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Paperback India: A History. Revised and Updated Book

ISBN: 0802145582

ISBN13: 9780802145581

India: A History. Revised and Updated

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Book Overview

Fully revised with forty thousand new words that take the reader up to present-day India, John Keay's India: A History spans five millennia in a sweeping narrative that tells the story of the peoples of the subcontinent, from their ancient beginnings in the valley of the Indus to the events in the region today.

In charting the evolution of the rich tapestry of cultures, religions, and peoples that comprise the modern nations of...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

An excellent book for starting a study on Indian history

Having read all the editorials and customer reviews of this obviously popular book, I realise that there is a great danger of letting one's personal view of history get in the way of an objective analysis of the contents of a books such as this. So let me say up front that I have no firm views on the provenance of Inidan civilisation, other than to say that I am attracted to the theory that the Indus civilisation is the forerunner of the later Indian civilisations. But holding that view doesn't necessarily make it so!My interest in history goes back to my college days, and I now have the time to read as much as history I can take. I have usually tended to concentrate on the Ancient Near East and Europe and those dark eras (such as Western Europe in 5th - 6th centuries AD, Ancient Near East in Late Bronze Age times, and the early civilisations prior to that) where documentary evidence is either sparse, contradictory, confusing, or downright incorrect. But I have never been totally satisfied with the explanations of how the early civilisations developed, and the impact of India on these early civilisations was an unkown to meOne of the problems I have in understanding these complex civilisations is how many of the theories are based on so few facts. I have read many books where the author has built hypothesis upon hypothesis to come up with conclusions which I, along with many others, find very hard to accept. These books are often very selective in their use of the facts and tend ro focus only on those which support their theories. This calls into question their objectivity, and so I usually suspend my judgement on their findings until I have searched out more hard data. Even so, they have usually served a useful function in forcing me to widen my search "for the truth" I accept the fact that there are historians and that there are scholars and that they have a different focus. For me a successful and respected historian (like John Keay) is best if he concentrates on a survey of what is known, what the various competing theories are, and how the available data has been interpreted to support these theories. For scholars it is different, because they are trying to discover and interpret more facts, and for that they must have some view or theory as to what happened. This is why I, as an amateur, must be ever watchful for the use of selective arguments, and the danger of theories developed on the basis of hypotheses built on other hypotheses. For me, the completeness and the correct interpretation of available data is very important.Like most westerners, my knowledge of India is very limited. Oh yes, I had learned about the Raj from my school days, and realise how British Empire centric it was. In recent years, as I read more about the Ancient Near East, the more I kept on picking up peripheral references to contacts with early India. So a book such as "Search for the Cradle of Civilisation" by Feuerstein, Kak, Fr

A Macro-level treatise of Indian History

Readers who peruse this book should combine the 30,000 foot perspective that Keay provides in this book with the 'in the trenches' view of societies one gets - for example, by reading V.S.Naipaul's essays on his travels through ancient societies. I think both views are necessary and complementary to get a good grasp of why certain civilizations are as they are today.A micro-level perspective cannot do justice to interplay of the plethora of ethnic subcultures that exist in India today which are offsprings of dynasties and kingdoms of yore. The macro-level perspective of Keay enables one to gain insights into this interplay. One understands for example why there is a pre-dominance of vegetarianism in Karnataka today as opposed to the other South Indian states of Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. One could attribute it to the influence of Jainism in Karnataka which can be traced to Chandragupta Maurya who converted to the Jain faith and settled down with his followers at Sravanabelagola in Karnataka.I find insights to this ethnic interplay very fascinating since my own childhood was a story of constant relocation from one part of India to the other and being constantly exposed to new sights and sounds and tastes of various parts of India. Keay's treatise adds new dimension to my childhood experiences in that it enables me to connect historical events of India's past to my memories of India and her people. I would heartily recommend this to Indians as well since this panaromic view would put into perspective the little snippets of Indian history learnt during the school years to meet the demands of an examination based curriculum. If read with genuine intellectual curiosity to learn about the past of their country, it will leave the reader eminently literate about their own heritage.I think Keay's effort goes a long way in being objective and dispassionate and amazingly free of any cultural bias. Its like listening to the BBC. It is a Eurocentric view but thankully not as self-absorbed like the American media.

Superb General History of India

This book is by far the best general history of India which I have found(I can only speak of English texts). Keay covers the full sweep of Indian history without spending two thirds of the book on the last two hundred years. Most other Indian historis focus too much on the colonial era. Moreover, when they describe pre-colonial times they mainly talk about the great "highpoints" such as the the Mauryan empire, the Gupta empire and the Great Moguls. Yet these highpoints only lasted for a small portion of the timeline of Indian history and usually left large portions of the subcontinent outside their way. The book has a superb graph which illustrates this point.Keay explicits states that he wants to avoid the common practice of treating Indian history as different. Most other histories deemphasize chronology and emphasize religion and society (especially the caste system). They almost treat India as timeless. While religion and society are very important topics, I found it very refreshing to read Keay's book with its greater emphasis on chronology. I strongly feel that he found a much better balance than I read in other popular histories of India.Keay expertly strings together the various threads of India's history. This is no easy task given what at times is a plethora of dynasties and rulers. He was able to strike a good balance in giving a lot of information, without making the text tedious. "India: A History" is a book of which I have already reread portions, and I am sure I will consult it many times in the future.

India's Magnificent Sweeping Epic

India is one of the world's oldest civilizations. John Keay focuses on the centuries after the arrival of the Europeans and British and the social effects of foreign influence. He begins the book in 3000 B.C., then parallels the Aryan invasion and moves through Indian history and sweeps through British rule with critical accounts of British government that are deeply moving and revealing. This book is definitely no apology for British rule. He demonstrates industrial deforestation of India by the British and the social consequences of this and other enviromental and economic actions.He continues on through Ghandi into the modern period and the difficulties of government and leadership in the post-Ghandi period.The books is written with great scholarship, although Mr. Keay's opinions dominate throughout. This books is definitely seen through the author's eyes and is perhaps, less objective than this reader desires, yet the thrilling perspective and colorful sequence of Indian history race through the reader's mind, with clear and beautifully written prose.Highly recommended for general reading. If someone desires greater scholarship, one must go to more specific references, however this is the finest general history of India that I have yet read. In fact, I cannot put the book down.
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