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The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to Ad 1300: Volume 1 (A History of India #1)

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  929 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
A full account of Indian history from the establishment of Aryan culture to the coming of the Mughals in 1526 A.D. This work brings to life thousands of years of history, tracing India's evolution before contact with modern Europe was established: its prehistoric beginnings; the great cities of the Indus civilization; the emergence of mighty dynasties such as the Mauryas, ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 1st 1990 by Penguin Books
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Community Reviews

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Vikas Lather
Dec 17, 2014 Vikas Lather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To describe Romila Thapar, I would like to employ (with slight variation) an unknown quote by a famous journalist for Indira Gandhi, "She is the only MAN among the Indian intellectuals"

Early India is one of the best books I have read this year. Romila Thapar is among handful of Indian intellectuals who have the courage to stand up against the cultural rape of our history. She is not famous among Hindutava circle because her work stands between their ambition to distort the past and depress the
Jun 13, 2014 kaśyap rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an erudite and impressive work. A social, economic, cultural and religious history of India from the origins to 1300 CE. Romila Thapar is a very well-known historian in India and her texts are widely used in universities here. She is also infamous in the Hindutva circles because of her Marxist credentials, but that’s only a political opposition rather than any academic criticism.

She gives only a brief overview of pre-history and starts with the first urbanisation in the Indus valley civ
Aug 17, 2009 John rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: disappointment
I enjoy reading history, and am just becoming interested in the history of India and central Asia. I figured a Penguin book on the topic would be just what I needed. That was not the case. I was looking for a book which told me stories about Indian history, instead I got a soulless Marxist manifesto.

This year I've read two great history books - "The Fall of the Roman Empire" by Peter Heather, and "Consuming Passions" by Judith Flanders. Both were great books which entertained me and left me wit
Jul 07, 2016 Hamza rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: south-asia, india
This one took me much longer than I expected, but there is a lot of dense information packed into this small volume. I won't pretend I memorized everything in the book, since it packs a period of over 2000 years into less than 400 pages. That said, it entertained me for the most part, and informed me a great deal about Indian societies of the past. My one minor beef is Ms. Thapar's claim that Sufism came from Shi'i Islam against Sunni orthodoxy. Say what? Unlike her detractors, however, I can fo ...more
Himanshu Bhatnagar
Penguin claims this book "brings Indian History to life". I would posit that this book and its author kill Indian history, dismember the corpse, burn the remains and plod mechanically through the ashes.
Now that I've vent my spleen, so to speak, let's vent a little more. :)
This isn't a book meant for the lay reader or the history buff. If anyone, it is suited for First Year students of BA (History). You lucky guys can just copy-paste paragraphs from the book right into your answer sheets. :D
To ca
The first half of the book is quite interesting where Thapar talks about historiography and how biases and agendas of diverse groups affect their periodization and narrative of history, and the book begins quite promisingly with a the description of the social milieu. However, in the later chapters, especially after the Gupta empire or so the book becomes too unfocussed and difficult to follow when it ends up as a listing of too many facts without any sort of clear thread of events. Sure, histor ...more
Bijo Mathew Philip
Aug 10, 2012 Bijo Mathew Philip rated it liked it
Well its Romila Thaper... informative and based on research but definitely it is not a tale.

Not inspiring and difficult to complete...
Feb 11, 2013 Krishna rated it really liked it
A comprehensive but very concise review of 3000 years of Indian history (up to 1300 AD). In a little over 300 pages, Prof. Thapar provides a tour of the arrival of the Aryans in India, Alexander's raid, the Mauryan empire and the interregnum that followed its collapse, the classical age of the Guptas, the southern Indian empires, the early Sultanate period, up to the demise of Vijayanagar. The story ends with the Mughals entering India from the north, even as European explorers find their way to ...more
Nov 09, 2010 Alex rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to flesh out my understanding of early Indian history, especially in the realms of politics, economics, art, and regional differences. I also wanted an accessible "master narrative" from a premier social historian. The narrative is there from time to time, but this book is mostly details. On the plus side, names and dates of dynasties and wars, descriptions of terms of art found in each period's texts, and a brief fleshing out of technological and religious advances. On the minus, somet ...more
Mar 20, 2016 April rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I asked a friend from India for a good overview of Indian history, she recommended this one. A few years later I have finished it. It's long, academic, and historical. But it is readable. I really appreciated the thoughtful structuring: various historical periods are each examined from the perspective of economics, cultural happenings, and society structure and interaction. While different things are known about different periods, it was nice to know that Ms. Thapar would look at each of th ...more
Aug 26, 2013 Aswin rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
P. Ritwik
Her presentation of history is accurate and detailed. She puts forth the reason for what happened and deduces on the effect of all parameters that make history. Its not just a compendium of facts but helps one think and make one's own deductions of those facts. Good Read
Adish Aggarwal
Jul 17, 2015 Adish Aggarwal rated it it was ok
She had written a somewhat leftist (though not strictly Marxist) version of ancient and early medivial Indian History. The review of literary evidence is at times biased. The treatment of Archealogical evidences are not as good as done by Upinder Singh.

The language is very complicated and flowery. So much so that in almost every paragraph I had to look for a dictionary.

The wotk however is well researched and you feel like sitting in a time machine. She had covered the evolution of religion rea
Vijay Bharwad
Vishwanath Saragadam
Jun 07, 2016 Vishwanath Saragadam rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
To explain the history of such a vast and diverse subcontinent over a large period of 3,000 years, with only the significant details is not mean fete. Yet, Romila Thapar has done a marvelous job. Without digressing to unnecessary details and smoothly weaving a story across the cultural and economic development of the Indian subcontinent, the book is true to its name.

