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Professor of History and Environmental Studies, Ashoka University

That the 20th century shapes our present and will influence our future is common point of debate in India. Clearly, politics and economics, culture and society clearly were deeply influenced, if not fundamentally shaped, by choices made at key points of time. Yet this applies equally, so with even greater long-term consequences, to the environment in its widest sense. In a more focussed way, this is how human actions, via technological choices or the ways land or water are governed, influence the non-human entities we share spaces with.

Rather than view ecology and society as two distinct entities, the overlaps and interfaces can shed fresh light on where we stand today. knowing how we got to where we stand matters. India’s recent environmental pasts have bearing not only on this country, but Asia and the world at large.

In this episode of BIC Talks,  Professor of History and Environmental Studies, Ashoka University Prof. Mahesh Rangarajan delivers the first annual Vijay Thrivuvady memorial lecture that took place at the big premises in early January 2024. Vijay Thiruvady was a naturalist, environmental historian and a true blue Bangalore who will be terribly missed by all who knew him and all who have walked Lal Bagh with him.

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Mahesh Rangarajan

Professor of History and Environmental Studies, Ashoka University

Mahesh Rangarajan is Professor of History and Environmental Studies at Ashoka University, Haryana. He is also Chair of the Ashoka Archives of Contemporary India.

He did a BA in History from Hindu College, University of Delhi and did his MA in Modern History and PhD respectively at Balliol and then Nuffield College, Oxford. He has taught at the universities of Cornell, Jadavpur, Delhi, and at Krea University and the NCBS, Bengaluru.

His books include Fencing the Forest (1996), India’s Wildlife History (2001) and Nature and Nation (2015). A co-authored book, People, Parks, and Wildlife: Towards Coexistence, was published in 2000. He has also edited The Oxford Anthology of Indian Wildlife (1999) and Environmental Issues in India (2007). The co-edited works include Battles over Nature (2003), Making Conservation Work (2007)Environmental History: As if Nature Existed (2010), Shifting Ground (2014), Nature without Borders (2014) and At Nature’s Edge (2018). A co-edited book, Nature Contested, is in press.

He was Chair of the Elephant Task Force of the Government of India in 2010 and has been Director of the then Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (2011-15) and also been Vice Chancellor of Krea University.

Prof. Rangarajan was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and was awarded the TN Khoshoo Memorial Prize in Environment and Development in 2015. In 2021, he was elected Overseas Member of the American Historical Association, only the fourth Indian to be so elected.