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Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300 Hardcover – February 5, 2003

3.3 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"Romila Thapar is the most eminent Indian historian. This superb book is not only the basic history of how India came to be and an introduction to how the writing of history takes shape, but also, not the least, a deconstruction of the historical myth and inventions on which is based the present intolerant and exclusivist Hindu nationalism. It is essential reading today."—Eric Hobsbawm

"One of the world's most eminent historians of India, Thapar gives us a thoroughly revised edition of her authoritative general history. This one contains the accumulated research of the last thirty years and includes richly textured accounts of life in ancient India. Like its predecessor, this is indispensable reading for anyone interested in India's long and complex history."—Thomas R. Metcalf, Professor of History and Sarah Kailath Professor of Indian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of A Concise History of India

"Incorporating newer findings, methods, and interpretations, this thorough and outstandingly written addition to the author's highly acclaimed History of India, Volume One manifests her long and distinguished service to the study of Indian history. Thapar's skillful analysis of how India's past has been interpreted not only brings greater clarity to the understanding of contemporary India, but also contributes usefully to a broader study of history and historiography."—Peter L. Schmitthenner, Associate Professor of History, Virginia Tech

From the Back Cover

"Romila Thapar is the most eminent Indian historian. This superb book is not only the basic history of how India came to be and an introduction to how the writing of history takes shape, but also, not the least, a deconstruction of the historical myth and inventions on which is based the present intolerant and exclusivist Hindu nationalism. It is essential reading today."-Eric Hobsbawm "One of the world's most eminent historians of India, Thapar gives us a thoroughly revised edition of her authoritative general history. This one contains the accumulated research of the last thirty years and includes richly textured accounts of life in ancient India. Like its predecessor, this is indispensable reading for anyone interested in India's long and complex history."-Thomas R. Metcalf, Professor of History and Sarah Kailath Professor of Indian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of A Concise History of India "Incorporating newer findings, methods, and interpretations, this thorough and outstandingly written addition to the author's highly acclaimed History of India, Volume One manifests her long and distinguished service to the study of Indian history. Thapar's skillful analysis of how India's past has been interpreted not only brings greater clarity to the understanding of contemporary India, but also contributes usefully to a broader study of history and historiography."-Peter L. Schmitthenner, Associate Professor of History, Virginia Tech
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 586 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1St Edition edition (February 5, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520238990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520238992
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,973,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Raveesh Varma on March 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
Having recently finished reading Ms. Thapar's work on Indian History up to AD 1300 (Penguin), I must conclude that it is a very impressive volume. A great deal of research and study must have gone into the creation of such a remarkable opus. I thought it was all-in-all, very respectful of its subject, and especially effective in peeling away centuries of pre- and mis-conceptions imposed by colonial/western commentators. I did not consider the book, in any way, anti-India or anti-Hindu. Anyway, a few points I will make are as follows:

1. Ms. Thapar introduces many remarkable and unusual ideas at the very start of her book (in my opinion, the best part), such as race being a colonial construction. But, she fails to discuss these adequately, and very often allows her thoughts to pass on to oblivion, rather than to a definite conclusion. Maybe, a "definite conclusion" does not exist, at this point-of-time, but a more in-depth approach would have been preferred (even if it added pages to the book).

2. Secondly, the quotes used on the back cover seem to imply, that this book should be primarily taken as rebuttal to farfetched claims made about Indian history, within India today. I don't think this is how this book should be advertised. It is so much more than just that.

3. The material presented deals primarily with the social, and even economic, history of India. There is a great deal to be found on art, literature, science and architecture. But, my impression was off cultural, social and religious history, rather than political history. I understand that kings do not constitute the alpha and omega of history, but Ms. Thapar barely even mentions kings of influence, such as Kanishka, or even travelers and chroniclers, such as Fa-Hein, in any detail.

4.
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Here is something I've learned about Indian history: It is pretty controversial to write anything about Indian History. There is very little you can actually say or write about Indian history without angering someone who cares very passionately about the subject your are speaking or writing about. Undoubtably, the single biggest factor in aggravating the debate on Indian historical subjects is the "Hindu Nationalism Movement." People in the US who are even aware of this phenomenon typically describe it in political terms, for example, when writing about the actions of the BJP or "Bharatiya Janata Party" but it should surprise no one that Hindu Nationalist ideas extend directly into historical research, writing and debate. Hindu Nationalism inspired ideas take many forms in the discussion of Early Indian History.

First, there is the debate, now largely won, by the way, over whether the initial Vedic migration into India was an "invasion" or not. Obviously, Hindu Nationalists would rather have it be said that there was no invasion, and many would further argue that India is the home of ALL Indo European Languages. Well, the good news: No Aryan invasion, more like small scale migration over many years. The bad news: There is no way that the Indo European language family originated in North West India, so call that one a draw. Even finding a "neutral" source on this subject is difficult, but Romila Thapar does a good job of presenting the current historical facts in a non-inflammatory fashion.

Another major area of dispute colored by Hindu Nationalism are the pre-Mughal Turkish led raids into Western India, which allegedly resulted in temple destruction and the building of a mosque over said temple location.
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1950s McCarthy-ism in India?

I am not Indian and I have no political agenda. I am a student of Sanskrit and the Sanskrit texts. Even though I am well aware of India's sufferings and very sympathetic to her, I do recommend that you read Romila Thapar for a balance in perspective. In many ways India will always remain an enigma, but as a veritable treasury of superb metaphysics, literature, music, and art, India is in my view unparalleled. The creativity of the Indian people, their sheer capacity for endurance and wisdom is awesome.

In my endless search to understand India I came across the lady historian, Romila Thapar. Thapar is highly respected by some and vilified by others. I want to share what I found with those who - like me - might not be aware. Frankly, when I first began reading her `Early India, From the Origins to AD 1300' my feeling was that she was a bit dry, western oriented, and tedious. Where was all the magic and mysticism I had loved in Alain Danielou's `A Brief History of India'? Then thanks to the Internet, I realized that Romila Thapar had made some serious enemies. This led me to further investigate and to learn why such a respected historian would elicit such vehemence.

Romila Thapar [born 1931], Professor Emeritus in History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, does not believe that history should be used as a political weapon and is against what she terms a 'communal interpretation' of Indian history that chooses facts through an extremely selective partisan filter. Again, I am not Indian and have no cultural bias, no political agenda, and no vested interest in Indian politics.
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