History

Revisiting the Idea of India
A review of The Indian Ideology by Perry Anderson, focusing on Indian nationalism from the colonial era to the present.

   Part 1: Gandhi, early Indian nationalism

   Part 2: Nehru, Partition, the nation state

Indians Abroad: A Story from Trinidad
A brief history of the Indian diaspora in Trinidad—today over half-a-million strong—from the colonial era to the present.

The Revenge of the East?
A review of Pankaj Mishra's "From the Ruins of Empire: The intellectuals who remade Asia."

On Caste Privilege
Much has been written about the unearned privilege of race and gender. What does the privilege of caste look like in Indian society? How and why has caste been politicized?

The Blight of Hindustan
The Indian caste system continues to mystify outsiders. Here is a brisk overview of its origins, spread, and some historical attitudes and debates.

The Dance of Indian Democracy
Why did democracy take root in India against all odds? What are its distinguishing features? Six decades later, how close is it to Ambedkar's inspiring vision of democracy?

In Light of Nalanda
What was ancient Nalanda University like? Here is a portrait based on the accounts of Chinese scholars of 7th century CE and a recent personal visit.

Marco Polo's India
Returning home from China in 1292 CE, Marco Polo spent a few months in India ... his famous book, The Travels, contains a rich social portrait of India that still resonates with us today.

On Early Islam
This five-part series on early Islamic history begins with the rise of Islam, shifts to its golden age, examines two major currents of early Islamic thought—rationalism and Sufi mysticism—and concludes with an epilogue.

Part 1: The Rise of Islam

Part 2: The Golden Age

Part 3: The Path of Reason

Part 4: The Mystic Tide

Part 5: Epilogue

The Minangkabau: Mixing Islam and Matriarchy
This matriarchal society of Muslims in Indonesia reminds us that religion and culture are never cut from whole cloth.

Decolonizing My Mind
On the politics surrounding the arrival and the spread of English in the colonies and the peculiar world of the Indian writer in English.

The Other Swastika
Can the symbol ever be redeemed in the eyes of the West? What might be lost and what could be gained in the possibility of doing so?

War and the American Republic
With the end of combat operations in Iraq, a fresh look under the hood of American jingoism.

As Though We Were Immortal
Some travel impressions prompted by the living and the dead of Varanasi, India.

Indigenous Aryans?
Few topics in ancient history are as disputed today as the origins of the Indo-Aryans in ancient Indiadisputed not in the echelons of scholarship committed to facts and the dialectical process, but by a powerful religious, nationalistic, or otherwise misguided brand of historiography.

What Confucius Said
No person has left a deeper mark on Chinese culture than Confucius, who lived 2500 years ago in an age of social turmoil.

America, the Cold War, and the Taliban
The roots of transnational Islamic terrorism lie not so much in culture and the Qur’an as in politics and the conduct of the Cold War in Afghanistan.

Atheistic Materialism in Ancient India
It comes as a surprise to many that in ancient "spiritual" India, atheistic materialism was a major force to reckon with, led by the Carvakas who predate even the Buddhists.

On the Void of Nagarjuna
The works of Nagarjuna, a Buddhist monk-philosopher who lived in South India 1800 years ago in a city we call Nagarjunakonda, represent "something of a watershed ... in the history of philosophy as a whole."

On Knowledge Without Wisdom
Philosophy today is not how the Greeks understood it, as the love of wisdom. It now paves the way for the acquisition of theoretical knowledge as an end in itself.

The Eichmann Within
Hannah Arendt's landmark Eichmann in Jerusalem documents the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi nabbed by the Israeli secret police in Argentina and brought to Jerusalem, where he was tried and executed.

The Station of Light
The life and times of Muid ad-Din ibn al-Arabi, a Sufi master of the medieval age.

On History and Historians
'To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born,' Cicero declared, 'is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?'

Al-Beruni's India
The first significant intrusion of Islam into India was led by Mahmud of Ghazni who, quite justifiably, lives in Indian history as a cruel and bloodthirsty fanatic.

Dholavira: A Harappan Metropolis
The road to Dholavira goes through a dazzling white landscape of salty mudflats. It is close to noon in early April and the mercury is already past 100F.

