Cambridge historian Chris Bayly passes away

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Apr 22, 2015 02:18 IST

Christopher Alan Bayly, one of the foremost historians of nineteenth century India and a member of the influential Cambridge school of historiography, suffered a heart attack in Chicago and passed away on Monday aged 70.

The Centre of South Asian Studies at Cambridge, which he directed, announced his death on Tuesday, “It is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of our inspirational former Director, Professor Chris Bayly. Our thoughts are with Susan and his family”.

Bayly’s body of work has been essential reading in History and related disciplines in Indian and other universities across the globe.

His expertise was Benares and north India during the nineteenth century, which colleagues said was his “natural home”.

Bayly was the Vivekananda Professor at the University of Chicago during 2014-15. Several Indians historians and students worked with Bayly over the years.

Bayly’s field-defining books include ‘Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870’, ‘Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars: North Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion, 1770-1870’, and ‘Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire’ as part of the New Cambridge History of India.

Bayly, who was knighted for services to History in 2007, was always accessible to students and scholars, many of whom were in awe of his formidable body work not only on India but also for his 2004 synthesis of world history in the book, ‘The Birth of the Modern World: Global Connections and Comparisons, 1780-1914’.

Jean Thomas, Master of St Catherine’s college, where Bayly was a fellow, said, “We were shocked and saddened to hear today of the death of Chris Bayly, longstanding Fellow of this College and now an Honorary Fellow.”

She added, “Tributes to Chris as a person and to his scholarship are already pouring in. It is clear that he was held in high esteem not only in Cambridge and St Catharine’s, but around the world. We have lost a friend and valued colleague, and he will be sorely missed”.

Bayly’s wife, Susan, is a prominent historical anthropologist based in Cambridge with India among her major interests.

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