R. Gombrich's paper on German, French, British etc. schools of Indology

Dear Suttacentral members,

I am looking for a short paper where R. Gombrich gives short characterizations of German, French, British and some other schools of Indology/Buddhology. Probably it was notes on an international workshop or something like that, I can’t recall. But I remember clearly that in this paper he characterizes British/English school as one inclined to do “social history” (of everything).

Would be most grateful for the help!


Perhaps you were thinking of this paper? Fifty Years of Buddhist Studies in Britain - Richard Gombrich.pdf (419.1 KB)


yes, it’s that paper:

“I found it entertaining to observe how people conformed to the expected national stereotypes. The Germans (who, incidentally, were represented by an Israeli) equated Buddhist studies with textual and historical research on Buddhism and barely even mentioned the social sciences, even though German scholarship has made notable contributions in that area. The Americans perfectly complemented the Germans, in that they mentioned only work in the social sciences, if one may include under that rubric empirical work on contemporary phenomena carried out under the rubric of ‘religious studies’ – work that so often turns out to be simply rather mediocre anthropology.
While the Germans presented a vast bibliography, the American presentation did not attempt to include anything like a comprehensive bibliography, but instead ran way over time and characterized each individual work discussed as ‘stunning’. The French were lightly ironic and always to the point; the Koreans were humorous; the Japanese earnest. The Burmese delegate was so frightened that he did not dare mention any research done within the prescribed period. At least I did not have that problem.
At least Buddhist studies in Britain have achieved one thing: they have been sincerely interested in Buddhism, and generally avoided fatuous verbiage.”

  • “Fifty Years of Buddhist Studies in Britain”, R.Gombrich