Presentation of the Inaugural Bayly Prize

On Tuesday 30th October the Society celebrated  the life and work of the late Professor Sir Christopher Bayly FBA, with the award of the inaugural Bayly Prize and the posthumous launch of Sir Christopher’s book, Remaking the Modern World 1900-2015: Global Connections and Comparisons. The Bayly Prize is for an outstanding doctoral thesis on an Asian topic completed at a British university in the year prior to the award and in this inaugural year was presented to  Dr. Johannes Lotze for his thesis, Translation of Empire: Mongol Legacy, Language Policy, and the Early Ming World Order, 1368-1453.

The prize was awarded by Professor Sir David Cannidine (President of the British Academy) and the presentation was followed by addresses by Professor Lady Bayly, Professor Taylor Sherman, who organised the panel of judges, and Sir Christopher Clark.

Professor Sir David Cannidine (President of the British Academy)

The short list for the prize comprised of 5 nominees:

Kyle Jackson (University of Warwick) for Colonial Conquest and Religious Entanglement: A Mizo History from Northeast India (c. 1890-1920). The judges said: “This high-quality piece of historical research draws on indigenous language sources and deploys indigenous terminology to re-centre the history of North-eastern India. Dr Jackson has an eye for a good story, and the thesis is written in elegant and fluid prose, making it a pleasure to read.”

Johannes Lotze (University of Manchester) for Translation of Empire: Mongol Legacy, Language Policy, and the Early Ming World Order, 1368-1453. The judges said: “This work revises our understanding of the early Ming Empire by integrating linguistic and philological knowledge into wider Ming history. Dr Lotze demonstrates that including sources from Persian, Tibetan and other central Asian languages in the study of Ming China can radically alter our understanding of this subject. It is not only the linguistic competencies, but the wide array of sources used which makes this dissertation an outstanding piece of work.”

Prizewinner Johannes Lotze with shortlist candidates Callie Wilkinson and Partha Pratim Shil

Ed Pulford (University of Cambridge) for On northeast Asian Frontiers of History and Friendship. The judges said: “Bringing historical and ethnographic work together, this excellent dissertation focuses on North-East Asia where Chinese, Manchu, Russian and Korean peoples meet. Demonstrating extensive linguistic ability, the strength of Dr Pulford’s work lies in providing a framework for understanding cultural encounters, and in nuancing the alternatively triumphalist or catastrophizing narratives about the rise of China.”

Partha Pratim Shil (University of Cambridge) for Police Labour and State-Formation in Bengal, c. 1860 – c. 1950. The judges said: “This dissertation is striking for the impressive way it applies historiography from one field of history to a different field to bring out new insights about colonial rule in India. Dr Shil’s use of labour historiography to illuminate the lives and working dynamics of the lower ranks of the police in Bengal not only challenges the way we think about the colonial state in India, but will have relevance for the study of colonialism elsewhere.”

Callie Wilkinson (University of Cambridge) for The Residents of the British East India Company at Indian Royal Courts, c. 1798-1818. The judges said: “This work is distinctive because it refreshes the study of Residents and indirect rule in India by applying new historical methods to the subject. Dr Wilkinson provides us with a rich and nuanced picture of East India Company rule in the subcontinent that moves us away from the main centres of EIC power and beyond traditional subjects of historical study.​”

The  appeal launch was led by Dr Gordon Johnson, Mr Derek Davies and Professor Francis Robinson of the Society and was strongly supported by distinguished Patrons:  Professor Lady Bayly, Dr Martin Bayly, Sir Drummond Bone, Professor Joya Chatterji, Professor Sir Christopher Clark, Professor Timothy Harper, Professor Lyndal Roper and Professor Taylor Sherman.  Endowment  for the Prize has been funded by over fifty friends and colleagues of  Christopher Bayly and by generous contributions from The Past & Present Society, The Wolfson Foundation, The Thriplow Charitable Trust, Cambridge University Press and Wiley-Blackwell. We thank them all for their commitment.

Professor Francis Robinson, Professor Lady Bayly, Mr Derek Davies, Dr Gordon Johnson

Today, 2nd November, at 6.30 pm the RAS will host a conversation between Dr George Michell (independent Architectural Historian) and Dr Helen Philon (Deccan Heritage Foundation) to celebrate their newly published book, “Islamic Architecture of Deccan India”. We are looking forward to finding out more about their joint project. And on Tuesday 6th November at 6 pm (please note date change from printed calendar) we welcome  Professor Donald Rayfield (Queen Mary), Dr. Gillian Evison (Bodleian Library) and Ms. Lia Chokoshvili (Oxford University) as they launch the publication, “Unlocking the Door: Writing from Georgia”.  This is followed by a further book launch on Wednesday 7th November, 6.30 pm, when Omar Khan will launch his book, “Paper Jewels: Postcards from the Raj”. And finally, in a busy week of book launches we join with the RSAA at the Brunei Gallery at SOAS for the launch of “The History of Central Asia: The Age of Decline and Revival” by Dr. Christoph Baumer on Thursday 8 November, 7 pm. Full details of all these events can be found on our website. We hope that we will be able to welcome many of you to at least one of these upcoming events.