Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - Kosambi’s China

Friday, July 6
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Tamarind, New Building

This talk explores the China-related activities of the Indian mathematician and Marxist historian D.D. Kosambi (1907-1966; 高善必). A Harvard trained mathematician who also made seminal contributions to the study of ancient Indian history, pioneering in particular the use of statistical methods to understand long-term economic change, Kosambi also retained an enduring interest in China. His active (and formal) participation in the socialist-leaning World Peace Council provided him with his first chance to visit the People’s Republic of China in 1952. Over the remainder of the decade he made two further trips to the PRC. A trip in 1957 appeared to be entirely about intellectual pursuits and included talks at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and discussions with Chinese mathematicians like Hua Luogeng (1910-1985; 华罗庚). The 1960s trip, by contrast was dominated—unsurprisingly—by political discussions. In this talk, I explore each of these visits, situating them against the background of Kosambi’s own life and the broader world of China-India scientific exchange. Comparing and contrasting the logics and outcomes of the visits helps us recognize not just the distinctiveness of Kosambi’s own diverse interests and commitments, but also sheds light on the evolving and complex nature of 1950s China-India history.

Arunabh Ghosh

Harvard University, United States

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1 - Kosambi’s China



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