Thursday, July 13, 2017

A New History of India

A New History of India
© 2000, sixth edition Stanley Wolpert
471 pages



India isn't an easy place to keep running. Stanley Wolpert's A New History of India gives a chiefly-political, mostly-modern history of one of the world's most ancient civilizations, a land whose soaring mountains and depth of peoples have frustrated long-term attempts at centralized control.  Beyond a geographic introduction,  and some early  content on  Indian religion, culture, and literature,  A New History largely delivers a story of rulers and killings.    The Indian subcontinent seems to have been riven in war for most of its history,  with occasional figures like Ashoka and Akbar rising to reign over largish- and stable-ish parts of the north.   This pattern of central authority giving way to chaos, then back to authority again, has a heart-like rhythm about it.  British India  receives the lion's share of attention (both the accretion of British authority, and the Quit India campaign)  and as the book draws closer to the 'modern' period, the author gets saucier.  In the section on WW2, for instance,  he refers to the Japanese catching the British at Singapore with their gin-and-tonics half-down.   This particular edition covers India (and Pakistan) up to the year 1999, but later editions cover India until until 2008.  Frankly, I found the running commentary on India in Nehru's Glimpses of World History  far more useful as far as pre-modern history goes.   This reminded me a bit of The Persians: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Iran  in its near-solitary fixation on rulers, deaths, and successions.

I think I may follow this with  Nehru's own The Discovery of India, the name of which I am borrowing for this Discovery of Asia inquiry into Indian and Chinese history.





6 comments:

  1. Isn't this by Stanley and not Lewis Wolpert? At least that's what it says on the cover.....

    Looks interesting. India is an amazing culture and has a *very* long and complex history. Naturally I have a few books in the pipeline on the jewel in the Imperial crown.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You saw nothing...(but thanks! ;-))

    I was astonished to learn that the departure of Bangladesh from Pakistan cost it over half of its population, and the new state became -- overnight-- the world's eighth largest. That is an INCREDIBLE amount of people for such a small spot of land.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The partition is, I believe, covered in Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children'. There's SO much history in that continent that you could spend a whole lifetime becoming familiar with it. My particular interests are The Indian Mutiny and The East India Company. Although reading about that will inevitably lead me on to other areas of interest!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Stephen, have you visited or do you plan on visiting India. The closest I came was the Indian Ocean, and anchorage at Sri Lanka. I had an opportunity to go to go ashore at Sri Lanka and India but passed on the option.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the only European i've heard of that successfully lived in Ceylon was Arthur C. Clarke...
      and i thought they drank Singapore Slings instead of G&T's... maybe they're the same thing...

      Delete
    2. @R.T. Realistically, as far as international travel goes I can't see going any further than western Europe -- although if it were safer I'd love to see Mexico and other parts of central and South America.

      @Mudpuddle: The Sling seems to have cherry brandy. Sounds delicious.

      Delete