|Barun De, Dr||Born:|
|Father: Basanta Kumar De||Mother: Pramila De|
|Children: Bikramjit De, Urmila De|
His parents were Basanta Kumar De, esq., the Chief of Traffics of the Bengal Nagpur Railway and an army major and Pramila Dé (née Gupta). As a hostel student in the Brahmo Girls School, Calcutta, and then in Bethune College, Calcutta, his mother was involved with the Bengal Volunteers Movement led by Lila Ray and others, which under Subhas Chandra Bose’s guidance formed a procession in military uniforms, that Bose led on horseback ahead of the procession of the Congress President, Motilal Nehru to the pandal of the Calcutta Congress Session in Park Circus in 1928. This march has been seen as one of the origins of Bose’s later formation of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment in the Indian National Army.
His paternal grandfather was Brajendranath De, esq. ICS, a long serving Magistrate and Collector of Hooghly and Commissioner (offtg) of Burdwan Division in Bengal. A granduncle was Rai Bahadur Siddheshwar Mitter, the Dewan of Chattarpur. Another cousin of his grandfather was Sir Nripendranath Sircar, Law Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. Another relative, by marriage, of his grandfather was K.C. De, esq., ICS, the Commissioner of Chittagong. Some of his paternal uncles were Sir Sarat Kumar Ghosh, ICS, a former Chief Justice of Rajasthan, Jaipur and Jammu and Kashmir, Gurusaday Dutt, esq., ICS, a former Secretary, Local Self Government and Public Health, Government of Bengal, and the founder of the Bratachari movement of Bengal, Col. Jyotish Chandra De, IMS, an eminent physician who became the 2nd Indian Principal of Calcutta Medical College and Dr. Pares Chandra Datta, an eminent doctor, who was a former Director, Health Services, Government of West Bengal. The well-known vocalist, Uma Bose, and the eminent cameraman, Subrata Mitra, Padma Shri were his niece and nephew. His maternal granduncle was Amrita Lal Gupta, a well known Brahmo preacher and writer from Dacca. Also, on his mother’s side, he is a nephew of the eminent Bengali poet, Jibanananda Das.
He studied at St. Xavier’s Collegiate School, Calcutta and Presidency College, Calcutta. In college he was a student of Professor Susobhan Chandra Sarkar. After his graduation he went to St Catherine’s Society, Oxford to complete a second B.A. in History and later obtained an M.A. from the University of Oxford. From 1957 to 1958 he taught as Lecturer in history at the University of Calcutta. He completed his D.Phil. in Indian history at Nuffield College, Oxford in 1961. While he was completing his thesis he was a Tutor at Nuffield College. His Oxford thesis, completed under the supervision of Dr. C.C.Davies, was entitled Henry Dundas and the Government of India, (1773–1801): A Study in Constitutional Ideas. He was Reader in History at the University of Burdwan from 1961 to 1963. From 1965 to 1969 and then again from 1971 to 1973 he was Senior Professor of Social and Economic History of the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM Calcutta). In the intervening period between 1969 and 1971 he was a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Simla. From 1973 to 1993 he was Professor of History at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC). He was the UGC National Lecturer in 1981. From 1997 to 1998 he was the Maulana Azad Fellow at the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Calcutta. From 1998 to 2001 he was the India Chair at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy, Tashkent, Uzbekistan. From 2010 to 2012 he will be the Ministry of Culture, Government of India’s Tagore National Fellow at the Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta.
He has taught as Visiting Professor and Visiting Associate Professor and has held Directeurships at universities and institutes at Duke, Paris, Milan, Sydney and Tokyo.
He has delivered a number of chaired lectures. Some of them are: Devraj Chanana Memorial Lecture (Delhi) (1974), UGC National Lectures (Burdwan, North Bengal University, Siliguri, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) (1979), D.D. Kosambi Memorial Lectures (Goa University) (1993), Khuda Buksh Memorial Lecture (Khuda Buksh Memorial Library, Patna) (2007), Heras Memorial Lecture (St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai) (2008), The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Lecture (National Museum of Scotland) (2009) and the Foundation Day Lecture of Presidency College, Calcutta (2010).
