Barun De

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Barun De
Born 30 October 1932
Calcutta, Bengal
Died 16 July 2013 (aged 80)
Calcutta, West Bengal
Fields History
Alma mater

Barun De (30 October 1932 – 16 July 2013) was an Indian historian. He served as founder-director of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta and the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Kolkata and as the honorary state editor for the West Bengal District Gazetteers. He was chairman of the West Bengal Heritage Commission.

Early life and education[edit]

De was born into an illustrious Brahmo family.[1] His father, Basanta Kumar De, was a high ranking official of the Bengal Nagpur Railways.[2][3] His grandfather was Brajendranath De, ICS.[4] He studied at St. Xavier's Collegiate School, Calcutta. He completed his higher studies at Presidency College, Calcutta, where he was a student of Professor Susobhan Chandra Sarkar and later at St. Catherine's Society, Oxford and Nuffield College, Oxford, where he was awarded the Curzon Memorial Prize for his essay "Macaulay and India", before completing his D.Phil. thesis on "Henry Dundas and the Government of India, 1784-1801" under the supervision of Dr. C.C. Davies.[5] He was a president of the Oxford India Majlis.[6]

He formed a lasting friendship with S. Nurul Hasan, the historian and Governor of West Bengal.[7]


De held various positions at various times, including a senior professorship at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta,[8] the founder-directorship of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta and the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies,[5] a membership, held for three terms, of the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi, and the role of honorary state editor of the West Bengal District Gazetteers.[9] He taught and worked abroad, among other places, at Duke University as a visiting associate professor, the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, as a senior fellow,[6] Fondation Maison des sciences de l'homme, Paris as a directeur, University of Sydney and University of Milan as a visiting professor, and the University of World Economy and Diplomacy, Tashkent as the India Chair for three years, with attachment to the Indian Embassy of Uzbekistan,.[10] He was secretary and president of the Indian History Congress.[2]

In his post-retirement years, he was chairman of the West Bengal State Archives, Calcutta,[10] a vice president of the Asiatic Society of Bengal,[2] a member of the Board of Trustees of the Indian Museum, Calcutta,[2] and a member of the Heritage Conservation Committee of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, in which capacity he was among several people who prepared a list of heritage buildings of West Bengal.[11] The Times of India has described him as "a pioneer of the heritage movement of West Bengal",[8] From 2008-2011 he was honorary chairman of the West Bengal Heritage Commission, of which he was a member from 2001-2008.[10] In 2004, he was appointed to a membership of the NCERT textbook review committee.[12]

He was a Tagore National Fellow at the Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta.[13]


De's research spanned from early- to late-modern periods of Indian history. In the earlier part of his career he wrote on Henry Dundas and the conquest of India, while later on he addressed the Marxist critique of the colonial context of the Bengal renaissance.[14] He was also concerned with the national movement: his popular textbook book, Freedom Struggle, co-authored with Bipan Chandra and Amalesh Tripathi,[5] was censored by the new Central government that came to power in India in 1977.[15] It has been translated into Bengali by Brajadulal Chattopadhyaya.[16]


  • D.Litt. (Honouris Causa), North Bengal University, 2000.[17]


De died due to renal failure in Kolkata on 16 July 2013 aged 80.[8][18]


The Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Calcutta has instituted a Barun De Memorial Lecture.[19]


  • Secularism at Bay: Uzbekistan at the Turn of the Century (New Delhi, 2006)[20]
  • (ed.) State, Development and Political Culture: Bangladesh and India, (New Delhi, 1997) (Co-edited with Ranabir Samaddar)
  • (ed.) Mukti Sangrame Banglar Chatra-Samaj (Students of Bengal in the Struggle of Liberation) (in Bengali), (Calcutta: Paschim Banga Itihas Samsad, 1992)
  • (ed.) West Bengal District Gazetteers, 24 Parganas, (Calcutta, 1983)
  • (ed.) West Bengal District Gazetteers, Darjeeling, (Calcutta, 198?)
  • (ed.) Perspectives in Social Sciences, 1: Historical Dimensions (New Delhi, 1977)[21]
  • (ed.) Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, (Calcutta: Jadavpur Session, 1974)
  • (ed.) Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, (Aligarh: Aligarh Session, 1975)
  • (et al. eds.) Essays in Honour of Professor Sushobhan Chandra Sarkar (New Delhi, 1975)[22]
  • Freedom Struggle (New Delhi, 1972), (Co-authored with Bipan Chandra and Amalesh Tripathi)[23]


  1. ^ "Historian Barun De dead". 18 July 2013. Retrieved 2016-08-15. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Historian and Administrator" - Aniruddha Ray Retrieved 2015-03-03
  3. ^ Lives Less Forgotten: Basanta Kumar De
  4. ^ Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi (2014). "Obituary in the Victoria Memorial Newsletter" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-17. 
  5. ^ a b c Mukherjee, Rudrangshu (18 July 2013). "Clio's Disciple". Retrieved 2015-02-24. 
  6. ^ a b "Historian Barun De dead" - The Statesman, 18 July 2013 Retrieved 2015-03-05.
  7. ^ Gandhi, Gopal Krishna (2015). "State of Abounding Grace". Retrieved 2016-08-15. 
  8. ^ a b c "The Times of India" - Staff Reporter Retrieved 2015-02-27.
  9. ^ "Professor Barun De (1932-2013)" - Sabyasachi Bhattacharya Indian Historical Review. Retrieved 2015-03-15.
  10. ^ a b c "Historian Barun De dies at 80" - Business Standard Retrieved 2015-03-06.
  11. ^ "Heritage Conservation Committee" p. 3. Retrieved 2015-03-23
  12. ^ India Today, 2004
  13. ^ "Obituary" in the Victoria Memorial Newsletter - Sabyasachi Bhattacharya Retrieved 2015-0317.
  14. ^ "A Conversationalist Intellectual - Sugata Bose" Retrieved 2015-03-27.
  15. ^ "Censorship of Historical Thought: A World Guide" - Antoon de Baets Retrieved 2015-02-21.
  16. ^ "Historian Barun De passes away - Panchanan Chattopadhyay". Mainstreamweekly. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
  17. ^ Akanksha Sharma, 'Barun De, The Renowned Historian and Academician Passed Away at 80' in Jagran Josh, 17 July, 2013
  18. ^ "Historian Barun De passes away". Hindustan Times. 18 July 2013. Archived from the original on 10 October 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  19. ^ Barun De Memorial Lecture Retrieved 2015-02-27.
  20. ^ "Secularism at Bay: Uzbekistan at the Turn of the Century" - Barun De Retrieved 2015-02-17
  21. ^ David L.Curley (reviewer), Perspectives in Social Sciences I: Historical Dimension, in The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 40, No. 1, (Nov. 1980), pp. 158–60
  22. ^ "Peasant Labour and Colonial Capital: Rural Bengal since 1770" - Sugata Bose 2015-02-19.
  23. ^ "Freedom Struggle" - Bipan Chandra, Amalesh Tripathi and Barun De Retrieved 2015-02-18.

External links[edit]