2019: A Retrospective
2019 has kept us on our toes.

We inhabit challenging times that have given us ample and more impetus to persist in our direct critical engagements with teachers through our Teaching History conferences and through interactive workshops that have resulted in flexible implementable lesson ideas; as well as with the larger public through cultural events, talks and interactions in Delhi and Calcutta.

Here's a look at how the year unfolded at History for Peace.
Teaching History conferences
This year we organized two Teaching History conferences—the annual conference in Calcutta on 'The Idea of the Indian Constitution' in July 2019, and 'Shared Histories' co-organized with and hosted by St. Kabir Public School, Chandigarh in May, 2019.
Romila Thapar exploring if and how different religions flourished in different regions of the Punjab preceding the founding of Sikhism, Krishna Kumar on the impact of the 1947 Partition and its living legacy of rivalling nationalisms on the education systems therein, workshops on teaching and engaging with the Constitution by facilitators such as Urvashi Butalia and Sambhaji Bhagat, AG Noorani on the Constitution and the Judiciary, Nandini Sundar on the making of the 5th and 6th Schedules and the contemporary repercussions of the debates that defined their making, Idrees Kanth and Cynthia Frederick on 1947 and the Princely states of Kashmir and Kapurthala, Siddharth Varadarajan on the media and the Constitution, among much more — the two conferences covered wide ground, reaching a teacher-dominant audience of nearly 200.

Find reports on the conferences below.

From Swadeshi to the Constitution: Nandalal Bose and the Nationalist Project

R. Siva Kumar, The Idea of the Indian Constitution, July 2019

R. Siva Kumar, contemporary art historian, art critic and curator, delivered an illustrated talk on Nandalal Bose and his engagement with Gandhi and the Freedom struggle culminating in the illumination of the Constitution. Click here to watch Part II of the talk.

A Division of Hearts, Minds, Properties and...

-Urvashi Butalia at Shared Histories, Chandigarh, May 2019
'There is an iconic picture of Partition that shows a man sitting in a library, his head in his hands, and the table on which he is leaning piled high with books, one lot marked Pakistan and one lot marked India. The migration of millions, the loss of home and country, of relatives and friends, the loot, arson, violence, all of this and more has come to characterise Partition. But there were other aspects of this divide too: how did bank accounts get shifted? What happened to pensions? To currency? To different institutions such as museums, colleges, newspapers and others. In this talk, I will trace the life of a select number of institutions, some old, some new, that were divided or came into being in the immediate aftermath of Partition.'
Teacher Workshops
Teaching History like a Historian
Dec 2019

What is the point of History? Does the teaching and learning of history have use, value? What is the role of the history teacher?

Bringing the historian’s craft straight into the heart of the classroom, this is a module focused on bringing in multiple sources and perspectives into the everyday teaching of history to encourage the teacher, and subsequently the students they reach, to critically question and engage with ‘given’ knowledge. ‘Teaching History like a Historian’ is designed to cultivate the crucial thinking skills that come with historical thinking, whose potential and repercussions far exceed the bounds of History as just another school subject.
Workshops in Kurseong
Nov 2019

'The brief, very briefly, was ‘Unbiased Histories’.

The participants—German language teachers from East/North East India and Bangladesh.

Very pleased to be invited by the Goethe Institut / Max Mueller Bhawan Kolkata as part of their 5th German Language Teachers Conference, Region East and North East India in association with Indo German Teachers Association—I couldn’t help wonder what exactly we would bring to an audience of language teachers that would keep them engaged and more important, be useful to their teaching practice!'
Conference to Classroom II
Oct 2019

(Illustration by Matt Dorfmann via nytimesdotcom)

Bringing together educationists, academicians from across the humanities, human rights lawyers, media persons and activists, this year’s annual History for Peace conference was centred around ‘The Idea of the Indian Constitution’[...]While the conference earned much warm and positive feedback, its value in a certain sense can only be realized through its realization in the classroom space. 

Working on what they took away from the conference proceedings, the teachers of Modern High School created five grade/class-specific lesson ideas that they then pilot-ed in their classrooms. On October 18, 2019, these ideas were presented to the larger (mostly teaching) public in a session organized at Modern Academy of Continuing Education. 

The Preamble lesson plan: Class 7
-Sanchita Dasgupta, MHS

'We the People of India...' - we all have a fairly clear idea how the rest goes. Despite our familiarity with the text of the Preamble to the Indian Constitution, what is it about the words that continue to make it so contested? Perhaps it's long past time we took our students back to the basics. This clear and concise lesson plan inspired from Sambhaji Bhagat's refreshing workshop at The Idea of the Indian Constitution is a great way to go about it : Click here to download.
To download the rest of the lesson plans shared at this session, click on the button below.
Games and Politics: Teaching History via videogames
Feb 2019
(Image via facebookdotcom/goetheinstitut.Kolkata/)

Do you know what Queen Isabella I of Spain has to do with modern chess rules, or chaturanga with contemporary Indian chess rules? Or that according to one version of the story, Mandodari is said to have beaten Ravan in the very first game after he invented chaturanga?

Well, we frankly had no idea either.