- As a student in Presidency College he was a Debate Secretary and Tennis Secretary of the Students’ Union. In Oxford he became a member of the Socialist Club and was also elected as the Treasurer, Secretary and then the President of the Oxford India Majlis.
- At IIM Calcutta he was the first Indian Post-Graduate Programme Director, and contributed to the setting up of the management diploma course there. From 1973 to 1983 he was the First-Director of the CSSSC. He was the General Secretary (from 1973 to 1975) and the General President (1988) of the Indian History Congress, Dharwar Session.
- He was the Honorary Director, Eastern Regional Centre, Calcutta from 1973 to 1983.
- From 1979 to 1983 he was State Editor of the West Bengal District Gazetteers.
- From 1993 to 1997 he was the First-Director of the AIAS.
- He was also Chairman of the West Bengal State Archives, Calcutta and the Gurusaday Dutt Folk Art Society, Calcutta.
- He was the Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Directorate of Archeology, Government of West Bengal. He was Chairman of the West Bengal Heritage Commission (WBHC) from 2008 to 2011, which was a political appointment.
- He was the Vice Chairman of the Centre for Archeology and Training, Eastern India, and is also a Vice President of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta.
- He was also the General Secretary of the Governing Body of Patha Bhavan, Kolkata.
- He was the Chairman of the Urban Arts Committee of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation right until the end.
He has held memberships of numerous other organisations, such as the Karma Samiti of Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi (from 1972 to 1978 and then again from 2004 to 2007) and several committees of the Indian Council for Social Science Research, New Delhi. He was a member of the West Bengal Commission for the Planning of Higher Education. He was also a member of the Executive Council of the Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum and A.N.Sinha Institute of Social Sciences, Patna. He was also a member of ICSSR Area Studies and International Collaboration Agreements Committees in the 1970s. He was a member of the Indo-Soviet Joint Commission on the Social Sciences in the mid-1980s. From 1993 to 1997 he was a member of the General Council of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi. After his retirement he became a member of the Executive Council of the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta. He is now a member of the Society of the AIAS, the Board of Trustees of the Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta and the governing body of the Indian Museum, Calcutta. He was also a member of the Heritage Buildings’ Conservation Committee and the Road Renaming Committee of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.
He was a nationalist and a Marxist-secularist. He was very close to Professor Saiyid Nurul Hasan, his first and foremost mentor. He participated in the Gorkhaland dialogue in the mid-1980s and was at the forefront of the history textbook crisis once again in 2004..
Awards and honors
- Gopimohan Deb Scholarship, Presidency College, Calcutta 1953–54
- Curzon Memorial Essay Prize, Oxford, 1957
- Beit Senior Research Scholarship, Nuffield College, Oxford, 1958–61
- Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa by North Bengal University, 2000
- Banga Samman Award, 2008–09
- In 2010, he was nominated for a Padma award, by the Government of India, which he declined.
- Secularism at Bay: Uzbekistan at the Turn of the Century (New Delhi, 2006)
- (ed.) State, Development and Political Culture: Bangladesh and India, (New Delhi, 1997) (Co-edited with Ranabir Samaddar)
- (ed.) Mukti Sangrame Banglar Chatro-Chamaj (Students of Bengal in the Struggle of Liberation) (in Bengali), (Calcutta: Paschim Banga Itihas Samsad, 1992)
- (ed.) West Bengal District Gazetteers, 24 Parganas, (Calcutta, 1983)
- (ed.) West Bengal District Gazetteers, Darjeeling, (Calcutta, 198?)
- (ed.) Perspectives in Social Sciences, 1: Historical Dimensions (New Delhi, 1977)
- (ed.) Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, (Calcutta: Jadavpur Session, 1974)
- (ed.) Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, (Aligarh: Aligarh Session, 1975)
- (et al. eds.) Essays in Honour of Professor Sushobhan Chandra Sarkar (New Delhi, 1975)
- Freedom Struggle (New Delhi, 1972), (Co-authored with Bipan Chandra and Amalesh Tripathi)
The CSSSC houses the ‘Brajendranath De Collection – archiving all his photographs left behind with Brajendranath De, his grandfather.