Seminar – 1 March – Charles Ramble

February 23rd, 2016 by


Tuesday 1 March 2016

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Charles Ramble

University of Oxford

Towards a Social History of Tibetan Societies: What We Can Learn from Local Archives

Archival investigations have not yet played much part in the historical study of Tibet. This is due in part to the unavailability of such sources: in Tibet itself millions of documents were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, and the large number that do remain are inaccessible to all but a few authorised Chinese researchers. However, significant collections have been preserved in areas of Tibetan culture outside the PRC, and research on this material is beginning to shed an important light on the social history of the societies in question. The most widely known sources for the lives of Tibetan clerics are biographies, which constitute an extensive and popular genre of literature in Tibet. Their undoubted historical value notwithstanding, to the extent that these range in tone from encomium to hagiography they cannot be considered to provide a critical or even neutral perspective on the lives of their protagonists. This presentation will examine the archives of a number of priestly families and communities in the Tibetan borderlands to show just how different a picture of clerics’ lives emerges from these archival sources.