/History

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

The Moral Evolution of Mohandas K Gandhi


The Telegraph

The American writer Louis Fischer is best known for his book The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, which Richard Attenborough drew upon while making his award-winning film of 1982. Fischer’s book was published in 1949, a year after Gandhi’s assassination. Seven years previously, he had written a much slimmer (and now far less well known) volume entitled [...]

In Praise of Archives and Archivists


The Telegraph

In the third week of January 2020—exactly a year ago—I was in New Delhi, working in the collections of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. I first discovered the archival riches of the NMML in the early 1980s, and explored them most fully while living in Delhi between 1988 and 1994. In those years I would [...]

A Brief History of Cults of Personality


The Telegraph

The term ‘cult of personality’ is thought to have been first used with regard to the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Stalin died in 1953, after more than two decades in power; three years later, in a speech to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, his successor Nikita Khrushchev spoke of how [...]

Get The Best Minds on Board


Hindustan Times

Years ago, working in the archives in New Delhi, I came across a brief, handwritten, letter from Jawaharlal Nehru to C. Rajagopalachari. It was dated 30th July 1947, and it read: ‘My dear Rajaji, This is to remind you that you have to approach Shanmukham Chetty—this must be done soon. I have seen Ambedkar and he [...]

The Fourth Crisis of The Republic


Hindustan Times

As I have written before, if India had been a start-up in August 1947 not even the most venturesome of venture capitalists would have invested in it. No new nation was born in more inhospitable circumstances. The Partition of the country had been awful enough, in the scale of its violence and the mass displacement of [...]

By |2020-03-25T21:35:48+00:00January 26th, 2020|Categories: History, Politics and Current Affairs|Tags: , , , , |

The Cities That Shaped Gandhi


The Cities That Gandhi Shaped

Mahatma Gandhi famously claimed that ‘India lives in her villages’. The focus of his political and social work, and his philosophical writings, was that India was essentially an agrarian civilization, and that it must remain that way. In fact, India had always lived in her towns too. Our epics spoke of the fabled cities of Ayodhya [...]

Searching For Gandhi


Hindustan Times

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG) run to one hundred volumes. Many years before I read these volumes, one by one, their Chief Editor, Professor K. Swaminathan, had satirised scholars like myself in verse: ‘Hundred hefty haystacks Cluttering up the landscape Hold within their entrails hidden Half a dozen needles. Researchers of the future With [...]

Gandhi and The RSS: The Historical Record


The Telegraph

This column appears days before the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. That anniversary shall be observed at a time when a former pracharark of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh is the country’s Prime Minister, and when the RSS exercises a hegemonic hold over our political and social life. On 2nd October, nice things will be said [...]

By |2019-10-17T01:30:22+00:00September 28th, 2019|Categories: History, Politics and Current Affairs|Tags: , , , |

Twelve Apostles Of Mahatma Gandhi


Hindustan Times

Many years ago, while working in the Manuscripts Section of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, I found a postcard by an unknown Tamil to that great Indian, Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari, ‘Rajaji’. Written in the late 1950s, it described Nehru, Patel, and Rajaji as being the ‘heart, hand, and head’ of Mahatma Gandhi respectively. This was so [...]

Jallianwala Bagh In Memory And History


The Telegraph

On 13th April 1919—exactly a hundred years ago—a British Brigadier-General named Reginald Dyer ordered his troops to fire on a crowd gathered in a place called Jallianwala Bagh, not far from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Close to five hundred people were killed in the firing. Folklore has magnified the figure to a thousand, and more. [...]