Sir Christopher Bayly Named 2016 Toynbee Prize Winner

The Toynbee Prize Foundation has selected Sir Christopher Alan Bayly as the honorary recipient of the 2016 Toynbee Prize. The Prize, given every other year to a distinguished practitioner of global history, was awarded posthumously at a session of the American Historical Association’s Annual Meeting in Atlanta on January 9, 2016. There, Toynbee Prize Foundation Vice-President Darrin McMahon and Trustee David Armitage announced the Prize at a session devoted to the intellectual legacy of Bayly, who passed away in April 2015.

Bayly, who taught at the University of Cambridge as a Fellow of St Catharine’s College, the Director of the Centre of South Asian Studies, and the Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History, was a scholar of British Imperial, South Asian, and global history. While perhaps known to readers of global history for his 2004 The Birth of the Modern World: Global Connections and Comparisons, Bayly also made major contributions to the fields of both South Asian as well as British Imperial history through books like The Local Roots of Indian Politics (1975), Rulers, Townsmen, and Bazaars (1983), and Imperial Meridian (1989), to name only a few of his works. At the time of his death, Bayly was serving as the Swami Vivekananda Professor in South Asian Studies at the University of Chicago, where he was completing a book entitled Remaking the Modern World, 1914-2015. Bayly read for the Bachelor of Arts degree at Balliol College, Oxford and received his Doctor of Philosophy Degree from St Antony’s College, Oxford in 1970.

Bayly was chosen by unanimous consensus by the Board of Trustees of the Toynbee Prize Foundation. Members of the Board acknowledged the importance and influence of Bayly’s work. David Armitage, the Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard University, noted that “Chris Bayly’s work displayed constant originality, ever-expanding imagination and acute generosity in equal measure. Few historians have shaped as many vital fields: most notably, South Asian history, the history of empire and world history. He always moved seamlessly between scales–from the local to the global, the initmately urban to the comprehensively planetary–across regions, and between fields, working variously on urban, social, economic, imperial, cultural, intellectual and global history. His many books, from The Local Roots of Indian Politics: Allahabad, 1880-1920 (1975) to the forthcoming Remaking the Modern World, 1914-2015 (2016), form one major legacy; his even more numerous students–over 70, at the last count–another; but the memory of his friendship, encouragement and stimulus to everyone he knew will live as long as any of his more formal achievements.”

Professor Glenda Sluga of the University of Sydney, a colleague and friend of Bayly, concurred. “Professor Bayly’s Birth of the Modern World,” she noted, “not only anticipated the transnational and international dimensions of the new global history, it also embedded established themes of modernity and modernization in that global framing; similarly, it brought a global perspective on social, economic and intellectual history to bear on political themes too often perceived as the natural domains of national historiographies.  His most recent work resuscitated an Indian tradition of liberalism and inspired global readings of the history of political ideas; it brought political policy into the realm of a globalized intellectual history.”

Bayly joins a distinguished roll of previous Toynbee Prize recipients: the diplomat and historian George Kennan, the social scientist Albert Hirschman, and, more recently, fellow historians Natalie Zemon Davis, William McNeill, and Dipesh Chakrabarty. As Toynbee Prize Foundation Vice-President Darrin McMahon, Professor of History at Dartmouth College, noted, “Professor Bayly is in fine and fitting company. The Foundation very much wishes that we could have awarded this honor in life, but we do so here posthumously in recognition of Bayly’s collective body of work that, as is already apparent, will long outlive him.”

Named after Arnold J. Toynbee, the Toynbee Prize Foundation was chartered in 1987 “to contribute to the development of the social sciences, as defined from a broad historical view of human society and of human and social problems.” The foundation awards the prestigious Toynbee Prize and sponsors global history regular sessions at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, international conferences, the online Global History Forum, as well as the journal New Global Studies.

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