The birth of Jagannath University was in itself a landmark in the cultural history of Bangladesh. Its founders had the vision to create an educational institution that stood for a pluralism, which rejected both sectarianism and indiscriminate westernization as a durable basis for eastern education. History as a discipline was built on slender resources being holistic in their worldview and willing to work for community and nation without thought for personal gain. In this connection the students of this department sacrificed their lives for the cause of establishing Bengali language and the independence Bengali nation. Yet even in those straitened beginnings, the subject of history was seen as an important one since in a largely undergraduate institution, history was one of the few subjects chosen for post-graduate degrees and courses. From Jagannath University’s inception, the history department under the leadership of a group of distinguished historians such as Professor AFM Salauddin Ahmed emphasized the teaching and writing of the political, social and cultural history of Bangladesh.
These scholars saw social and cultural history as a way of both understanding and bringing about progressive change in South Asia. Prof. Salauddin’s works embodies such history and was part of the syllabi not only in Bangladeshi universities but worldwide. This tradition of social history was carried on by the next generation of historians in the Department of History at the Jagannath University. Along with this emphasis on social history, the Department was careful to embed its study in an understanding of political and economic history. Prof Salim’s work on India Bangladesh relations, Prof Shamsun Nahar and Prof Khodeja’s interest in the social base of communalism and communal polities and Dr. Samad's interest in Ecological Nationalism are worth citing here.
In keeping with new historiographical developments in social and cultural history, members of the Department‘s present faculty are engaged in studying socially and economically marginal social groups: tribes, the social bases of the colonial army, the history of small religious sects though oral source materials, and the history of conversion in the subcontinent. The faculty also has a keen interest in urban social history, because towns have been though the medieval and modern periods arenas for economic innovation, social change and cultural exchange. Demography has been another focus of research with a view to mapping social change in the long term and the historical study of gender relations remains an important theme of the faculty’s researches.
One of the great strengths of Jagannath University’s history faculty is its familiarity with the languages in which historical source materials are found. From its inception, the department has emphasized the knowledge of source languages. Thus, faculty members are familiar with the core classical languages such as Sanskrit and Persian which is the backbone of researches into early medieval and pre-colonial Indian and Bengal history. For Doctoral Programmes the department offers Ph.D.(History). For Masters Programmes M.Phil.(History) and M.A.(History) and for Undergraduate Programmes B.A.(Hons.) (History) are offered here.
Professor Dr. Mst. Khodeja Khatun
Department of History, Jagannath University, Dhaka