John Keay

John Keay


Born
Devon, The United Kingdom
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John Keay (born 1941) is an English journalist and author specialising in writing popular histories about India and the Far East, often with a particular focus on their colonisation and exploration by Europeans.

John Keay is the author of about 20 books, all factual, mostly historical, and largely to do with Asia, exploration or Scotland. His first book stayed in print for thirty years; many others have become classics. His combination of meticulous research, irreverent wit, powerful narrative and lively prose have invariably been complimented by both reviewers and readers.

UK-based and a full-time author since 1973, he also wrote and presented over 100 documentaries for BBC Radios 3 and 4 from 1975-95 and guest-lectured tour groups 1990-2000
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Average rating: 3.89 · 5,115 ratings · 508 reviews · 41 distinct worksSimilar authors
India: A History

3.95 avg rating — 2,575 ratings — published 2000 — 13 editions
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China: A History

3.87 avg rating — 1,061 ratings — published 2008 — 14 editions
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The Honourable Company: a H...

3.69 avg rating — 375 ratings — published 1991 — 3 editions
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The Great Arc: The Dramatic...

3.88 avg rating — 329 ratings — published 2000 — 7 editions
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India Discovered

4.10 avg rating — 169 ratings — published 1981 — 6 editions
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The Spice Route: A History

3.69 avg rating — 129 ratings — published 2005 — 9 editions
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Midnight's Descendants

3.73 avg rating — 94 ratings — published 2012 — 9 editions
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Mad About The Mekong: Explo...

3.77 avg rating — 60 ratings — published 2005 — 3 editions
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The Mammoth Book Of Travel ...

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3.27 avg rating — 66 ratings — published 1993 — 6 editions
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Sowing the Wind: The Seeds ...

3.71 avg rating — 41 ratings — published 1980 — 5 editions
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“The Tarim Mummies’ (Tarim being the name of the river that once drained the now waterless Tarim basin of eastern Xinjiang) are mostly not of Mongoloid race but of now DNA-certified Caucasoid or Europoid descent. Some had brown hair; at least one stood 2 metres (6.5 feet) tall. They are similar to the Cro-Magnon peoples of eastern Europe. So are their clothes and so probably was their language. It is thought to have been ‘proto-Tocharian’, an early branch of the great Indo-European language family that includes the Celtic, Germanic, Greek and Latin tongues as well as Sanskrit and Early Iranian. But Mair and his disciples would not be content to stop there. Several hundred mummies have now been discovered, their preservation being the result of the region’s extreme aridity and the high alkaline content of the desert sands. The graves span a long period, from c. 2000 BC to AD 300, but the forebears of their inmates are thought most probably to have migrated from the Altai region to the north, where there flourished around 2000 BC another Europoid culture, that of Afanasevo. Such a migration would have consisted of several waves and must have involved contact with Indo-European-speaking Iranian peoples as well as Altaic peoples. Since both were acquainted with basic metallurgy and had domesticated numerous animals, including horses and sheep, the mummy people must themselves have acquired such knowledge and may have passed it on to the cultures of eastern China. According to Mair and his colleagues, therefore, the horse, the sheep, the wheel, the horse-drawn chariot, supplies of uncut jade and probably both bronze and iron technology may have reached ‘core’ China courtesy of these Europoid ‘proto-Tocharians’. By implication, it followed that the Europeans who in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries AD would so embarrass China with their superior technology were not the first. ‘Foreign Devils on the Silk Road’ had been active 4,000 years ago; and thanks to them, China’s ancient civilisation need not be regarded as quite so ‘of itself’. It could in fact be just as derivative, and no more indigenous, than most others. Needless to say, scholars in China have had some difficulty with all this.”
John Keay, China: A History

“In Vedic society the bard was originally the chief’s charioteer. His function was not necessarily hereditary nor exclusively reserved to a particular social group.”
John Keay, India: A History

“As al-Biruni (Alberuni), the great Islamic scholar of the eleventh century, would put it, ‘the Hindus believe that there is no country but theirs, no nation like theirs, no king like theirs, no religion like theirs, no science like theirs.’ He thought they should travel more and mix with other nations; ‘their antecedents were not as narrow-minded as the present generation,’ he added.8 While clearly disparaging eleventh-century attitudes, al-Biruni thus appears to confirm the impression given by earlier Muslim writers that in the eighth and ninth centuries India was considered anything but backward. Its scientific and mathematical discoveries, though buried amidst semantic dross and seldom released for practical application, were readily appreciated by Muslim scientists and then rapidly appropriated by them. Al-Biruni was a case in point: his scientific celebrity in the Arab world would owe much to his mastery of Sanskrit and access to Indian scholarship.”
John Keay, India: A History



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