This Way for the Gas, Ladies & Gentlemen
Tadeusz Borowski was 21 years old when he was deported to the cluster of concentration camps in southern Poland, collectively known as Auschwitz, in 1943.

Democracy in Athens
The liberal-popular and the conservative-aristocratic emerged as the two dominant factions in Athenian democracy. The spirit of the agon (competition), fame, glory.....

The Pakistan Puzzle
On August 14th this year, Pakistan completed 60 years as an independent country. In these 60 years, the state of Pakistan has endured, but doubts about it still persist - it has been called a failed state and a rogue state.

The Lost City of Ugarit
The road to Lattakia goes over the Anti-Lebanon Range. I had left Aleppo under a blue sky at noon; now a thick fog rolls in, tall conifers appear in the valleys, visibility drops.

The Politics of God
In response to 9/11 and the alarming role of evangelical Christianity in US politics, a host of loud atheistic voices have emerged. Most belong to concerned citizens driven by their secular ideals...

Anandpur Sahib
Anandpur Sahib is a holy city in Punjab. Its historical significance to the Sikhs is second only to Amritsar. Hundreds of Sikhs once embraced martyrdom here. Sikh history is deeply marked by their struggle for survival in a volatile land....

Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka
In Aug 2005, I visited a remarkable site in Madhya Pradesh, India: the prehistoric rock shelters and paintings at Bhimbetka, discovered in 1957-58 by Dr. Vishnu S. Wakankar.

The Dilwara Temples
Many Indians claim that the Dilwara Jain temples of Mt. Abu are a more magnificient achievement than the Taj Mahal - both were stunningly ambitious, state-sponsored, multi-year, monumental, marble-work projects.

Gandhi's "Inconsistent Pacifism"
The Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee made a rare and candid admission: "Our record is far from perfect … not giving Mahatma Gandhi the Nobel Prize was the biggest omission."

Ghost Town in the Levant
Quneitra was once a bustling town in the Golan Heights and southwestern Syria's administrative capital with a population of 37,000. The word 'Quneitra' derives from Qantara, or 'bridge', between Syria, Lebanon, Jordan....

The Idea of India
A friend of mine recently asked me: How did Indians themselves refer to India during the British Raj? Did they call it "India"?

Omar Khayyam of Persia
In his lifetime, Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) achieved great fame as a master of philosophy, jurisprudence, history, medicine, astronomy, and mathematics. The Great....

Respecting the Holocaust
The UN General Assembly recently adopted by consensus a resolution condemning the denial of the Holocaust. This US sponsored resolution "urges all member states 'unreservedly to reject any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event....

Wise Man Socrates
Socrates, like Jesus and the Buddha, never committed his ideas to writing.* Our main sources on him are Plato, his student, and Xenophon, the historian. The picture that emerges from their accounts make him perhaps the greatest man of Classical Greece.

The Wonder That Was India
Various societies at different times have dazzled with their bursts of creative and intellectual energy. Historians have a penchant for dubbing them Golden Ages. Examples include the Athens of Herodotus, the Baghdad of Haroun al-Rashid, and the India of the Buddha.

Forbidden City
Surrounded by moat and high walls, the fabled Forbidden City earned its name by being closed to everyone outside the Chinese royal family and their eunuchs and maidservants.

John Frum
Some time ago, Ruchira brought to my attention an article about a village on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, where the people believe Prince Philip of England is a god. Though it might sound preposterous to many of us, it's actually not a joke.

Buddha's Finger
The monks and proprietors of Famen Temple in China's northwestern Shaanxi Province, about an hour's drive outside of Xi'an, believe the Buddha has given them the finger. Or four.

On Herodotus' Histories
What in his outlook and judgment is still noteworthy nearly 2,500 years later? What society was he a product of? What can we say about his methods, concerns, and objectivity? In other words, how should we evaluate Herodotus as a historian?

Little Boy of Hiroshima
"Little Boy was the codename of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, on August 6, 1945" by the US Air Force, the first atomic bomb ever used as a weapon...

 


Designed in collaboration with Vitalect, Inc.