/History

History reproduces columns that analyse interesting or important events and controversies of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Why I’m Not Nostalgic For An Undivided India, Hindustan Times

Sixty-eight years is a fairly advanced age for an individual, but a small span of time in the life of a nation. This must be why, every so often, a book or article appears lamenting the Partition of India in 1947. These blame the Congress, the Muslim League, Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru, Patel—sometimes one, sometimes several, sometimes [...]

The Only Lesson That History Can Teach Us, Hindustan Times

I am sometimes asked about the ‘lessons’ that history can teach us. The question presumes that the study of the past can help provide guidance for the present—and future. But is this presumption accurate? Can politicians exercise power more wisely if they are better informed about the past? The brilliant, maverick, historian A.J.P. Taylor was sceptical [...]

By |2015-08-25T13:19:07+00:00August 2nd, 2015|Categories: History|Tags: , |

Some Forgotten Heroes Of The Emergency, The Telegraph

As we mark the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the Emergency, we shall hear many politicians speak about their sufferings and sacrifices. L. K. Advani has already spoken, and no doubt other BJP leaders will follow. Perhaps we should remind them that Sanjay Gandhi’s wife Maneka is one of their Cabinet Ministers, while his henchman [...]

The Bose Whom Japan Still Remembers, The Telegraph

I was recently in Japan, and asked my hosts what memories remained in that country of Subhas Chandra Bose, the great Indian patriot who fought alongside the Japanese against the British and whose ashes are believed to be housed in a temple in Tokyo. They answered that Subhas Bose was familiar only to specialists in Indian [...]

How Gandhi’s Martyrdom Saved India, Hindustan Times

On the 31st of January 1948, a former Indian Civil Service officer named Malcolm Darling, then living in retirement in London, wrote in his diary: ‘Gandhi was assassinated yesterday. … Very difficult to say what will happen, but it is as if a ship has lost its keel. Further disintegration seems inevitable, and what happens to [...]

Why Uttar Pradesh Must Be Broken Up, Hindustan Times

‘Commissions of enquiry are often the stock-in-trade of governments to defuse crises and buy themselves time’. Thus writes the historian Gyanesh Kudaisya, in an excellent introduction to a new edition of the Report of the States Reorganization Commission, first published in 1955. The States Reorganization Commission (hereafter SRC) was set up in response to persistent demands [...]

Nehru The Spiritualist, The Telegraph

In an important essay published some years ago, Sunil Khilnani argued that ‘Nehru was a politician without religious faith, but in possession of the deepest moral sense. He tried to develop a morality without the fall-back of religion, and while having to act under the compulsions of wielding power.’ That Nehru was sceptical of religion is [...]

By |2014-12-08T22:05:01+00:00November 15th, 2014|Categories: History|Tags: , , , |

Nehru and Patel, Hindustan Times

The best biography of Vallabhbhai Patel was written by Rajmohan Gandhi. Based on full access to Patel’s own papers, it is a rich account of his life and struggles, set against the context of the historical forces which shaped them. Rajmohan Gandhi’s Patel: A Life, was first published in March 1991. The preface, written in April [...]

Paranoia and Triumphalism, The Telegraph

In his recent book, History in the Making, J. H. Elliot makes an interesting distinction between two different kinds of nationalist ideologies. On the one hand, there is the ‘chosen nation’ syndrome, where a country is said to have special ‘spiritual, biological, [or] racial’ characteristics’ that shall make it dominant in global affairs. On the other [...]

Our Best and Worst Prime Ministers, The Telegraph

In his recent press conference, Dr Manmohan Singh said he would leave it to history and historians to judge his tenure as Prime Minister. This column provides an interim verdict, by assessing his record against that of other men and women who have held the post. Let’s begin with our first and longest-serving Prime Miister. Jawaharlal [...]