The Shortest History of India

Book review by Deane Barker tags: history, india

This book lived up to its title – it was a short, competent history of India.

That said, it suffers from a problem of any book dealing with ancient history – it can be hard to transition between time periods and know what’s factual and what’s legend. Consider:

  1. There’s a period with everything is just total myth, passed down through writings and oral history. A lot of this (in any ancient culture) is supernatural fantasy.
  2. There’s a period where we have some archaeological evidence and we’re drawing assumptions from the examination of that. A lot of this is heavily assumed and debated.
  3. Finally, there’s a period where we have firm historical record, and we know that such and such a thing happened. Some of this is interpreted or “spun,” differently, but few people disagree on the facts.

When do you transition between these states? As I was reading the early chapters in this book, I couldn’t figure out what was myth and legend (#1) and when actual history began (#2 and #3).

(I had the exact same problem with a podcast about the history of Rome once. I had to email the creator and ask him, point-blank, “At what point is any of this true?”)

Beyond that, I learned (or, maybe, just acknowledged) that the recently history of India is fundamentally bound up with British colonialism. The history of India was pretty much at the whims of the British for a very long time. So, when you’re reading about India, you are, in some senses, reading about the United Kingdom, since decisions from there sort of reverberated downwards.

Also, I did learn quite about the Muslim history of India, and how this resulted in Pakistan (again, a British invention) and, eventually, Bangladesh.

I’m glad I read it. It’s quite short. It was worth the time.

Book Info

John Zubrzycki
  • I have read this book. According to my records, I completed it on .
  • A hardcover copy of this book is currently in my home library.

This is item #46 in a sequence of 785 items.

You can use your left/right arrow keys to navigate