Ramachandra Guha's Blog

January 25, 2014

Two friends recently praised me for my ‘bravery’: one when I suggested that the Congress should look beyond the dynasty; another when I called Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri stooges of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. In truth, both were rather ordinary and obvious things to say, requiring neither special knowledge nor exceptional courage. Far braver was the claim that I made some years ago in the columns of The Telegraph, to the effect that a certain Kota Shivaram Karanth was argu...

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Published on January 25, 2014 08:13 • 67 views

January 11, 2014

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 Nehru’s time in office falls neatly into three segments: 1947-52, 1952-7, 1957-64. His Government faced enormous challenges; bringing about social and religious p...

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Published on January 11, 2014 08:25 • 63 views

December 28, 2013

For a very long time, historians of modern India relied largely on government records—printed as well as unpublished. Files of different departments, deposited in state and national archives, were the staple source for the writing of dissertations, research papers, and monographs. Some historians innovatively tapped the private papers of politicians and social reformers; others reached out into oral history, conducting interviews with eye-witnesses or participants in important historical even...

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Published on December 28, 2013 01:34 • 107 views

November 30, 2013

When, in September 1888, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi travelled to London to study law, he was carrying letters of introduction to four people. One was Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, who also hailed from Kathiawar. Gandhi did not meet Ranji then, nor did the two come across each another in subsequent decades, when one became a major political leader, and the other a famous cricketer and ruler of a princely state. So far as I can tell, these two Kathiawaris did not meet face-to-face—but they did meet...

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Published on November 30, 2013 01:29 • 42 views

When, in September 1888, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi travelled to London to study law, he was carrying letters of introduction to four people. One was Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, who also hailed from Kathiawar. Gandhi did not meet Ranji then, nor did the two come across each another in subsequent decades, when one became a major political leader, and the other a famous cricketer and ruler of a princely state. So far as I can tell, these two Kathiawaris did not meet face-to-face—but they did meet...

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Published on November 30, 2013 01:29 • 159 views

Eric Hobsbwam, Fractured Times: Culture and Society in the Twentieth Century. Little, Brown and Company. 213. Pp xv+319.


I first read Eric Hobsbawm as a doctoral student in Kolkata in the 1980s. I started with his books on popular protest, Primitive Rebels (1959) and Bandits (1969), before moving on to his trilogy on the ages, respectively, of revolution, capital, and empire. In October 2012, when Hobsbawm died, aged ninety-five, I happened to be in London. Curious to see how a historian of s...

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Published on November 30, 2013 01:22 • 59 views

November 16, 2013

One of the books I read as a boy was the autobiography of the mountaineer Tenzing Norgay. I grew up in Dehradun, in a home with fine views of the lower Himalaya. From the nearby hill station of Mussoorie—which we visited often—one could see the great snow peaks of Nanda Devi, Trishul, and Bandar Poonch. As an asthmatic child, I couldn’t climb steep slopes myself, which may be why I read Tenzing’s memoir over and over again.


There are two episodes in that book that have stayed with me. One is...

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Published on November 16, 2013 06:00 • 207 views

October 25, 2013

In April 1931, Mohandas K. Gandhi attended an inter-faith meeting in Bombay. He had just been released from one of his many terms in prison. Now, while listening to Christian hymns and Sanskrit slokas, he had as his companions the Admiral’s daughter Madeleine Slade (known in India as Mirabehn) and the Oxford scholar Verrier Elwin. Thus, as Elwin wrote to his family afterwards, ‘this “Enemy of the British Empire” sat for his prayer between two Britishers!’


Gandhi’s first English friend was a do...

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Published on October 25, 2013 20:39 • 142 views

October 5, 2013

I have been reading the memoirs of the Kenyan novelist

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. Here Ngugi writes of how, as a little boy in the 1940s, he saw pictures of a mysterious bespectacled man in the shop of an Indian merchant near his village. A schoolteacher told Ngugi of who that man was and what he meant to their lives. ‘The British had colonized India for hundreds of years’, said the teacher: ‘Led by Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru, Indian people demanded their independence. Just like our people are now doing...

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Published on October 05, 2013 04:14 • 120 views

September 6, 2013

Indian pluralism was always hard won. The riots during Partition produced an enormous sense of insecurity among India’s minorities. Mahatma Gandhi’s death, by creating a sense of shock and outrage, allowed Jawaharlal Nehru’s Government to isolate extremist Hindus, and bring the mainstream towards a more moderate, inclusive, plural sense of what it meant to be Indian. Through the 1950s there were no major communal riots. This allowed the Government to unite the nation by framing a democratic a...

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Published on September 06, 2013 20:58 • 205 views

Ramachandra Guha's Blog

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