R. C. Majumdar

Portrait of R. C.  Majumdar

Dr. Ramesh Chandra (R.C) Majumdar (4 Dec. 1884, Khandarpara, Faridpur, Bengal [now in Bangladesh] - 11 Feb.1980, Kolkata, West Bengal, India) was a groundbreaking Indian historian and professor whose 1919 book ‘Corporate Life in Ancient India’ drew new perspective on ancient India, and was one of the first Indian scholars who extensively explored India’s role in the political and cultural development of South-East Asia, writing on Hindu kingdoms in South-east Asia and Hindu colonies in the Far East.

A noted historian and academic, 'Acharyia' Majumdar served as the Vice-President of the International Committee for publishing History of Mankind : Cultural and S9cientific Development, teached at Calcutta University, Rabindra Bharati University and Jadavpur University, and published the 11 vols. History and Culture of the Indian People.

Modern Hindu nationalists have claimed - and sometimes instrumentalized - his legacy. The fact is the historian challenged Nehru's policy regarding the Hindu-Muslim bipolarity of India, refuting the commonly held view that the Hindus and Muslims lived in harmony before the advent of the British rule and that the Hindu-Muslim tension was the outcome of the British policy to divide and rule. These two communities, the author holds, lived as “two separate communities with distinct cultures and different mental, and moral characteristics.”

As a free-spirited researcher, Majumdar published in 1957 an exhaustive and highly controversial history of the Freedom Movement in a three volume series titled the ‘History of Freedom Movement of India’, challenging many prevalent notion on various topics like Hindu Muslim relationship, Swadeshi Movement, Gandhi’s role, and militant nationalism. His academic positions include Vice Chancellor of the University of Dacca, First Principal at the College of Indology, Benares Hindu University (BHU) and Nagpur University, Visiting Professor of Indian History at the Universities of Chicago and Pennsylvania, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and Bombay, president of the Asiatic Society of Calcutta, Honorary Member of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona. He also served as president of the Indian History Congress and the All India Oriental Conference.

While sticking to his convictions and his strong feelings towards the specificity of Bengal, he relentlessly explored the Indian influences in Southeast Asia, publishing Champa, Ancient Indian Colonies in the Far East, Vol.I, Lahore, 1927, studies on Burma (Myanmar) and Java, and Kambuja Desa or An Ancient Hindu Colony In Cambodia, Madras, 1944.

For an assessment of R.C. Majumdar's contribution to Indian historiography, read The Pursuits of the Past: A problematic passage to the national soul", Open The Magazine, 13 Aug. 2021.

R.C. Majumdar