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India: A History Hardcover – 1 Apr 2000


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (1 April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002557177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002557177
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 106,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

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 McNamee

Review

‘A delight… one of the best general studies of the subcontinent’
Andrew Lycett, Sunday Times

‘Ambitious, colourful and fascinating’
Lawrence James, The Times

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
IN HINDU TRADITION, as in Jewish and Christian tradition, history of a manageable antiquity is sometimes said to start with the Flood. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By S. Siddhanta on 7 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Being an Indian myself, I have gone through our history labouriously over the 10 years in primary schooling. This book covers it all exceedingly well and also relates too other civilizations / events around the world.
Nowhere did I find it wanting for details.
There were several eyeopeners as the history was narrated in stark impartial reality - so it was refreshing after being misled by the grandeurs depicted on some dramatised versions on Indian TV.

The only fallback is that the language is a bit complex and is not suited for continuous and smooth reading. I think this has been mentioned by one more reviewer. Some may also find it too detailed as it takes great pains to cover all events and dynasties, and justify the conclusions by stating archelogical evidences.

However, I do not regret buying it and will recommend to anyone who wishes to get an idea of Indian history.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jay on 23 Jun. 2013
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The style is dry and academic. It's a tough read with many many places, people and periods that you are unfamiliar with. But I guess if you want a panoramic view of such a vast subject then you have to accept it won't be easy. I've decided to read it in two halves as I didn't think I could get through the whole 600 pages in one go. It's a real pity that there is so little accessible history on pre-Empire India. If you do get this book, I would encourage you also to get (as I did) the BBC documentary "The story of India" by Michael Wood on DVD. This may just help add a bit of colour and picture to Keay's book. I may have been a bit mean only giving this 3 stars. The positives are that the author has tried not to compromise on detail and opinions backed with evidence.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amit Guha on 2 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
If you think that history books you read at your school in India were a bit boring you must read this book! John Keay has condensed more than 2000 years of the complex and intricate history of the subcontinent into a few hundred very interesting pages.

Yet a lot of intense research has gone into this book and that will make you rethink and question the assumptions you took for granted. Did the Aryans really sweep through the mountains and push the Indus valley people south, or was it a gradual process of assimilation? How did the religion of the Vedas gradually morph into the complex, diverse Hinduism we know today?

This book delves into the complex personalities and lives of Mughal rulers like Akbar and Aurangzeb rather than repeat the one-sided views popularized in school history books.

A wonderful introduction to the many dynasties and personalities of Indian history and a great starting point to explore specific regional or dynastic histories further.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Mark Hillary on 3 Oct. 2003
Format: Paperback
Keay manages to compress thousands of years of history into 500 or so pages in this single-volume history. It is a very useful guide to the history of this fascinating nation and allows the reader to look right back to the classic Sanskrit literature and ancient civilisations, through to the modern wonders of the information technology boom of the nineties. India is a land of contrasts and Keay provides enough detail for the book to be useful, without getting mired in differing interpretations. If you want to understand modern India then it is essential to have some idea of where the nation developed from, this book is a great help.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ondulino on 4 Mar. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am very fond of India and its culture and spiritual outlook on world. I got this book on recommendation of a friend and I gotta say it's amazing. The book is very factual it's written in very easy to read/follow style. I was very suprised how nicely the book flows. Though author is not into 'religions' I personally feel that he gives very nice and comprehensive explanation what were the circumstances like and how the religions/culture of India got changed over centuries without being judgimental. I think everybody who is intersted in India, yoga students/student/followers of easter religions should read this book to see how it all came about and how religion and culture got interpreted over centuries.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By deepak s fernandes on 21 July 2012
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I strongly, strongly recommend this book for it's breadth AND depth -- it gives you a comprehensive picture of Indian history from Harappan times until the modern era.

This is also written in a very lucid and extremely readable style.

Anyone who wants to know a little or a lot about India should read this -- it belies simple answers given to questions like "the British Raj", "Moslem rule" etc.

A must read in my opinion
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By conjunction on 25 Aug. 2012
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I should explain that I only read the second half of this book, from about 1600 when the British became involved. I bought it because I wanted to know more about the British East India Company, and also wanted an overview of the history since partition.

For these purposes the book was great.

On Amazon.co.uk many reviews refer to the book being hard work to read, and many American reviews describe it as dry.

I found it neither, although it did take me thirty or forty pages to tune into the author's style, which is really high-grade journalism, not to question his scholarship. It reads like an articulate lecture by someone who thoroughly understands his subject.

One reviewer said you need some prior knowledge. Perhaps you do. I came to the book with knowledge of post-independence India being only what I had gleaned from newspapers over the years, but that was enough. I had also many years ago read Gandhi's autobiography, which is a book that sticks in the mind.

Regarding the East India Company and the development of British rule, Keay dispels any notion of the British as avuncular colonists. When push came to shove they were decisive and at times brutal. We Brits like to appear as nice imperialists. Effective yes; nice, not unless it was convenient.

Having said that the Brits and Indians appear to have had a certain mutual regard.

The story since independence is complex and fast-moving and I felt Keay told the story with conviction. He doesn't burden his text with footnotes, jargon or prevarication and plonks his opinion down on the page, which is just as well given how much he has to tell.
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