Compelling but skewed - critiquing an instance of ‘popular’ histories

In recent years one sees certain kind of publications on our past. Written in engaging prose, attempts to resurrect our understanding of history in very fascinating ways is being made where these books might not truly represent new scholarship but they base their works more researched studies by historians with greater academic credentials. And of course they obviously do their key research as well but I’m not sure the extent, depth and scope of their direct engagement with primary sources. In itself, the researched monographs and papers on aspects as varied as state formation, social change, art, architecture, religion etc by more famed historians and scholars are often written in language and prose that can induce somnolence to all, other than those dedicated full time to research and academia. Works of Burton Stein, R Champakalakshmi, Y Subbarayulu…anyone for the afternoon weekend? That’s where works by the likes of Ira Mukhoty, William Dalrymple or Manu Pillai come in. They bring i

Traversing India's past - an outline for newer imaginations and practice

Recently there was this note, a circular and a media release where the Union Governments Ministry of Education sought people's suggestions and views to correct Indian history as presented in its textbooks. The flyer I received in my WhatsApp and from several sources proclaimed that suggestions were invited as "an exercise to remove unhistorical facts and distortions about national heroes and that new books will ensure equal representation of all periods in Indian history." Foregrounded before the image of the parliament in this instagramable note were images of Ncert's history textbooks 'Our pasts'. The target of this entire exercise was rather obvious. No other textbooks seem to have as many problems as are Ncert textbooks. Certainly there's a need for a relook of our social science textbooks leave alone history. Every political dispensation in power across the world always leans on a specific narration of the past to legitimise its politics, policies and