Indian-American professor at UCLA wins major award for contributions to history

Sanjay Subrahmanyam, professor of History at UCLA, won the Dan David Prize for his contributions to history, the university announced Feb. 7, 2019. (Photo:

An Indian-American professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, has won the prestigious Dan David Prize for his contributions to history.

Sanjay Subrahmanyam, whose work focuses on the encounters between Asians, Europeans and indigenous and colonial Americans from 1400 through 1800, was named a laureate of the Dan David Prize awarded annually to those who “have made outstanding scientific, technological and humanistic accomplishments in fields representing the past, present and future of human achievement,” a Feb. 7 press release from the university announced.

The professor is sharing the $1 million prize with Kenneth Pomeranz, another renowned historian who is a professor at the University of Chicago.

“I greatly appreciate the international recognition afforded to my scholarship, which is a great encouragement,”  Subrahmanyam is quoted saying in the press release. He has written 16 books and edited an almost equal number.

“When I came to UCLA in 2004, I was proud to join a history department with some great and world-famous figures in it, and I have tried to live up to their example,” Subrahmanyam said, adding, “The Dan David Prize gives me a fresh wind in my sails, to push on with the next set of projects I have in mind: whether on global historiography, Islamic history or the enigmatic figure of Michel de Montaigne.”

Subrahmanyam has taught UCLA students in a methodology he calls “connected histories,” where scholars are encouraged “to cross conventional boundaries and define new problems.”

“This has meant setting the bar high for them, too, and making serious demands on their training and scholarship,” he said.” Such history may be somewhat unfashionable in the U.S., where other trends of narrow specialization often dominate, but it is reassuring to see it has an appeal worldwide,” Subrahmanyam said.

The Dan David Prize’s unique approach uses a new theme each year to select from three time dimensions —  recognizing accomplishments that expand knowledge of the past, enrich society in the present, and promise to improve the future of our world, the press release said.

Along with the macro history awardees, the 2019 Dan David Prize will also honor Michael Ignatieff and Reporters Without Borders for their “remarkable work” in defending democracy, as well as Christiana Figueres for her achievements in combating climate change.

The total purse of $3 million makes the Dan David Prize one of the highest-value prizes internationally. Others who have received the prize include world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma (2006), HIV co-discoverer Robert Gallo (2009), novelist Margaret Atwood (2010), filmmaker brothers Ethan and Joel Coen (2011), and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (2015).



  1. Congratulations to Prof. Subramanium! I hope he does research on Pre-Islamic Iran’s 3 Persian empires, because the Arab Muslim conquerors in 7th century C.E. tried to erase the old history, culture and Zarathushti (Zoroastrian) religion, and claimed the culture they inherited as Islamic culture.


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