IMPORTANT CONFERENCE UPDATE: 20th Conference of the IALS has to be postponed to 05th – 08th October 2023!

Because of a very long waitlist for Schengen visa appointments due to the aftermath of COVID travel restrictions, participants from India would not have been able to receive their visas in time for the conference in June.

Therefore, the conference has to be postponed to 05th – 08th October 2023!

The venue stays the same.

Further information can be found here.

To all participants from outside the EU: Apply way ahead of time for your Schengen visa. The time until you receive your visa might take up to 4(!!) months at the moment!

We apologize for the inconvenience!

Neil Howard’s Research on Ladakhi History and Military Architecture: an Appreciation

By John Bray

Neil and Kath Howard with Erberto Lo Bue (left), Rome 2007.

Neil Howard, who passed away in January 2023, was an independent researcher
specialising in the study of the military and architectural history of Ladakh.

Neil came late to the study of Ladakh and by chance. In the course of a trek through
Ladakh in the early 1980s, he and his wife Kath noticed the many ruined forts above
the region’s villages. Finding that little had been written about them, he decided to do
the research himself. His first major publication was an article on the development of
Ladakh’s military architecture, which appeared in the Italian journal East and West in
1989, and this is still an important reference source. His initial work on forts led
naturally to further study on military campaigns in Ladakh, notably the invasion by
Mirza Haider Dughlat in the 1530s and the Dogra invasion three centuries later. He
also extended his geographical range to include Lahul and Kangra.

All Neil’s work shows the same qualities. Perhaps most importantly, his architectural
and archaeological studies were based on careful on-the-ground observation. He
weighed up the evidence as he saw it, and pushed his analysis as far as he reasonably
could, but no further. Later, he worked with other colleagues, notably Philip
Denwood of the School of Oriental and African Studies (London), to assess the
written sources that might shed further light on his chosen themes.

I myself retain a happy memory of an occasion when I was able to perform a service
as Neil’s research assistant. In 2005, together with our colleagues Abdul Ghani
Sheikh and Ken Macdonald, I made an excursion to photograph the chortens and
castle ruins of Gya. These later contributed to Neil and Kath’s article on Gya that
appeared in 2014 (see bibliography).

Although Neil did most of the writing and much of the talking, he worked with Kath
as a husband-and-wife team both on mountain treks and, later, on the conference
circuit. Always forthright in his views on life’s ironies, he was generous and
supportive in his friendships. In later years, he took pleasure in the publications of
younger scholars who have deepened and extended his own research findings. His
own carefully calibrated pioneering work remains an example to follow.


1984. “Castles of the Himalayas.” Popular Archaeology, April 1984, pp. 12-19.
Hemel Hempstead.

1987. “Royal Fortresses of Ladakh.” Archaeology Today, May 1987, pp. 29-35.
Frome, England.

1989. “The Development of the Fortresses of Ladakh c.9501650 AD.” East and West
39, Nos. 14, pp. 217-288. Rome: Istituto per il medio ed estremo oriente.

1990. “Inscriptions at Balukhar and Char Zampa and General Archaeological
Observations on Balukhar Fort and its Environs.” With Philip Denwood. In
Indo-Tibetan Studies: Papers in honour and appreciation of Professor David
L. Snellgrove’s contribution to Indo-Tibetan Studies
, pp. 81-88. Edited by
Tadeusz Skorupski. Tring: Institute of Tibetan Studies.

1992. “The Dogra Forts in Greater Ladakh, North-west India.” Fort 20, pp. 7186.

1994. “The Trekking Route up the Tsarap River, Zangskar.” Ladakh Studies 7, pp. 9-

1995 (a). “The Fortified Places of Zanskar.” In Recent Research on Ladakh 4 & 5, pp.
79-99. Edited by Henry Osmaston and Philip Denwood. London: School of
Oriental and African Studies; Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

1995 (b). “Military Aspects of the Dogra Conquest of Ladakh 18341839.” In Recent
Research on Ladakh 4 & 5
, pp. 349-361. Edited by Henry Osmaston and
Philip Denwood. London: School of Oriental and African Studies; Delhi:
Motilal Banarsidass.

1996 (a). “What Happened Between 1450 and 1550 AD? And Other Questions from
the History of Ladakh.” In Recent Research on Ladakh 6, pp. 121-138. Edited by Henry Osmaston and Nawang Tsering. Bristol: Bristol University Press; Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

1996 (b). “Chronology of the Travels of G.T. Vigne in the Western Himalaya, 1835-1839 Ladakh Studies 8, pp. 27-30.

