In this lecture Dr Manan Ahmed Asif will talk about the questions facing historians of the medieval period on how to think about the pre-colonial past. In “The Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India” (Harvard University Press, 2020), Manan Ahmed Asif turns to the subcontinent’s medieval past and uncovers a rich network of historians of Hindustan who imagined, studied, and shaped their kings, cities, and societies. He closely examines the most complete idea of Hindustan, elaborated by the early seventeenth century Deccan historian Firishta. His monumental work, Tarikh-i Firishta, became a major source for European philosophers and historians, such as Voltaire, Kant, Hegel, and Gibbon during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Yet Firishta’s notions of Hindustan were lost and replaced by a different idea of India to the one that we inhabit today.
Dr Manan Ahmed Asif is an Associate Professor of History at Columbia University and a historian of South Asia and the littoral western Indian Ocean world from 1000-1800 CE. His areas of specialisation include intellectual history in South and Southeast Asia; critical philosophy of history, colonial and anti-colonial thought; and he is interested in how modern and pre-modern historical narratives create understandings of places, communities, and intellectual genealogies for their readers.