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The most authoritative and highly regarded single-volume history of India – from ancient time to the modern day. Five millennia of the sub-continent’s social, economic, political and cultural history are interpreted by one of our finest writers on India and the Far East.
India’s history begins with a highly advanced urban civilisation in the Indus valley, regressing to a tribal and pastoral nomadism, and then evolving into a uniquely stratified society. The pattern of inward invasion plus outward migration was established early: from Alexander the Great via the march of Islam and the great Moghuls to the coming of the East India Company and the establishment of the British Raj.
Older, richer and more distinctive than almost any other, India’s culture furnishes all that the historian could wish for in the way of continuity and diversity. The peoples of the Indian subcontinent, while sharing a common history and culture, are not now, and never have been, a single unitary state; the book accommodates Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as other embryonic nation states like the Sikh Punjab, Muslim Kashmir and Assam.
In this brilliant new edition, John Keay continues the narrative of India’s history – covering events from partition to the present day and examining the very different fortunes of the three successor states: Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Republic of India. Based on the latest research, this is an indispensible history of a country set to be a definitive influence on the future of world economics, politics and culture.
‘A delight… one of the best general studies of the subcontinent’
Andrew Lycett, Sunday Times
‘Ambitious, colourful and fascinating’
Lawrence James, The Times
About the author
John Keay is a writer, broadcaster and historian whose books include INTO INDIA, INDIA DISCOVERED, WHEN MEN AND MOUNTAINS MEET, HIGHLAND DROVE, THE HONOURABLE COMPANY: A HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH EAST INDIA COMPANY, THE GREAT ARC and (with his wife Julia) the COLLINS ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF SCOTLAND. He has travelled extensively in India and the Far East, and specialised in Asian history and current affairs.
Sweeping from the ancient brick cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, built in the Indus Valley around 2000 B.C., to modern India's urban middle class armed with computers and cell phones, this erudite, panoramic history captures the flow of Indian civilization. No apologist for Britannia's rule, British historian Keay (Into India, etc.) gives the lie to comforting fantasies of the British Raj as the benevolently run "Jewel in the Crown." For most Indians, "Pax Britannica meant mainly `Tax Britannica,'" he writes. Nor was British-ruled India peaceful, he adds, because India became a launch pad for British wars against Indonesia, Nepal and Burma, for the invasion of Afghanistan and the quashing of native revolts--often with the coerced participation of Indian troops. Finally, the Raj was "Axe Britannica," beginning the extensive deforestation of the subcontinent and the systematic suppression of its rural economy. Keay challenges much conventional scholarship in a dispassionate chronicle based largely on a fresh look at primary sources. For instance, the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, enthroned in 268 B.C., is revered because he preached tolerance and renounced armed violence, yet Keay notes that, contrary to popular opinion, Ashoka never specifically abjured warfare nor did he disband his army. Keay concludes this illustrated history by astutely surveying India's erratic progress in the half-century since independence, marked by communal violence, resurgence of regional interests and the rise of Hindu nationalism. This careful study serves up a banquet for connoisseurs and serious students of India.