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India: A History by John Keay

India: A History (2000)

by John Keay

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Exhaustive, and somewhat exhausting too, but a very interesting look at an important country and area from pre-history until recent times. While there is no way I will retain much of this, some will stick and it was definitely worth reading. ( )
  ehousewright | Jul 9, 2017 |
This is an excellent history of India. I found it exciting, and so I was surprised that some people found it to be dry. It is detailed indeed, and there is so much to be discovered.

John Keay has done us a great service by laying out the book in sections age wise, which makes the history easy to follow. The history of the country has been extremely turbulent, with shifting borders, loyalties and influences. It can be bewildering, and the manner in which the book has been written and laid out makes it easy to follow.

It is well written, and I can only but recommend it to people who want to know about India. ( )
  RajivC | Aug 30, 2014 |
The material is too large for a single volume, although the author has done justice to the history of the subcontinent without any notable omissions (as Nehruvian history books are wont to do). ( )
  salvadesswaran | Mar 29, 2013 |
Covers a lot of history over several millenia in one volume - and does it pretty well, with good style and coverage of multiple kingdoms. Dizzying, but good. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 29, 2013 |
There is a staggering amount of detail in this book and the scope, in terms of time period and subject matter covered (e.g. religion, politics etc), is huge. The text in both the hardback and paperback is, as a consequence, rather small.

Unfortunately, I found much of the content rather uninteresting, as it extensively recounts the history of dynasty after dynasty that I was not particularly interested in. There is a good deal of complexity to a number of the topics covered, e.g. development of the Hindu religion, and the authors style is not at all suited to this. Keay's writing is, at times, unnecessarily convoluted and verbose. Some may appreciate the challenge of interpreting this, but I felt that it was rather pretentious. When faced with such difficult subject matter the last thing I wanted was to have to re-read sentences in an attempt to decipher material that could easily have been delivered in a more straightforward fashion.

My interests were far better catered for by the superb 'India after Gandhi' by Ramachandra Guha, but if the history of the subcontinent from the beginning is what you're after then this is probably the book for you. Just bear in mind that it is no small undertaking. ( )
  cwhouston | Nov 21, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
It is hard to imagine anyone succeeding more gracefully in producing a balanced overview than John Keay has done
added by MMcM | editThe Guardian, William Dalrymple (May 12, 2000)
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (73)

Architecture of Karnataka

Ashoka's Major Rock Edicts

Ashokan Edicts in Delhi

Battle of Chillianwala

Bengal famine of 1943

Bhagavad Gita


Hindu devotional movements

History of Karnataka

History of Kolkata

History of Maharashtra

History of Tamil Nadu

Narasimhavarman I

Narasimhavarman II

Permanent Settlement

Political history of medieval Karnataka

Political history of Mysore and Coorg (1761–99)

Political history of Mysore and Coorg (1800–1947)

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802137970, Paperback)

The history of what is now India stretches back thousands of years, further than that of nearly any other region on earth. Yet, observes historian John Keay, most historical work on India concentrates on the period after the arrival of Europeans, with predictable biases, distortions, and misapprehensions. One, for example, is the tendency to locate the source of social conflict in India's many religions--to which Keay retorts, "Historically, it was Europe, not India, which consistently made religion grounds for war."

Taking the longest possible view, Keay surveys what is both provable and invented in the historical record. His narrative begins in 3000 B.C., with the complex, and little-understood, Harappan period, a time of state formation and the development of agriculture and trade networks. This period coincides with the arrival of Indo-European invaders, the so-called Aryans, whose name, of course, has been put to bad use at many points since. Keay traces the growth of subsequent states and kingdoms throughout antiquity and the medieval period, suggesting that the lack of unified government made the job of the European conquerors somewhat easier--but by no means inevitable. He continues to the modern day, his narrative ending with Indian-Pakistani conflicts in 1998.

Fluently told and well documented, Keay's narrative history is of much value to students and general readers with an interest in India's past and present. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:12 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

This probing and provocative chronicle of 5,000 years of South Asian history blends together insights from a variety of scholarly fields and weaves them together to chart the evolution of the rich tapestry of cultures, religions, and peoples that makes up the modern nations of Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.… (more)

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