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Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars A massive, balanced overview of political evolution across South asia, 11 April 2014
This review is from: India: A History (Paperback)
Keay's history is incredibly detailed, with so much that was new to me that I felt like a complete ignoramus. It's also a very disciplined, focused history. Keay shuns speculative reflection, sticks to the available evidence, orders things chronologically, and focuses on matters of governance far more than on culture or ecology. This means he has fairly little to say concerning the epic pre-Maurya past, but gives massive detail on the political life of all major historic administrations. Although the writing often shows a masterful touch of dry wit, it can be so fact-oriented as to be literalistic, as in the explanation that the difference between Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhists was that the Hinayana sect regarded the Buddha as a teacher, while the Mahayana sect deified him as a god.

In treating the history of post-independence India, Keay gives a more wide-ranging, reflective series of essays. Also, the book does not narrow it's focus with partition to India alone. Instead, the post-partition states of Pakistan and Bangladesh share equivalent attention. Save for the omission of Sri Lanka, the book could easily be called "South Asia: A History." Concerning the modern rise of ethnic exclusivity and cultural supremacism, Keay waxes deeply pessimistic. He documents the horrors of this trend unstintingly, and only pulls up for a hopeful ending in the last few pages.
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Location: Toronto, Canada

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,957