The first single-volume history of India since the 1950s, combining narrative pace and skill with social, economic and cultural analysis. Five millennia of the sub-continent’s history are interpreted by one of our finest writers on India and the Far East.
Older, richer and more distinctive than almost any other, India’s culture furnishes all that the historian could wish for in the way of continuity and diversity. The peoples of the Indian subcontinent, while sharing a common history and culture, are not now, and never have been, a single unitary state; the book accommodates Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as other embryonic nation states like the Sikh Punjab, Muslim Kashmir and Assam.
Above all, the colonial era is seen in the overall context of Indian history, and the legacy of the 1947 partition is examined from the standpoint of today.
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The history of what is now India stretches back thousands of years, further than that of nearly any other region on Earth. Yet, observes historian John Keay, most historical work on India concentrates on the period after the arrival of Europeans, with predictable biases, distortions and misapprehensions. One, for example, is the tendency to locate the source of social conflict in India's many religions--to which Keay retorts, "Historically, it was Europe, not India, which consistently made religion grounds for war".
Taking the longest possible view, Keay surveys what is both provable and invented in the historical record. His narrative begins in 3000 B.C. with the complex, and little understood, Harappan period, a time of state formation and the development of agriculture and trade networks. This period coincides with the arrival of Indo-European invaders, the so-called Aryans, whose name, of course, has been put to bad use at many points since. Keay traces the growth of subsequent states and kingdoms throughout antiquity and the medieval period, suggesting that the lack of unified government made the job of the European conquerors somewhat easier--but by no means inevitable. He continues to the modern day, his narrative ending with Indian-Pakistani conflicts in 1998.
Fluently told and well documented, Keay's narrative history is of much value to students and general readers with an interest in India's past and present. --Gregory McNameeReview:
‘A delight… one of the best general studies of the subcontinent’
Andrew Lycett, Sunday Times
‘Ambitious, colourful and fascinating’
Lawrence James, The Times
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Book Description HarperPerennial, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P11000725928X