Name: Dr Gagan D. S. Sood
Role in admissions: Masters Admissions Advisor
What is your field of history?
I specialise in early modern history, with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia in the era of the Mughal and Ottoman empires. I am particularly interested in everyday life, how state and society relate to one another, the dialectic between the regional and global scales of interaction, and the ways in which modern colonialism was indebted to the realities which prevailed in precolonial times.
Why are you interested in this subject and why is it important?
The founding premise of history is that the past constrains and enables behaviour in the present and near future. This makes history always relevant to our here-and-now. That relevance manifests itself above all via inherited structures and our memory of the past. For these reasons, and in common with the other humanities, history is very well suited for relaying eternal verities which enhance life and help us come to terms with our mortality, it provides the means to cultivate ourselves as moral beings, it gives the lie to false absolutes and sharpens our sense of true universals, and it demonstrates the vulnerability of knowledge to political manipulation. But history also has qualities that are unique to it among academic disciplines. Like nothing else, history sensitises us to the generative power of memory and its constructed, negotiated character, it enables us to articulate stories which enable us to comprehend our world and our relationship to it, and it throws into sharp relief the freedoms potentially available to us in everyday life.
Why is it crucial to take an international perspective in studying history?
History on local, provincial and national scales can offer significant insights, but these can also be limiting. The reality is that people, ideas, goods and information crossed - and continue to cross! - the boundaries of states, empires and regions as matter of course. We can only appreciate this fully if we study events in their appropriate international context. As the French historian Marc Bloch put it, the national can only be fully understood in a comparative international context. This is true for all kinds of history.
What should a prospective student in International History at the LSE be reading?
For an introduction to what historians do and why, you might read Marc Bloch, The Historian’s Craft (1954); Jack H. Hexter, ‘The rhetoric of history’, History and Theory 6:1 (1967), 3-13; Robert W. Fogel and Geoffrey R. Elton, Which Road to the Past? Two Views of History (1983); or John Lewis Gaddis, The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past (2002).
Good general introductions to international history include Patrick Finney, International History (2004) and Antony Best, Jussi Hanhimäki, Joseph Maiolo and Kirsten Schulze, International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond (2008).
Two thought-provoking overviews of Europe's twentieth century are Mark Mazower, Dark Continent. Europe's Twentieth Century (1998) and Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes 1914-1994 (1994).
If you are interested in global and imperial history, see Christopher Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World (2004) or John Darwin, After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire (2007).
To find out more about intellectual history, Richard Whatmore and Brian Young’s Intellectual History (2006) is very useful. For an example of what the history of ideas can achieve, have a look at Anthony Pagden, The Idea of Europe: From Antiquity to the European Union (2002).
Would you be happy for prospective students to be in touch with you?