5 February 2021
Colleagues at SOAS were deeply upset to learn of the death of Prof. Sunil Kumar on 17th January 2021. World renowned historian of medieval India, Sunil was a member of the History Department at SOAS from 2008-2010.
Sunil’s pioneering work on the the Delhi Sultanate revolutionised existing historical perceptions of India’s ‘Muslim’ past, moving beyond a focus on state power to bring to life a rich and vibrant understanding of socio-political relations of this period. With his remarkable research skills, Sunil offered a groundbreaking approach to the way we should read and understand Persian sources. Through this, he offered a fresh look on the creation of new societies, religious communities, and institutions in a new land, changing the way we conceive this formative period in the history of the subcontinent - and its implication to our days.
Sunil was not at SOAS for very long and indeed, much of his career was based not only in India but in Delhi itself, the city which was at the centre of his work. After two years in London, he returned home to take up the headship of the history department at Delhi University where he has been based until now. But in those two years he left a marked impression on SOAS staff and students alike. Even after his departure, Sunil remained in touch with and attentive to developments in the SOAS history department, particularly in relation to teaching and research on South Asia, and was always happy to offer his guidance and support.
As an outstanding scholar and colleague Sunil will be deeply missed.