upon a whole range of themes: from Mughal India to the freedom struggle to the problems of the Communist movement. And to give brief introductions to his seminal works, there are not only articles by particular authors, but also some book reviews that were published at the time his books came out. The fact remains, however, that the essays put together in the present volume only unlock this or that gate to the field of Professor Habib’s writings, and the reader will have to make his or her own way through this field. But it is a journey we would like to invite the reader to undertake.