On the Spot: Sujit Sivasundaram

‘The past has not gone.’

‘Could I have Samarkand?’: Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Wiki Commons/Ekrem Canli.

Why are you a global historian? 

Because I was born and educated in Sri Lanka, which was a magnet for a range of global forces and invaders.

What’s the most important lesson history has taught you?

The past has not gone. 

Which history book has had the greatest influence on you?

Lisa Jardine’s Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance.

What book in your field should everyone read?

Pier Larson’s Ocean of Letters: Language and Creolization in an Indian Ocean Diaspora.

Which moment would you most like to go back to?

I am too interested in the relation of the past to the present to transport myself back in time. And what if I get lost without knowing how to come back to face present realities?

Which historian has had the greatest influence on you?

Christopher A. Bayly and James A. Secord.

Which person in history would you most like to have met?

The writers of the palm-leaf texts, who produced poetry retelling war against the British in Sri Lanka in the 19th century.

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