Foremost Western Historian of India Publishes New Work on End of Colonial Period

Foremost Western Historian of India Publishes New Work on End of Colonial Period

Photo by Carlos Tarrats for UCLA Today

UCLA Professor Emeritus Stanley Wolpert reflects on his career.

In any other era of less-advanced technology, [the Encyclopedia of India] would have taken 50 years.

This notice about Stanley Wolpert was first published in UCLA Today as part of a larger article on UCLA's active professors emeriti.

By Ajay Singh

IN AN ILLUSTRIOUS career spanning 44 years, Stanley Wolpert, professor emeritus of history, has written more knowledgeably and prolifically about South Asia than any other Westerner.

Wolpert's latest book, out just this month, is "Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India." It's a sign of his enduring talents as a researcher that the book is a fitting prelude to his next work, tentatively titled, "India and Pakistan: Continuing Conflict or Cooperation?"

But it's his four-volume "Encyclopedia of India" that Wolpert considers "the greatest event of my research life." Under his leadership, a team of board members and some 200 experts worldwide contributed articles to the 1,530-page opus, which brilliantly captures India's astonishing cultural diversity.

It took Wolpert five years to edit and partly write the encyclopedia, which was published in 2002. He began the ambitious task by first mastering e-mail. "In any other era of less-advanced technology, such a work would have taken 50 years," he said, adding: "At times, it was so daunting I thought I wouldn't finish it."

At a time of increasing global instability, Wolpert's work is bound to resonate well beyond the Indian Subcontinent. Does he think people, from the Middle East to the Korean Peninsula, can live in peace? "I continue to be an optimist," he said. "If we give up hoping that things will change, nothing will come."

Published: Thursday, October 26, 2006