1999. “Ancient Painted Pottery from Ladakh.” In Ladakh: Culture, History and
Development, between Himalaya and Karakoram
. Recent Research on Ladakh
, pp. 222-236. Edited by Martijn van Beek, Kristoffer Brix Bertelsen and
Poul Pedersen. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press,

2002. “The Political Geography of South-east Zanskar, and a Reconsideration of the
Royal Chronologies of Zanskar and Ladakh in the 15 th Century.” South Asian
18, pp. 91-108. London: Society for South Asian Studies.

2005 (a). “Sultan Zain-ul Abidin’s Raid into Ladakh.” In Ladakhi Histories. Local
and Regional Perspectives
, pp. 125-145. Edited by John Bray. Leiden: Brill.

2005 (b). “The Development of the Boundary between the State of Jammu & Kashmir
and British India, and its Representation on Maps of the Lingti Plain.” In
Ladakhi Histories. Local and Regional Perspectives, pp. 217-234. Leiden:

2007. Things to do in Leh. A jeu d’esprit. Self-published pamphlet for private

2009. “Prince Peter’s Journey from Manali to Ladakh, 5 th June–22 nd August 1938.” In
Recent Research on Ladakh 2009, pp. 55-71. With Poul Pedersen. Edited by
Monisha Ahmed & John Bray. Kargil & Leh: International Association of
Ladakh Studies.

2012. “The Tak House Maitreya and Some Corrections of the Later History of
Ladakh.” Ladakh Studies 28, pp. 36-38.

2014. “Historic Ruins in the Gya Valley, Eastern Ladakh, and a Consideration of
Their Relationship to the History of Ladakh and Maryul. With Kath Howard
and an Appendix on the War of Tsede (rTse lde) of Guge in 1083 CE by Philip
Denwood.” In Art and Architecture in Ladakh. Cross-Cultural Transmissions
in the Himalayas and Karakoram
pp. 68-99. Edited by Erberto Lo Bue and
John Bray. Leiden: Brill.

2016. “Castles and Defensive Architecture in Purig: an Introduction, Survey and
Preliminary Analysis.” In Visible Heritage. Essays on the Art and Architecture
of Greater Ladakh
, pp. 85-112. Edited by Rob Linrothe and Heinrich Pöll.
New Delhi: Studio Orientalia.

2020. “The defences of Basgo revisited.” Études mongoles et sibériennes,
centrasiatiques et tibétaines.
With Quentin Devers. Online publication :

Forthcoming. “The Portal of the Leh Palace.” With Gerald Kozicz. Awaiting

New Publication “New Perspectives on Modern Ladakh. Fresh Discoveries and Continuing Conversations in the Indian Himalaya.”

Edited by Rafał Beszterda, John Bray and Elizabeth Williams-Oerberg. Toruń: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersitetu Mikolaja Kopernika, 2021.

This volume originates in the 2017 IALS conference in Bedłewo (Poland) and contains twelve research papers on the following themes: the natural environment and social change; urbanisation and social change in Leh; bees, mushrooms and folkways; 20th century external contacts and local responses; three perspectives on weaving; and a final essay that poses the question “Did Gama ever reach the land of the lama?”

The book costs 41.40 zł plus postage. Ordering details and a full list of contents are available on:

Call for Presentation and Participation: Webinar on “Commemorating Tashi Rabgias’s Legacy”

UPDATE 24/10/21: To participate at the event, use the following links:


Facebook Live:

The programme for the event can be downloaded here: PDF / Word

UPDATE 18/10/21: The webinar will start at 4:30 P.M. Indian Standard Time (IST) on Tuesday, 26th of October. The time per presentation is scheduled to be 15-20 minutes.

ORIGINAL NEWS: This is in reference to the commemoration of the legacy of Tashi Rabgias from 17th October 2021 (his birth anniversary) to 28th October 2021 (his death anniversary). IALS has been invited to host an international webinar on 26th October 2021 on the theme “Commemorating Tashi Rabgias’s Legacy”.

As advised by the Executive and Advisory Committees, we have decided to divide the webinar into two broad sub-themes:

  • Personal accounts of Tashi Rabgias (His life, works, and any personal memories of Tashi Rabgias)
  • Furthering conversations in fields that were important to Tashi Rabgias. This includes fields such as history, literature, art & culture, and Buddhist responses to social change etc.

Tashi Rabgias was a pioneer of Ladakh studies and also the patron of IALS, the webinar provides us with an opportunity to honour his legacy and express our gratitude for his efforts and contributions.

If you wish to present a paper on either of the themes, please write to Dr Rigzin Chodon (host of the webinar) at with an abstract (Approx. 200 words) by 22nd October, mid-night, IST. The final list of the speakers will be reviewed by the President and the Editorial Committee, IALS and announced by 23rd October 2021 on the IALS website. The link for the webinar and other details shall be shared by 25th October 2021 via email.

We look forward to your participation.