About the Programme
The History Major at Ashoka University seeks both to equip students with the Historian’s toolbox and trains them on how to use it. A historian combines the skills of a detective, a scavenger, a judge and a ventriloquist. S/he is an artist and a skilled craftsperson who spins and weaves narratives of the past. Historical creativity lies in gathering, wrestling with and connecting the traces of the past to construct a rich tapestry of human lives, emotions and ideas. These traces come in various garbs – gravestones, burial sites, forgotten cities, mud pots, musical notes, folklores, war songs, memoirs, archival records, speeches, letters, newspapers, cartoons, cave art, paintings, architecture, clothes, food, cinema, advertisements – all and any remnant of human creativity. A historian’s ability to make effective use of these materials requires inculcation of two core ideas: empathy and imagination. Empathy fuels and glues our connection with other humans. It helps us recognize others’ perceptions, feelings and ways of being. Empathy is a vital tool of a historian because it obligates a historian to question and challenge a single conception of the world in order to access other worlds and other lives. Thus the spirit of questioning and the consciousness of one’s own frames of reference is the starting point of historical inquiry. The second feature of imagination is the creative faculty which enables us to form images and feelings that ordinary senses cannot perceive. It is a critical instrument for a historian who studies worlds that are removed both in time and space from his or her own. Conjuring up those historical worlds requires a leap of imagination, a willing suspension of disbelief and a readiness to encounter the unknown.
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