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


The Hindu

In a delicious paradox that can only be Indian, the man who best embodied the spirit of the holy Hindu city of Banaras was a Muslim. Although he was born in Bihar, Bismillah Khan moved to Banaras as a young man, and lived there until he died, spending some seven decades in an old, crumbling haveli, [...]

By |2011-10-07T20:44:09+00:00August 27th, 2006|Categories: History|


The Hindu

John Kenneth Galbraith, who died recently, was an economist of capacious interests and controversial views. His many works of scholarship were widely read, acclaimed by some and dismissed by others. I am not an economist, and thus not in a position to judge the merits of Galbraith’s writings on the modern corporation or the free market. [...]

By |2011-10-07T20:44:07+00:00June 4th, 2006|Categories: History|


The Hindu

Delhi is a city deeply layered in time, with the juxtaposition of the centuries manifest in styles of architecture, in the names of roads and buildings, in the dress of the city’s inhabitants and—not least—in the languages they speak and read. I am told that Delhi has as many as twelve daily newspapers printed in English, [...]

By |2011-10-07T20:42:52+00:00May 7th, 2006|Categories: History|Tags: , , |


The Hindu

Many years ago, while doing research on the life of the anthropologist Verrier Elwin, I found myself in the library of the great old publishing house of John Murray, on Albemarle Street in central London. Elwin had once been a Murray author; and so had been some far more distinguished people. One such was the poet [...]

By |2011-10-07T20:42:43+00:00March 26th, 2006|Categories: History|


The Hindu

Many years ago, the anthropologist Triloki Nath Pandey told me a story featuring Jawaharlal Nehru and the poet Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’. The Prime Minister had just returned from a visit to the People’s Republic of China. He was addressing a public meeting in his home town, Allahabad, where Nirala then lived and where Triloki Pandey then [...]

By |2011-10-07T20:42:37+00:00March 12th, 2006|Categories: History|


The Hindu

While Mahatma Gandhi was alive, not many intellectuals would willingly identify themselves as ‘Gandhian’. Writers and thinkers treated him, at best, with a kindly indulgence; and, at worst, with unremitting hostility. The first group admired the Mahatma’s asceticism and personal integrity and, were they Indian, his ability to move the masses and draw them into the [...]

By |2011-10-07T20:42:29+00:00February 12th, 2006|Categories: History|


The Hindu

In the first week of February 2002, I got a call from the writer Mahasweta Devi. I had met Mahasweta only once—in a boarding house in Delhi where we both happened to be staying—but knew, of course, a great deal about her. I had not read her novels—I don’t read much fiction—but had been profoundly moved [...]

By |2011-11-08T17:43:16+00:00January 29th, 2006|Categories: History|


The Hindu

A book I cherish greatly, and which I bought in the great Sunday book bazaar in Delhi’s Daryaganj—since closed by a philistine police force—is a 75th birthday tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. Four hundred pages long, beautifully bound and printed (at the Karnatak Printing Press, Bombay—also probably by now a victim of history), it assembles essays by [...]

By |2011-10-07T20:42:10+00:00October 23rd, 2005|Categories: History|


The Hindu

The wives of the Ieading Indian nationalists lie shrouded in obscurity. Tagore, Nehru, Patel, Rajagopalachari, Bose, Ambedkar—in the meticulous documentation of their careers, their spouses figure scarcely at all. One reason is that in most cases the wives died early; another, that even while they lived the wives were expected to stay out of sight. The [...]

By |2011-10-07T20:41:34+00:00October 9th, 2005|Categories: History|


The Hindu

In April 1919, a group of soldiers led by a man named Dyer fired at a crowd of unarmed Indians at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. Speaking in the House of Commons, Winston Churchill described this as ‘a monstrous event’, a ‘great slaughter or massacre upon a particular crowd of people, with the intention of terrorising [...]