Prof. Subrahmanyam is an original and exceptionally prolific world historian. He has made a fundamental, highly influential contribution to the methodology and practice of macro history. In 1997, he coined the term “connected histories” to emphasize the need to place the history of different cultures within the same analytical frame, reading their complex archives and texts together and highlighting their interactions, reciprocal effects, and mutual understandings, and sometimes devastating misunderstandings. This method has had a deep impact on much of world history.
His work is mainly on the early modern period (1400-1800), focusing on the encounters of Asians, Europeans and Americans - indigenous and colonial - at a time when the inhabitants of their four continents first became interconnected.
Subrahmanyam has contributed to an astonishingly wide array of fields: from Indian economic history to the Portuguese discoveries; the cultural and political history of both north and south India; the history of the Indian Ocean zone from Indonesia to the Red Sea; and from the intellectual history of the Mughal, Ottoman and Iberian empires to the manifold European representations of India and the East. He has written on the origins of global history, beginning with the historiography of Ancient Rome and Han China and proceeding to that of the early modern and modern world (Aux origines de l’histoire globale, 2014).
His work is multidisciplinary, covering aspects of economic, political, cultural, literary and intellectual history, as well as historiography and the history of representations. It draws on collaborations with other leading scholars such as Muzaffar Alam, Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman. It also reflects on broad questions such as the ways of reconciling ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ history.
He received the Infosys Humanities Prize (2012), Kluge Chair in the Countries and Cultures of the South, Library of Congress, Washington DC, in (2013), and the Prix Martine Aublet, Musée de Quai Branly, Paris (2018). He holds honorary doctorates from University of Calcutta (2015) and the Université catholique de Louvain (2017).
Subrahmanyam is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a corresponding fellow of the British Academy.