Megha and I were attending ‘Games and Politics: Teaching History and Politics via videogames’- a workshop conducted by Dr. Souvik Mukherjee and a Goethe Institut initiative in collaboration with History for Peace [...]
Talks, Performances, Interactions
From historian Carlo Ginzburg in a series of conversations with Romila Thapar, Naveen Kishore and Hartosh Singh Bal, to dalit activist and lokshahir Sambhaji Bhagat on 'A Life in Protest and Song'; Carnatic vocalist, activist and author TM Krishna on the intersections of caste, classical music and activism, to Vidya Rao and Mahmood Farooqi in a performance of the shared histories of Krishna bhakti in the subcontinent; from Nayanjot Lahiri on 'Creating Borders, Partitioning Heritage: Indian Archaeology after 1947', to illustrated talks by Naman Ahuja on 'Hindu Consecration Rituals and Image Worship', and film maker Dev Benegal on 'Cinema and the State' — 2019 has been a rich year for History for Peace in terms of the kinds of interdisciplinary talks we have been able to organize, both in Delhi and in Calcutta.
Young Scholars

Young Scholars is a monthly series showcasing cross disciplinary research by recent PhD scholars that we began this year in Delhi.

Papers close to publication, spanning history and allied disciplines (literature, sociology, political science, etc.) are presented, with speakers and audience from universities across NCR. Indeed one of the aims is to develop a sense of community and connection among people of different universities who are keen to preserve rigorous scholarly activity. We hope this endeavour grows into a space that nurtures young scholars and a venue where there can be an engagement with the range and richness of nascent scholarly perspectives and debates.

It's been a promising start with Gitanjali Surendran presenting her paper on 'Buddhist networks between India and Burma, c 1900 – 1956'; Sanjukta Datta on 'A Portrait of the Preceptors: Saiva Gurus of the Pala Kingdom' and Anubhuti Maurya on 'Remembrance of Loss: History and Memory of the Mughal Conquest of Kashmir'.

2020, we hope to expand the network of Young Scholars to Calcutta and Hyderabad.

2019: Highlights at PeaceWorks
Human Rights Day
Dec 2019

Drawing upon a selection of United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) articles that relate to the story of Anne Frank's life, PeaceWorks put together a module in 2014 under our Human Rights Defenders Programme: Learning to Live with Difference.
Rich in multimedia art resources, primary sources in the form of personal narratives and fun yet challenging activity- and assignment ideas, this supplementary module offers a framework that encourages meaningful engagement with identity and difference through an exploration of genocides from across the world, recognized and otherwise.

This Human Rights Day (10 Dec) we decided to bring together students of three of the schools we've worked on this programme with—to share with us and each other the community projects that this engagement culminated in, and for an illustrated talk by Armen Makarian on the Armenian genocide and its cultural insistence in the larger Armenian diasporic imagination. Topics ranged from exploitation of labour in organized and unorganized sectors, to discrimination based on sexuality, to violation of right to education.

Humble beginnings that will hopefully persist in them as niggling questions.

Anne Frank: A History for Today travelled to...
The Conflictorium, Ahmedabad in November,
'After the first round of mock guiding was complete, I demonstrated a different way of guiding—one that involved picking one central photograph in each panel and conveying information with that photo as the axis around which everything else could be built.

More demonstrations followed, more questions needed to be answered, empathy was clearly getting built and the one comment that struck me hard came from, yes, Yash again: If they were being harassed so much, why did they not simply change their religion, he asked. This led to deep discussions on persecution on the basis of Race and persecution on the basis of Religion.'
to Saikul, Manipur in October,
'Two things that bothered/left an impression on many of the students were: how it might feel to survive when one couldn’t stop one’s best friends from being taken away/killed, and what it must be like to hide and be forced to live like a ghost—both of which we discussed at length and used as windows into the rest of the story. When the discussions led to talking about discrimination, why difference is a source of terror and how much/what kind of difference is ‘tolerable’, the students became a little more hesitant.'
to Delhi this February,
'In the past, I had often wondered how schoolteachers teach the same subject, the same syllabus, the same topics out of the same textbooks—year in and year out! It must take great ingenuity and creativity to not fall into the trap of monotony.

ccccThe understanding of how this works has come to me through the Anne Frank – A History for Today project. Six years, 19 destinations and interacting with over 500 students through the peer guide training workshop has grounded me in the belief that working with the young can be many different things, but it can never ever be monotonous—whether you are dealing with the same subject or not.'
and to Hyderabad in January, 2019
'What did you do when you got home last evening? While a few students declared ‘Slept!’ amidst much laughter, one student told us about a documentary she watched on the Holocaust which helped everyone ease into an open discussion on their thoughts and feelings on the subject. The discussion required minimal interference from Megha and I as the students discussed and debated a wide range of questions- did Hitler do it because of personal reasons? How did he influence so many people? Why did people listen to him? Was Hitler inhuman, is hate?

All questions that they actively responded to in their own ways, with occasional inputs and navigational questions from Megha and I. Megha pointed out the involvement of the common people in the everyday industry that was the Holocaust, from the builders of concentration camps to the suppliers of gas to the chambers, while I discussed the human tendency to imagine a definite circle to create an outer and inner logic/rhetoric...'