The most influential work on Buddhism to be published in the nineteenth century, "Introduction a l'histoire du Buddhisme indien", by the great French scholar of Sanskrit Eugene Burnouf, set the course for the academic study of Buddhism, and Indian Buddhism in particular, for the next hundred years. First published in 1844, the masterwork was read by some of the most important thinkers of the time, including Schopenhauer and Nietzsche in Germany and Emerson and Thoreau in America. But a century and a half on, Burnouf's text has largely been forgotten. All that changes with Katia Buffetrille and Donald S. Lopez Jr.'s English translation of this foundational text. Reemerging here as a vibrant artifact of intellectual history and as a progenitor of the often colorful genealogy of Buddhist studies, "Introduction to the History of Indian Buddhism" provides a clear view of how the religion was understood in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Burnouf was an impeccable scholar, and his vision, especially of the Buddha, continues to profoundly shape our modern understanding of Buddhism.
Indeed, the work offers a wellspring of still-valuable information and insight into the theory and practice of Buddhism. In reintroducing Burnouf to a new generation of Buddhologists, Buffetrille and Lopez have revived a seminal text in the history of Orientalism.
Katia Buffetrille is a research scholar at the Ecole pratique des hautes etudes. She is the author or coeditor of several books. Donald S. Lopez Jr. is the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. He is the author or editor of many books, including, most recently, Buddhism and Science: A Guide for the Perplexed and In the Forest of Faded Wisdom: 104 Poems by Gendun Chopel, a Bilingual Edition, both published by the University of Chicago Press.