A Tamil Nadu Government Order (G.O.) of the Higher Education (K2) Department, declaring that M.A. in History and Archaeology offered by Tamil University, Thanjavur, is “not equivalent” to M.A. in History, has virtually ruined the careers of several hundreds of those who have obtained the postgraduate degree from the university.

The G.O. (Ms.) No.72 of April 30, 2013 has angered scholars who argue that the study of history is incomplete without archaeology being part of it. For, archaeology, epigraphy, numismatics etc. are the primary sources for a proper study of history, they say.

The G.O. will entail that those with the postgraduate degree from Tamil University cannot apply for the post of Assistant Professors in History in any college in Tamil Nadu; they also cannot apply for the post of teachers of history in schools; and they cannot appear before Teachers’ Recruitment Board (TRB) for appointment to these posts. Students of the course who will be passing out in June/July this year are distraught because they do not know what the future holds for them. It is a moot point whether anybody will join the course this academic year.

The Registrar in-charge of Madras University wrote on May 29, 2013 to the Principal, Madras Christian College, Tambaram, that the Principal’s request to grant approval of qualification to S. Vetriselvi, who had done her M.A. in Ancient History and Archaeology and National Eligibility Test (NET) in Archaeology, to hold the post of Assistant Professor in History “is not feasible of compliance.” (sic)

For, the Chairman, Board of Studies in Historical Studies, opined that the M.A.— Ancient History and Archaeology and NET in Archaeology “cannot be considered for her eligibility to hold the post of Assistant Professor in History,” the Registrar in-charge of Madras University said. What is ironical is that the Registrar of Madras University, had written on March 24, 1980 to C. Sundaram, a research scholar, that “the holders of M.A. degree in Ancient History and Archaeology of this University are fit to handle classes in History and they are considered eligible for appointment as Assistant Professors in History.” The April 30 G.O. has now reversed it.

It became a fait accompli after the Equivalence Committee of the State Higher Education Council resolved on March 8, 2013 that an M.A. in History and Archaeology from Tamil University is “not equivalent” to M.A. in History. But it is silent whether Madras University’s M.A. in Ancient History and Archaeology is equivalent to M.A. in History.

The Equivalence Committee took the decision despite the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) Model Curriculum of 2001 combining History and Archaeology as a single unit and recommending that due importance should be given to the study of history’s primary sources such as archaeology, epigraphy, numismatics, art, and architecture and iconography. Epigraphy includes lithic inscriptions, copper-plate charters, palm-leaf manuscripts, inscriptions on pottery, rings and even on church bells.

UGC model curriculum

The UGC’s Model Curriculum emphasises a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of history by paying attention to all these primary sources of history.

A professor of history, who is also a field archaeologist, said: “The study of history depends purely on its primary sources and it is archaeologists who deal with these primary sources. People who have never read the UGC’s Model Curriculum have passed this G.O. This is a big blow to the growth of study of history.”

Tamil Nadu has the highest number of inscriptions in India — about one lakh. Most of them are lithic inscriptions. “Without epigraphy, how can you reconstruct Tamil Nadu’s epigraphy?” the field archaeologist asked. Noboru Karashima, a scholar on South India’s medieval history, reconstructed the Chola history with the help of epigraphical sources. Iravatham Mahadevan reconstructed Tamil Nadu’s ancient history with the help of Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions. Indeed, Mr. Karashima had asserted (The Hindu, December 2, 2010) that “unless the knowledge of epigraphy develops, no ancient or medieval history of this country can be studied.”