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A History of India: Volume 1 (Penguin History) Paperback – September 1, 1990

2.5 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Romila Thapar is Emeritus Professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin History
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised ed. edition (September 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140138358
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140138351
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,054,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Srikanth Meenakshi on March 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
As can be seen from the other reviews, opinions about this book span the spectrum. I just finished reading the book, and overall, I found the book useful. The language was lucid and the structure compact. It takes the readers from ancient times to the year 1526 (the year that Babur won the first battle of Panipat and laid the foundation for the Mugal empire). Chapters in the book deal mostly with distinct periods and they begin with a coverage of the kingdoms of the period, then proceed to administration methods, arts and literature, and finally to religion and culture. South India gets mostly distinct treatment from the North, but there are constant cross-references of co-occuring events. There is a definite attempt to provide coverage of what peoples lives were like during the times, and what the social customs were. All this is good.

However, as some others have pointed out, the author does come off as having a distaste for anything that is associated with the religion of Hinduism. How palatable this is for the reader will depend on the reader's own perception. For me, there were definitely places where I accepted the acid tone and stern language of the author - especially when she talks about the caste system, and how it prevented the democratization of education, arts and literature (the latter also a product of the treatment given to the Sanskrit language). There were also places in the book where the text appeared needlessly harsh and biased. In the latter parts of the book, the author, while praising Islamic architecture, draws a comparison with the pillars in Hindu temples and comments that the latter were unnecessarily ornate! For every piece of warranted criticism, there appeared to be an unwarranted one.

In summary, if your goal is to get a reasonable and comprehensive view of Indian history, you can't go too wrong with this book. At the same time, if you have strong ideas about India already, it would be difficult to get through it.
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By A Customer on December 30, 1998
Format: Paperback
The book was published in the 60s and that shows. So much new has been discovered about ancient India since then that the book is hopelessly outdated. I would recommend to Romila Thapar that she should revise it.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This book is outdated in most parts and is written in a very dry style. Romila Thapar presents a Marxist interpreation of Indian history. Her scholarship was severely criticized in great detail by Meenakshi Jain, Sita Ram Goel, Koenraad Elst and Kalavai Venkat. This book in particular was reviewed and criticized by Vishal Agarwal. Her research on Ancient History is outdated (she also doesn't know Sanskrit, which any historian on Ancient India should know), and she is a negationist when it comes to the Islamic invasions.

Don't waste your time with this. I'd recommend to read the works of better historians, like R.C.Majumdar, Jadunath Sarkar, Sita Ram Goel, B.B. Lal, S.P. Gupta, K.S. Lal , S.R. Rao and Harsh Narain.
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By A Customer on January 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book was written almost 40 years ago, since when archaeologists and historians have made great advances in the understanding of ancient India. It is written engagingly, but it needs a revision badly. In its current form it misleads as much as it illuminates. Ms Thapar, please update your book!
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By A Customer on August 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
Romila Thapar's writings on India present a sanitized, revisionist view of the encounter between India and Islam. She interposes her Marxist ideology too strongly into her narrative which makes it hard for the reader to trust her judgments. She is unable to define an `Indian' view of Indian history.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a very manageable book, if one wants to delve into the ancient Indian history and society. The author is a well known historian and she effortlessly explains some of the more contradictory features in the Indian history which baffles many western readers. It is written in an academic format in the sense that one may feel he/she is reading class notes but one has to understand that when the author is writing almost 3,000 years of history, it can get a little dry at times. If the reader is patient one can understand the rich history of India.I would definitely recommend this book to a reader who wants to understand Indian history deeply.
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Format: Paperback
While historians aren't well known for their colorful writing, I found this book an exceptionally dry read with biased information at every other page. By biased I mean that it is very clear the authors opinions are the fuel for much of the commentary. Some of the information in the book is insightful, for example the process a "snake charmer" has to go through to keep the dangerous cobra. (they have to remove the fangs) They are portrayed as starving no matter how much trouble they've gone through to catch and de fang the snake. I don't know that all of them are, but this is the "unveiling" of the romanticism about the ideas many have about snake charmers. There are definitely good parts, but seeing as how I am not adept in Indian History, I don't know how to compare this with other Indian History books. However with the authors history, and with my knowledge of other cultural history books, paired with the concerned reviews,I wonder how reliable this book is, and why it was used for a beginning Indian History class. I did learn from it, but I really do believe that there are far better works on Indian History, simply from understanding that a well written unbiased book is what is needed when reading about history.
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