Historian Tansen Sen Awarded National Endowment for the Humanities Grant

Several years ago, the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (now known as the Prime Ministers Museum and Library) in New Delhi, India unveiled previously classified post-1947 materials from the Jawaharlal Nehru Papers collection. A dedicated team of 15 scholars of history, media, and literature was later assembled to use these newly accessible materials to explore China-India relations in the mid-20th century. Recently, their work received recognition from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), securing a $244,623 grant.

The NEH-funded project, titled “China and India in an Age of Decolonization: An Analysis of the Nehru Papers, 1947-1964,” is led by NYU Associated Full Professor of History and Director of NYU Shanghai’s Center for Global Asia Tansen Sen, with Arunabh Ghosh at Harvard University and Gal Gvili at McGill University serving as co-project directors.

The newly available Nehru papers cover India’s transition to a post-colonial period, during the years 1947 to 1964, when Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister of the Republic of India. That period of time also saw a political transition in China, with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Encompassing a broad array of subjects, from formal state relations to cultural exchanges, economics and trade, these documents provide a unique opportunity to reframe the understanding of the early Cold War era by spotlighting lesser-known transnational collaborations and interactions that significantly shaped the era.

Nehru in chinaIndian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru delivering a speech during his visit to China in 1954

“Our aim is to shift the focus from the discourse of international relations, which currently dominates both popular and scholarly perspectives on the China-India relationship during this critical period of nation-building,” said Sen. “The three-year grant from NEH will help us meet in-person and discuss the research themes we have already identified, work on the digital archive, and disseminate our research findings to a wider audience interested in Cold War history, China-India relations, and intra-Asian connections,” added Professor Sen. 

The team plans to create a digital archive and a peer-reviewed open-access edited volume that will provide fresh insights into issues of historical and contemporary significance, including scientific development, food security, gender and social equity, and popular culture. 

comic bookImages to be included on the database – A Chinese comic book on an industrial exhibition that took place in Bombay in 1957

Established in 1965, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is one of the largest supporters of humanities programs in the United States. Sen’s project falls under the category of “National Endowment for the Humanities, Collaborative Research Grant, Scholarly Digital Projects”, which supports interpretive research undertaken by teams of two or more scholars, significantly contributing to the understanding of the humanities.

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