Professor Bipan Chandra has been widely recognized as the foremost historian of modern Indian history. He was born in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh in 1928. A brilliant student throughout his student days, he went to Lahore; then the foremost centre of learning to study. After getting his degree from the Forman Christian College, he went to Stanford University in the United States to study engineering. During this period he discovered his passion for history and economics. He was also drawn to the communist movement and all progressive causes.
He taught at the University of Delhi, first at Hindu College in the department of history. It was at Jawaharlal Nehru University as one of the founder members of the Centre for Historical Studies along with other luminaries such as S. Gopal, Romila Thapar and Satish Chandra that most of his intellectual and political contributions were made. He acquired fame as a celebrated teacher for three generations of students. He always had the courage of conviction and did not hesitate to take academic and political positions which went against the conventional grain.
He was the elected president of Indian History Congress at the historic Amritsar Session in 1985 when peace returned to the Punjab. This was particularly apt as Bipan Chandra, through his books and personal examples, was a sturdy fighter against communalism in all its hues. Bipan Chanrda’s scholarship extended to a range of subjects in the broad domain of political, social and economic history of India. His resurrection of the moderates as the foremost economic nationalists, his critique of the JP movement, his interest in Bhagat Singh’s revolutionary ideas and his spirited and sustained critique of communalism of all hues were singular contributions not just in academia but also in the larger society. Such was the impact of his writings that a school of thought is associated with his name. This school of thought is reflected in the Sage Series in Modern Indian History initiated by him. His last assignment was as Chairman of the National Book Trust of India from 2004 to 2012 where he initiated the Popular Social Science series which boasted of numerous titles by eminent authors from across the country and across disciplinary boundaries. He was a member of the University Grants Commission. For his outstanding contributions he was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2010.
He passed away on 30th August 2014 after a long and distinguished innings.