Firstly, the things I did not like about the book. There is an uncontrolled bashing of the brahmin cult throughout the book. Invari
May 22, 2016 Arpita rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I would never recommend this book or any book written by Romila Thapar to any one (except you are preparing for UPSC exams).
Utterly disgusted by this leftist history telling, felt as if Indian history narrated by some India hater. Be it Ram Guha or Romila Thapar they mastered the art of demeaning India's past, fabricating theories and applying western sense of righteousness in their history telling.
For a 555 page History book, evidences/facts are seldom referred, on the contrary the entire boo
Neetu Rana
It's a bibliography

So what it actually is,is a list of books that you can refer too for the various topics. Yes a very exhaustive list. So if you are looking for material on Indian history from the beginning of recorded history to 1300 AD you can see the list of reference books to read. Cool and helpful information
Tarun Bhargava
Feb 18, 2016 Tarun Bhargava rated it really liked it
A serious work of History.A must read for everyone who didn't take history seriously in their schooldays(like me :)).Its not embellished with any kind of flowery plots/language and presents the available facts and the possible conclusions.The chapters on formation of Jatis and Indo-Greek Rule in Northwest are the best.
Venkat Krishna
May 29, 2016 Venkat Krishna rated it really liked it
This was a refreshing read.. Ms Thapar's work stands for her status in academic world. This work is definitely a very well researched book and it takes you onto a vivid journey of India's historical past. Her writing is subtle,sober and analytic in nature.. One of my favourite chapters was on feudalism which was brilliantly written and explained. I would recommend this to all.
Benjamin Siegel
Sep 12, 2014 Benjamin Siegel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is poorly billed as an introductory text, but is a superlative review of early Indian history and historiography. Wish Islam got a bit more billing in the later sections, and the organization is sometimes confusing, but a very good advanced primer, if that's a thing.
Sep 29, 2016 René rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: histoire
My spouse bought this book while in India, and in the back, we can read "for sale in the Indian Subcontinent and Singapore only". Maybe then this is why this book feels so "foreign" - it is filled with Indian words and concepts that are so different from ours that I failed to grasp the relevance of several paragraphs. Moreover, the author, a leading authority in Indian history, puts out several suggestions for additional research, as if she expected this book to be read mainly by her university ...more
Jagendra Singh
Jul 02, 2015 Jagendra Singh rated it liked it
Can be a little more intresting if writen by a novelist in guidance of thapar. Informative, descriptive but not lucid.Over all A good read for a history lover but boring.
Shankar Kashyap
Dec 31, 2014 Shankar Kashyap rated it it was ok
An excellent subject ruined by inaccuracies and inconsistencies throughout the book. Difficult to read and extremely dry!!
Daniel Polansky
Pretty much what the title says. Reasonably readable given the complexity of the subject matter.
Jun 26, 2014 Sanjeev rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a good book on history should start with geography, this is one of such books
Balaji Rathakrishnan
An in-depth account of the period from pre-history till about 1200AD. A book with more insights than facts. A lot more focus on social conditions than about kings and the wars they waged. Her bias against Vedic Brahmanism is obvious and you have to apply that filter. I like the fact that she covers the sources (archeological, literary) of how we know what we know about history.

Half-way done and am at the turn of the 1st millennium AD. Very minimal coverage of South Indian history so far.
Sai Chand
Mar 20, 2016 Sai Chand rated it liked it
Shelves: history, india
Found the book to be boring. Wasn't as engaging as I expected it to be.
Sam Gurvinder
Aug 29, 2016 Sam Gurvinder rated it really liked it
Romila Thapar is big name in history and she proved she is . Her approach to tell the whole history is best thing . This book is not a book of kings ,dates and wars but covers whole area of religion,cultures , cast , trade and shifts in these areas . The narrative is bit boring and it takes more time than you expect but it's different from others .
Vikas Datta
Mar 14, 2015 Vikas Datta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A valuable, painstakingly done study.. required reading for anyone who wants to understand the country in the light of reason, not through an ideological prism.
Jan 21, 2013 Maitrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's more of a social history, concentrating in movements of groups of people say into South India, or how guilds might have conducted trade in the "middle ages"; rather than on the exploits of rulers and the battles they fought. The book was a real eye opener for me.

Romila Thapar is the most balanced and respected historian in the country presently and has no leanings (Marxist or Communalist).
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • A History of India: Volume 2: From the 16th Century to the 20th Century
  • The Wonder That Was India: A Survey of the History and Culture of the Indian Sub-Continent before the coming of the Muslims
  • India: A History
  • Medieval India: From Sultanat To The Mughals 1526-1748
  • Ancient India in Historical Outline
  • A Concise History of Modern India
  • Modern India, 1885 1947
  • Makers of Modern India
  • The Wonder That Was India: A Survey of the History and Culture of the Indian Sub-Continent from the Coming of the Muslims to the British Conquest 1200-1700  Volume-2.
  • The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South
  • A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India : From the Stone Age to the 12th Century
  • Indian Controversies ; Essays On Religion In Politics
  • India After Independence
  • Warriors Of The Steppe: Military History Of Central Asia, 500 B.C. To 1700 A.D.
  • Mumbai Fables
  • The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism
  • Hello, Bastar - The Untold Story of India's Maoist Movement
  • The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity
Romila Thapar is an Indian historian and Professor Emeritus at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

A graduate from Panjab University, Dr. Thapar completed her PhD in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

Her historical work portrays the origins of Hinduism as an evolving interplay between social forces. Her recent work on Somnath examines the evolution of t
More about Romila Thapar...

Other Books in the Series

A History of India (2 books)
  • A History of India: Volume 2: From the 16th Century to the 20th Century

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