The New India Foundation, based in Bangalore, uniquely matches public-spirited philanthropy with ground-breaking and relevant scholarship. In the seven-and-a-half decades since Independence, there has been a large body of work produced by Indian historians and social scientists. Taken singly, many of these studies are very impressive; viewed cumulatively, they add up to much less than what one might expect. The chief reason for this is the determining influence on the scholarly practice of one single date: 15th August 1947. Historians do not look beyond the attainment of Independence, whereas other social scientists do not look back at all. We have solid studies of the Congress under British rule, yet there are no systematic historical studies of this most influential of political parties in the post-Independence period. Again, there are numerous ethnographic accounts of the caste system. Yet, we have no analytical overview of caste since Independence.
These examples could be multiplied manifold. The Republic of India is a Union of twenty-eight states, some larger than France and Germany. Yet very few of these states have had their histories written.
Again, there are also few serious biographies of some of the key figures in our modern history: such as E. M. S. Namboodiripad and Sheikh Abdullah or (to take figures from very different fields) Pandit Ravi Shankar or Dhirubhai Ambani.
Given India’s size, its importance, and its interest, and given that this is our country, the lack of good research on its modern history is unfortunate. It is this lack that the New India Foundation seeks to address, by sponsoring high-quality original research on different aspects of independent India. Its activities include the granting of fellowships, the organizing of lectures, and the publication of books on the history and culture of independent India.
The Economist, in its issue of 21st March 2009, wrote of the New India Foundation as follows: ‘A promising alliance between an industrious scholar and a scholarly industrialist, the foundation brings to mind the Lunar Society of Georgian Birmingham, which counted among its members James Watt, perfecter of the steam engine, and Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles’.