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A History of India, vol. 1: From Origins to 1300

(A History of India #1)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,218 Ratings  ·  61 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 1990 by Penguin
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Vikas Lather
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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 distortion of our history. She is not famous among Hindutava circle because her work stands between their ambition to distort the past and depres
Jun 04, 2009 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
Apr 19, 2014 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
Himanshu Bhatnagar
Aug 11, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Sep 14, 2015 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
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
For Sergei: in memoriam 
and remembering Kaushalya and Daya Ram
and our many years together.
Opening: The modern writing of Indian history began with colonial perceptions of the Indian past that were to be seminal to its subsequent interpretations. It took shape with the beginnings of colonial rule in various parts of the subcontinent from the eighteenth century onwards.

To check up:

twelfth-century history of Kashmir, the Rajatarangini, written by Kalhana.

Max Weber

Not an engaging text ye
This book may have all the information one might require for a general survey of India before the coming of the Mughals and the Portuguese, but the style is listless and documentary. Better, I suppose, than sensationalistic, but it was still difficult for me to shoulder on through it.

Part of the problem I admit was my own lack of knowledge about Indian geography and political divisions. The author frequently referred to geographic areas of India which I couldn't place in my head (the maps were
Bijo Philip
Aug 10, 2012 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...
Abby Varghese
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Review originally posted in Abby's Shelf:
History of Early India: From the origins to AD 1300 by Romila Thapar is probably the most authoritative book I have read on this topic. But even when I say this do keep in mind to never mistake this book as a light read, this is a very intense information packed book which may even break the most avid fan of History. I actually slept off few nights reading this book. Now while reviewing this book I faced a challenge that forced me t
Nov 09, 2010 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
May 04, 2015 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
Apr 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read it as a textbook for a history of India class. Had no idea Indian history was so immensely controversial before taking the class and reading this book. Fascinating subject for many reasons.
Jan 29, 2013 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
Adish Aggarwal
Jul 17, 2015 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
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jackson Cyril
This caught my eye because it carried a gushing recommendation on the back from Eric Hobsbawm, a historian not usually given to such feelings. But here the recommendation was well earned; here is an erudite, well balanced and thorough history of India free of nationalist bias which isn't easy to do, especially considering the current political climate in the country.
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
Vijay Bharwad
Sudip Ganguly
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book one becomes conscious of the fact that the author is a Savant. Her style of writing may appear to be dull, insipid and without much drama. But her metier is in the content of her writing and not the form.
Reading the book will make a person, with the typical Indian knowledge of history which he/ she has acquired from school life, to unlearn a significant amount of history. From the typical concept of Indian history being classified into three time zones, i.e., a Vedic Hindu Peri
Martin Ridgway
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a comprehensive history and densely packed history of India with a flavouring of historiography thrown in, since basically the author feels that (some) other histories have been to concerned with creating a nationalist history. This feels more like a dispassionate approach to the subject, however controversial that might feel (see the other reviews for some diametrically opposed views on Thapur's approach). For myself, I will stick with this as my way in to the history of India, especial ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very concise and crisp description of ancient and early medieval India. Romila Thapar is a very talented writer and historian who manages to hook you from the very first line. Besides the factual details, there is also an active engagement with primary sources through which the author offers her viewpoints and conclusions with clarity and reason. She also artfully critiques the political manipulation of certain historical narratives from this period and instead posits for a more a nuanced and ...more
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Where it was located?
How many counties colonised it?
and etc

This book is LIT if you are an indian or anyone and wish to know more about THE HISTORY ABOUT INDIA BUY THIS BOOK OR BORROW IT
Vishwanath Saragadam
Aug 27, 2015 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
Mar 20, 2016 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
Sep 29, 2016 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
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, india
For a book that's titled this way...

Looks like the author just dumped her lecture notes into a book. It has lots of information but no knowledge. Style of the book is documentary like and ordinary. I felt like I was reading my school textbooks (wait, they were better (!)). These are the kind of books that made me hate history in school and it took some effort for me to get over that aversion.

Keeping in mind the author's reputation in "Indian Historical Circles", I expected more.

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.
Jan 21, 2013 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).
Nov 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Romila Thapar is an excellent writer and almost certainly a fine scholar. And there is plenty of interesting subject matter in this book. But Thapar's assignment here was almost impossible: There is so much information here in such a short book--names, concepts, kingdoms, epochs often fly by with blinding speed--that too many passages are almost indigestible.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • A History of India, vol. 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 Since 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

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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

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A History of India (2 books)
  • A History of India, vol. 2: From the 16th Century to the 20th Century
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“Some have argued that as language is the medium of knowledge, that which comes in the form of language constitutes a text; since language is interpreted by the individual, the reading by the individual gives meaning to the text; therefore each time a text is read by a different individual it acquires a fresh meaning. Taken to its logical conclusion, this denies any generally accepted meaning of a text and is implicitly a denial of attempts at historical representation or claims to relative objectivity, since the meaning would change with each reading. However, the prevalent views are more subtle.” 2 likes
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