10 must-read books on Indian History | The Better India

Since the list does not talk about the books in any specific order, my recommendation would be #9 and #10. John Keay’s book is the perfect concise history of India, that I have come across. For a broad-based introduction to Indian History, this one is very good.

“In our quest to know what books to read to get a better understanding of India’s history, we turned to you, our readers. A few days ago we asked everyone on our Facebook and Twitter pages to recommend a book on Indian history. Many of you responded with some wonderful suggestions. We also received many e-mails suggesting books we had never heard of. Here then, is the list of 10 books (in no particular order) on Indian history that we have compiled based on your responses.”

(Via 10 must-read books on Indian History | The Better India.)



9 thoughts on “10 must-read books on Indian History | The Better India

  1. vishalvkale says:

    It is with a considerable sense of surprise that I read your admittedly dated listing of 10 must-read books on Indian History. While I submit that readability is a factor, the content has to be accurate as well, and in my opinion, your listing suffers from that point of view. Which is why most commentors have also recommended Thapar; I, too,am not too excited about her views; but the fact remains that her book on Early India (apart from the chapter on Aryans, which has been rendered obsolete by the latest scientific and archeological research) – is actually a fantastic book, containing deep insights into Early India, For example, the part of commercial guilds, which underscores the interconnectivity across political borders. All these and other factors have to considered while looking at books.

    As another example, the source material is also of material importance. A study of the Bibliography of Freedom At Midnight will reveal more than 70% books are western; including books on Hinduism! Excuse me, but you write a book on India- and refer western books, when there are a plethora of pedigreed Indian books available? Including for our Religion? And pray tell me how is religion concerned with an independence struggle? How is how we defecate of importance? The book contains a whole page on how do that! And how are the detailed bedroom habits of Maharajas of importance? This shows up in the book, which places an undue and totally wrong role on Mountbatten, as a perusal of authentic records will show, which other, better books refer, quote and base themselves on. This also shows up in the statement “”The british left with a debt of xxxxxxxxx pounds from a nation that they were supposed to have exploited”…. Is it the contention that the Raj took away nothing? Documented records can reveal specific amounts – in pounds. They are given, alongwith documented evidence – in other, better books.

    1) Jinnah – India – Partition : Jaswant Singh

    2) The Shadow Of The Great Game – The True Story of India’s Partition – By Narendra Singh Sarila (ADC to Mountbatten in 1947-48 – which makes this the most authentic and authoritative work)
    3) India’s Independence Struggle – Bipin Chandra Pal et al
    4) Operation Red Lotus – Parag Tope
    5) Tinderbox – MJ Akbar
    6) Bengal Divided – The Unmaking Of A Nation By Nitish Sengupta
    7) Early India – Romila Thapar – yes, despite its shortcomings, it is worth a read
    8) The Discovery Of India – Jawaharlal Nehru
    9) Ashok The Great – Monika Khanna
    10) Pax Indica – Shashi Tharoor (gives an understanding of Indian Foreign Policy through the years
    11) India – From Midnight To The Millenium And Beyond – Shashi Tharoor
    12) From The Ruins Of Empire – Pankaj Mishra (concerns all Asia, but you cannot understand India fully without understanding Asia. Read the book to understand)
    13) The Case For India – Will Durant ed 1930
    14) An Economic History Of India – RC Dutt ed 1906
    15) What India Should Know – Lakshmikanthan & Devi
    16) Imagining India – Nandan Nilekani
    17) The Argumentative Indian – Amartya Sen
    18) Becoming Indian – Pawan K Verma
    19) India Unbound – Gurcharan Das
    20) The Real Story Of The Great Uprising – Vishnu Bhatt Versaikar Godse (Mazaa Pravaas in Marathi) written in 1886; ed, 1906; translation to English 2010 – an eyewitness account – MUST read

    21) The Land Of The Seven Rivers – Sanjeev Sanyal
    22) Kargil – From Surprise To Victory – Gen V P Malik (Karguil is also Indian History!)

    There are others; but these are the best from those I have read, which include Freedom At Midnight. FAM does not find a mention in my list; it is one of the books to be avoided, in my considered opinion – and I have read some 30+ books on India and Indian History. Especially read the bold book at No 20 – it is an eyewitness account, engagingly narrated. Also, read all the old books; that is ed 1885 – 1930 – mentioned above. Alberuni’s India was a close second choice, but missed out over What India Should Know and Ashok The Great.

    As a general rule, avoid western authors on India; they are simply not upto the mark, are non-factual and heavily judgemental in nature and analysis, and lack a deep understanding of the cultural and historical background of our nation. I have read them also, and have learnt to disregard them – not on impressions alone, but also on facts.

    I do not intend to challenge you; but your list is 2 years old – and a good number of researches have been released in the past 2 years, which change the entire scenario, especially as these are based on authoritative documents and pain-staking research – which reveals that a lot of what we currently assume to be true is actually balderdash

  2. Atul Sabnis says:

    Dear vishalvkale – I posted a link from another site – these recommendations are not mine, per se. I am not sure why you are surprised. There’s nothing to challenge – since I am not posing an opinion. Also, I would recommend that you start a blog of your own, if you do not have one. I think you have a great amount of knowledge regarding history – and this knowledge should not be limited to comment in a shared-link post. I’d be happy to link to your post if you write one.

    • vishalvkale says:

      I already have a blog… http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in, quite a few of these have been reviewed there. If you co-author, I can share the links for publication on your site as well, as the latest should indeed be shared. This comment was a mistake; I was looking for the original article, on which I wanted to comment. I had looked it up at night yesterday, and wanted to confirm the comment.

      • Atul Sabnis says:

        Thank you – I’ll have a look at your blog. If I do find interesting articles there, I’ll link them here. This is a hobby for me – so I am not looking to co-author anything at this time, but thank you for the offer. 🙂

        Glad to know that you realise that this is not “my” list 🙂

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