Arunabh Ghosh

Associate Professor of History, HistoryHarvard University


Arunabh Ghosh is a historian of modern China, with research and teaching interests in social and economic history, history of science and statecraft, transnational history, and China-India history.

Ghosh’s first book, entitled "Making it Count: Statistics and Statecraft in the early People's Republic of China, 1949-1959," is under contract with Princeton University Press. In addition to working on Trans-Himalayan Science, he has also begun a project on the history of Chinese dam-building in the twentieth century. Articles and essays have appeared (or are forthcoming) in the Journal of Asian Studies, BJHS-Themes, Osiris and the PRC History Review. Trained at Haverford College and at Tsinghua and Columbia universities, Ghosh joined the Harvard History Department in 2015 from the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, where he was an Academy Scholar for the 2014-15 AY.

Award Information

Transregional Research Junior Scholar Fellowship: InterAsian Contexts and Connections (2017-2018)

Associate Professor, HistoryHarvard University

Trans-Himalayan Science in Mid-Twentieth Century China and India

This project uses the decade-long collaboration between the Indian palaeobotanist Birbal Sahni (1891-1949) and his Chinese doctoral student Xu Ren (徐仁; 1910-1992) to offer a new connected and comparative history of mid-twentieth century scientific activity in China and India. Xu was possibly the first Chinese scientist to earn a PhD from an Indian university (Lucknow, 1946); he was certainly the first Chinese scientist to be appointed to a faculty position in India. Upon his return to China in 1952, he helped set up the Institute of Botany at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and carved out a distinguished career. Xu and Sahni’s collaboration, which spanned both the end of the Second World War and the establishment of independent India and the People’s Republic of China, can tell us much about the wartime exigencies of scientific activity in Asia. But its relevance resonates further: in their correspondence and papers can be found mention of numerous other scientists of Asian origin, working in a variety of related fields (such as Geology, Mathematics, and Statistics) and spread across China, India, and other parts of the world. In reconstructing these networks and exploring the motivations that created them, this project not only offers alternate histories of China and India in the twentieth century—ones centered on the circulation of experts, scientific knowledge, technologies, and specimens—but it also provincializes Europe, as we come to recognize an important episode in the connected history of modern Asia and modern science.