As I sit here typing, a second wave of the virus has hit my country, and it is catastrophic. The devastation that the pandemic is inflicting upon countless lives is filling my social media timelines, and as I try to do what little I can in order to help, as I try to hang onto the final glimmer of hope, I can’t help but wonder whether it’s time to bring up Indian history once again? Even if this is happening all across the world, the othering of individuals and legitimization of divisive politics is a problem that we face in our current time. This is a time when we need to see how our pasts are intertwined with one another. Our understanding of ourselves will be limited if we only pay attention to a small portion of the story. In an interconnected world, we need to stand together to weather the current storm and battle the pandemic decisively – and knowing about our pasts can help develop comrade feeling. We might take heart from the fact that similar crises have occurred in the past.
This year, I’ve spent a lot of time reading about Indian culture and history. Fourteen works about the rich and varied history of the United States and its influence on other countries are listed below.
Time Pieces: A Whistle-Stop Tour of Ancient India by Nayanjot Lahiri
There aren’t many books on ancient history that make you laugh out loud, but this one does. Love, laughter, food, and art are just some of the aspects of daily life that the book focuses on, and it provides the reader an insight of what it was like to be an ancient Indian. The author infuses the book with a fresh perspective and a sprightly wit that elevates it to a work of literary art.
The Penguin History of Early India by Romila Thapar
If you’re looking to delve into the history of ancient India, this is the book for you. This book on ancient India, written by one of India’s most esteemed intellectuals, is an authorized source.
The Last Spring: The Lives and Times of the Great Mughals by Abraham Eraly
The word “mogul” refers to the splendor and richness of the Mughal court. Abraham Eraly’s chronicle of the Mughal dynasty’s dominance, from Babar’s rise to the throne in 1526 until Aurangzeb’s death in 1707, is clear and concise.
Rebel Sultans: The Deccan from Khilji to Shivaji by Manu S. Pillai
Historically, mainstream Indian history tends to be north India-centric, resulting in an inaccurate and incomplete picture of the country’s past. For 700 years, monarchs and dynasties in southern India have been chronicled in this book. It’s a decent introduction to the region’s medieval history in relation to broader national trends, even though the text’s focus on social and cultural issues is somewhat constrained. If you are interested in southern Indian history, you should read The Ivory Throne by the same author.
The Anarchy by William Dalrymple
The British East India Company’s capture of India began the two-century-long British reign in India. Limited liability corporations became colonial powerhouses, and large and opulent countries were controlled from London’s boardrooms under The Anarchy. Dalrymple’s book is a timely reminder of the risks of blind obedience to profits and markets, with little or no accountability for human costs of profit-seeking.
Empire by Shashi Tharoor
It has been 74 years since India achieved its independence from the British dominion. There is a peculiar amnesia in public memory concerning the horrible crimes done by colonial authorities in India and elsewhere. The political consequences of this forgetfulness, especially the exaltation and nostalgia for imperial pasts, are substantial. As Shashi Tharoor writes in Inglorious Empire, he makes a convincing case for the necessity to acknowledge and atone for the realities of the British empire in India.
India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra et al
Peasants’ movements, tribal movements, violent uprisings, and Gandhi’s non-violent movement all feature in this book’s narrative of the struggle against colonial control.
The Raj at War by Yasmin Khan
During the Second World War, more than 2.5 million Indians took part, making significant contributions across the country. Western representations of World War II do not do justice to the sacrifices made by colonized peoples who fought and died in a conflict they did not initiate, often amid anti-colonial uprisings in their own nations. Using a combination of first-person accounts, newspaper articles, and other historical sources, Yasmin Khan chronicles the story of Indians who took part in World War II, both as combatants and noncombatants.
Remnants of Partition: 21 Objects from a Continent Divided by Aanchal Malhotra
One of the most traumatic periods in Indian history was the division of the country into two in 1947. When it comes to remembering the horrors of partition, Remnants of Partition looks at it through the lens of material memory. It tells stories of refugees’ possessions that they brought across the border, artifacts that are personal and painful recollections of those who were affected.
Annihilation of Caste by B.R. Ambedkar
Indian scholar and anti-caste activist Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is widely considered one of India’s finest thinkers and architects of its constitution. Dissecting the Hindu scripture to reveal how deeply rooted caste hierarchies are, he argues in this article.
The History of Doing by Radha Kumar
Unlike many of its western equivalents, the women’s movement in India is steeped in history and has a more extensive network of allies in the democratic and social justice organizations. It is an account of India’s women’s movement from 1800 to 1990 in the book The History of Doing. While mainstream history sometimes obscures the ironic clashes between patriotic ideologies and the drive for equality and social justice, this book is as pertinent today as it was during the anti-colonial movements of the early twentieth century.
We Also Made History: Women in the Ambedkarite Movement by Urmila Pawar and Meenakshi Moon, Translated by Wandana Sonalkar
An original Marathi translation of this book documents the lives of female Dalit activists in the twentieth century. In addition to first-person testimonies from various Dalit women activists, this book delves into the social conditions in which Dalit women live and documents their fight against caste and gender-based exploitation.
India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha
Indian post-independence history is chronicled in this book: how the world’s greatest democracy came to be, its ups and downs since then, and how democracy has endured amid such wide-ranging cultural and ethnic diversity. Ramachandra Guha’s superb writing will keep you interested even if the latest version is about a thousand pages long.
Paradise at War by Radha Kumar
Knowing the history of a region is essential to understanding any geopolitical conflict. To bring together Kashmir’s political history, Radha Kumar used the book Paradise at War. An accessible and instructive history of the battle that has been raging for decades and has devastated millions of lives is provided in this work.