It was on the 15 th February 2010 that a meeting of the students and staff of the History Department of the University College , affiliated to the University of Kerala assembled in Hall No.111 of the College. It decided to register HISTORIA as the alumni of the University College History students and staff, past and present. It formed a seven member committee to draft the byelaws and the Memorandum of Association under the Chairmanship of the then Head of the Department of History, Sri. P.K.Raveendran. The Committee finalized the byelaws and registered the Historia (No.508/10) as per the Travancore Cochin Literary and Charitable Societies Act 1955 (Act XII of 1955). As per the byelaws it elected an Executive Committee consisting of 15 members including a seven member group of office bearers.
The department of history
In the first half of the XIX th century the enlightened Maharajas of the erstwhile Travancore State realized the prime need for providing facilities for English Education to their subjects and consequently started the Maha Raja's Free School in the capital city in 1834 during the reign of Swathi Thirunnal Rama Varma Maharaja (1829-1846) of the princely state of Travancore lying in the South Western side of the Madras Presidency. The classes were conducted in an old building located about half a mile to the south of University College , on the premises where the Ayurveda College stands today. Thirty-two years afterwards this Government School blossomed into a College that offered instruction in a few subjects like Philosophy, History and Mathematics.
In 1866 during the reign of His Highness Padmanabhadasa Sri.Ayilyam Thirunal Rama Varma, Maharaja of Travancore (1860-1880) it was decided that facilities for higher education should also be provided by the Government. The Raja's School was raised to the status of a college affiliated to the University of Madras . The Madras University was established in 1857 along with Bombay and Calcutta Universities . On 30 th September 1869 the foundation stone for the main block of the present college building was laid by Maharaja Ayilyam Thirunal Rama Varma and it was completed in 1873.
For some unknown reasons, the course in History was discontinued in 1886 and revised only in 1901, as “improved Department” when celebrated scholars like Professor Lepper assumed charge of the department.
In 1870 a single candidate, the late Diwan Bahadur V.Nagam Aiya (1850-1917) the first of whom we can claim as a student, entirely trained in the college, according to Principal Prof. John Ross was qualified for the BA Degree in History and Mathematics. The name of V.Nagam Aiya who became the first graduate of the college as well as of the History Department (Feb. 1870) is inscribed above the door nearer to Room No.162 where a copy of the Magna carta of 1215 of King John of England too was exhibited. This V.Nagam Aiya although joined the History Department as Assistant Professor of History and Mathematics (in his alma mater ) was taken to the Huzur office in April 1870 by the then Diwan Sir T Madhava Rao. He rose to the position of the Diwan Peishkar and held this office for 12 years. Nagam Aiya completed his life mission by compiling the three volume Travancore State Manual [published in 1906 by the Government of Sree Moolam Thirunal (1885-1924)] which is treated as his magnum opus besides compiling the Census Reports of 1881 and 1891.
Since then the History Department has been growing from strength to strength. The mode of teaching in those early days was entirely different from what prevails in the University College now. Instead of giving formal lectures on the subjects concerned, the learned Professors had a kind of dialogue with the students on some aspects of the subjects and kindled an interest in them to make further exploration in the field of study. Professors Roberts, Harvey and others used to teach Philosophy, History and English. The era of specialization had not dawned in the educational set up of the State in that period. [See Reminiscences by Diwan Bahadur Govinda Pillai in the College Centenary volumes (1866-1966)].
Fourteen years after the establishment of the History Department, Madras University granted permission to the Government of Travancore in 1914 to start the Honours course in History and Economics. Realizing that “the main difference between the Honours course and the Pass course lies in the different modes of treatment accorded to each, the Honours student being expected to show an independence of mind, do more of his work on his own account, and to need guidance rather than more instruction, as compared with ordinary students” [See Report on University Education by Prof. K.V.Rangaswamy Aiyengar, Head of the History Department during 1910-1924].
Special attention was bestowed by the senior teachers of the department in affording proper guidance to the Honours students. In course of time their efforts began to bear fruit as most of the old boys of the Honours course came out with flying colours in the University Examination and joined the teaching staff of the old College.
Fortunately, during the formative period this Post-graduate Department was manned by two towering personalities, Professor K.V.Rangaswamy Aiyengar and C.V.Chandrasekharan.
Prof. C.V.Chandrasekharan was the Professor of History during 1928 to 1934 whose deep erudition and sense of dedication endeared him to several generations of students. Shortly afterwards their fame travelled far beyond the confines of the State. The highly sophisticated, glamourous personality of Prof. C.V.Chandrasekharan, a product of Madras Christian College and Cambridge University stood in marked contrast to the commanding figure of Prof. K.V.Rangaswamy Aiyengar, a prodigy noted for his remarkable strength of character, orthodox views, and rock-like will. Although each had his ‘area of specialization' they preserved in the department an exhilarating atmosphere of intellectual awareness, occasionally marred by acrimonious controversies stemming from personal predilections and prejudices. The generations of students over whom they cast their spell with their wonderful learning will be remembered with affection and gratitude for years to come.
The BA Honours courses in English and History were started in 1914. The starting of new courses BA as well as BA Honours increased the student strength in the college. In 1923 it rose to 837 and there was great pressure for additional accommodation.
Consequent to the popular demand for increased facilities for higher education, the old College was bifurcated in 1924 into Arts and Science Colleges . An Arts College thus came into existence in the colourful setting of Thycaud, hardly a mile away from the old College, where the History Department naturally became the leading Department providing instruction to a larger number of students in different branches of History, Politics and Economics. In the thirties it was mainly staffed by a group of unassuming scholars whose patient and persistent efforts to improve results in Examinations yielded handsome dividends. A glance at the Examination results from 1924 onwards would show that every year almost all the students presented to the M.A Examination came out successful, some topping the list of successful candidates of the University of Madras . The results of the B.A Degree Examinations were equally encouraging. The healthy competition with private colleges at Nagercoil and Kottayam gave a stimulus to the staff and students to improve the percentage of result every year.