Ladakh, located in the north western part of India, has only been readily accessible for study since the early 1970s. In that short time it has been the focus of interest for many students, senior scholars and independent researcher from across many disciplines.

They are attracted by Ladakh’s physical condition as a high altitude desert in the rain-shadow of the geologically active Himalaya and Karakorum. They are interested in the skilful agricultural adaptations to these rough environment by its farmers and pastoralists. It is Ladakh’s unique sociology, history and cultural tradition at the crossroads of Central and East Asia and its rich and diverse religious heritage that makes the field interesting for people from all over the world. Most recently the problems encountered with modern development and conservation have become a focus of research.

Using appropriate transport, the late Henry Osmaston attends a reception on Leh Polo Ground, August 1999.

The functions of the International Association for Ladakh Studies (IALS) are to provide contacts between all who are interested in the study of Ladakh, both in South Asia and beyond, and to disseminate information about proposed and completed research and publications. To do this the IALS organises conferences (usually every other year), arranges publication of the proceedings, and publishes a biannual journal, “Ladakh Studies”. This includes information about conferences, planned and current studies, requests for specific information and help, short reports, publications and general information about Ladakh. The close integration of resources, culture and religion in Ladakh demands a holistic approach, and members of the IALS are concerned with a wide variety of topics. Membership is open to all who are interested in Ladakh.

Under the initiative of Henry Osmaston, the International Association for Ladakh Studies (IALS) was formed, with an international committee of distinguished scholars, in the wake of the third Colloquium at Herrnhut, near Dresden in east Germany, the headquarters of the Moravian church whose representatives founded the discipline of Ladakh Studies in the late 19th Century. Henry served first as Honorary Secretary and then – from 1997 until his death – as President of the Association.

As Honorary Secretary, Henry ran the Association virtually single-handed (helped only by Francesca Merritt who handled membership & subscription matters) till 1997, when he accepted the position of President, and the running of the Association devolved onto a small Executive Committee consisting of John Bray (Hon. Secretary), Francesca Merritt (Hon. Treasurer & Membership Secretary) and Martijn van Beek (Hon. Editor). After Henry’s death in 2006, elections to the above posts, as well as the Presidency, were held under an interim constitution at the 13th Colloquium at Rome in 2007.

The IALS Constitution was ratified at the Leh Conference in 2009. Committee members are now elected as detailed in the Constitution.