From Publishers Weekly
India is the country that was never expected to ever be a country. In the late 19th century, Sir John Strachey, a senior British official, grandly opined that the territory's diverse states simply could not possess any sort of unity, physical, political, social or religious. Strachey, clearly, was wrong: India today is a unified entity and a rising global power. Even so, it continues to defy explanation. India's existence, says Guha, an internationally known scholar (Environmentalism: A Global History
), has also been an anomaly for academic political science, according to whose axioms cultural heterogeneity and poverty do not make a nation, still less a democratic one. Yet India continues to exist. Guha's aim in this startlingly ambitious political, cultural and social survey is to explain why and how. He cheerfully concludes that India's continuing existence results from its unique diversity and its refusal to be pigeonholed into such conventional political models as Anglo-American liberalism, French republicanism, atheistic communism or Islamist theocracy. India is proudly sui generis, and with August 15, 2007, being the 60th anniversary of Indian independence, Guha's magisterial history of India since that day comes not a moment too soon. 32 pages of b&w illus., 8 maps. (Aug.)
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Historian Ramachandran Guha, the author of Environmentalism: A Global History
(1999) and The Unquiet Woods
(1989), among others, and a current resident of Bangalore, writes of what he knows. Weighing in at nearly 900 pages, India After Gandhi
successfully clarifies the convoluted history and contradictions of the world's second most populous nation. That Guha leaves questions unanswered in a book of this scope, as one critic asserts, might be considered nit-picking. To be sure, the author does choose his questions-giving particular attention to Nehru, India's first prime minister-and he doesn't shy away from offering his (mostly optimistic) opinions on important issues throughout. Still, critics agree that Guha's effort succeeds in putting a face on a country whose political and economic history, despite its size and growing influence in the "flat-world" model, remains virtually unknown by many outside India.
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