Prasannan Parthasarathi, Professor of History, Boston College, whose book Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia did not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850 won the 2012 World History Book Prize, was in the city to research for his upcoming book.
He discussed the information he had sourced from the Tamil Nadu State Archives so far, how Fort St. George was a fulcrum of sorts for the British in peninsular India, and concerns about the region’s depleting forest cover.
Professor Parthasarathi recalled how he spent a lot of time in Pudukottai as a child and does not have any memory of a forest. So far, he said he has collected a lot of material on forests in south India in the 18 century for his upcoming book.
“My next book among other things will also look into forests, water, grasslands and the relationship between these ecological factors on agriculture in the Tamil areas,” he said.
“An 1850 text described Pudukottai as a big, forested area. Forests in the plains have depleted rapidly and there has been a radical reshaping in the last 200 years,” he said.
Professor Parthasarathi who visits the city during his summer breaks said that he is especially fond of the museum at Fort St. George.
“There was a period when Chennai was largely thought of as a Tamil city. If you look at the history of Madras and the areas around Fort St. George, the region as a whole was connected to the larger world and I would say we are in a way returning back to its cosmopolitan roots,” he said.