Susobhan Sarkar (1900-1982) — A Personal Memoir
SUSOBHAN CHANDRA SARKAR passed away, quietly, just after dawn on August 26, 1982, in his home at Naktala on the outskirts of Calcutta, a week after his eighty-second birthday.
Among the twentieth century teachers of history in our sub-continent, Susobhan Sarkar was outstanding. He concentrated on modern Europe, on the social context of the development of British constitutional history and Western European political thought; and late in his career, on renascent middle class culture in nineteenth and early twentieth century India. His lucid explication of the method of Marx in analysing the course of human development, his capacity to show forces of feudalism, capitalism and imperialism interacting with ideas and influencing events, and his awareness of ways in which these forces blurred, in situations where relations of production had not crystallised enough for sharp antagonisms between opposed forces, were superbly brought home to several generations of students, who left his classes with a firm grounding in the historical method of interpretation.
A disciplined and clear-sighted human being, he was a deeply committed friend of the Communist Party of India, from its origins. He had worked in popular fronts and organisational activities for diffusion of democratic and socialist consciousness. A description of all this, and a full bibliography of his books and very many periodical articles and reviews, till 1975 (he wrote more in the last seven years), may be found in some detail elsewhere;1 and also in a series of obituary notices published in 1982. For the present purpose, it is proposed only to spotlight some significant aspects.
Sarkar started his academic life as, what is referred to among the literati-elite of Calcutta, a 'brilliant student' — with the informal sumwa cum laude of the redoubtable Double First Class First in B. A. Honours and M. A. in History. He followed this up with a good Honours Degree -in the same subject from Oxford. What is not so well-known is that, even as a student in Presidency College, Calcutta (the school from which he matriculated was Dhaka Collegiate School), where his public image was that of a shy, bookish scholar, he had
*Cenire foi Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta.