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45 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History conceived as medicine for Western imperialists and Hindus
As a relative newcomer to the history of India, I found this a decent introduction to the issues and approaches to them that have shaped modern Indian political life. The two central themes that emerge are first, the nature of colonial rule (under Britain, of course--the term is never used of Muslim masters, nor is "imperialism") and the process of separation from it, and...
Published on May 1, 2008 by chainlink

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3.0 out of 5 stars Could be better
Could be better. A lot of emphasis on Mughals and not much about the rebellions that took place towards the end. Not enough justice done to the Maratha and Sikh history. Also has opinionated facts. Some topics are incorrect from other history books. Overall, find another book for Indian history if you can.
Published on October 7, 2012 by MP


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45 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History conceived as medicine for Western imperialists and Hindus, May 1, 2008
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This review is from: A Concise History of Modern India (Cambridge Concise Histories) (Paperback)
As a relative newcomer to the history of India, I found this a decent introduction to the issues and approaches to them that have shaped modern Indian political life. The two central themes that emerge are first, the nature of colonial rule (under Britain, of course--the term is never used of Muslim masters, nor is "imperialism") and the process of separation from it, and second, the problems involved in intercommunal and inter-caste relationships in the context of subsequent Indian democracy.

I had been looking in particular for a sense of how the conversation between Muslims and Hindus about India's past goes, if a "conversation" can be said to exist on the subject: how do Muslims justify their period(s) of rule to their former subjects? How do Hindus as Hindus make sense of their past as subjects of Muslim rule? The extreme positions on both sides are easily discovered, but these extremes don't really meet in conversation.

I was disappointed, though, in this respect: the Metcalfs do not so much convey a sense of the course of this conversation as take one side of it. It is as though they conceive of their history as a kind of therapy against Hindu distrust of Islam: in this treatment, Islam changed nothing, was never involved as an actor, was never alien to India, an influence from "outside." The problems begin only when the Brits and later, Hindus, attempt to conceptualize the communal structure of the subcontinent in too-rigid terms. Mughals and other Muslim dynasties never, apparently, tried to conceptualize anything (let alone by means of Islamic categories!), or if they did, kept their categories loose and supple (well-known characteristics of Islamic thought, of course), for no ill effects are shown to follow, for anybody except, perhaps, for a few rival Hindu dynasties, from centuries of Muslim rule.

But those hapless Brits! The book contains page after page of English terms hugged by ironic scare quotes--sad results of pathetic colonial attempts to make sense of religious and political characteristics of India. Again, the authors' ironic knowingness is directed only at British and Hindu efforts to comprehend and manipulate, never at Muslim ones.

In the end, one feels rather manipulated oneself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars academic tone, unique insights, February 18, 2012
This review is from: A Concise History of Modern India (Cambridge Concise Histories) (Paperback)
Read it on a recent trip to India, it's extremely well-written and surprisingly engaging. The authors depict India's history from an academic perspective and put events in a global context, enabling the reader to understand the nation and its current sociopolitical environment.

There are some biases that I assume arise from the the authors being Western academics, but I can't say I disagreed too often. Overall, it gave me a different perspective from what I am used to hearing from my family and Indian peers. As an Indian raised partly in India and then mostly around Indians in the US, I always wondered, "If our nation is so great, why are we one of the worst off third world countries out there? Why are there such disparities? Why is there so much corruption?" Was it entirely because of British rule and Imperialism? Or was it due to the nepotism and corruption of leaders who have taken advantage of the populace over the past half century? Or, worst of all, was it merely the bickering among a people who might have otherwise united to overcome their struggles, both within their country and against imperialism?

Ultimately, I came out with new ideas - though not complete theories - on how each of those is true to an extent and why. However, this book is far from comprehensive and I only took it as an addendum to what I had already learned and what I will eventually learn and observe on my own. I am very glad I read it, and I will probably re-read it when the next edition comes out.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Could be better, October 7, 2012
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This review is from: A Concise History of Modern India (Cambridge Concise Histories) (Paperback)
Could be better. A lot of emphasis on Mughals and not much about the rebellions that took place towards the end. Not enough justice done to the Maratha and Sikh history. Also has opinionated facts. Some topics are incorrect from other history books. Overall, find another book for Indian history if you can.
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A Concise History of Modern India (Cambridge Concise Histories)
A Concise History of Modern India (Cambridge Concise Histories) by Barbara Daly Metcalf (Paperback - October 9, 2006)
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