Books Of India Blog

What Are The Best Books On Indian History? A Bookseller’s Guide

Posted by Ray McLennan on 30-Aug-2016 12:29:38

India is one of the oldest continuous civilisations on earth. Archaeological digs have shown that Northern India and Pakistan, especially the area around Riwat, were populated by human ancestors around 1.9 million years ago. Anatomically modern Homo sapiens have left their remains in caves across India and South Asia from as early as 50,000 years ago, and there is evidence to suggest that the region has been populated continuously since.

Civilisation in India

The earliest recognisable civilisation in India began with a series of Bronze Age kingdoms and city-states in the Indus Valley from 3300 BC onwards. In the 5,000 and more years that have passed since this time, India has developed a remarkably diverse and interesting history, with a series of unique cultures, religions and historical phases. Indian history is fun and exciting to read about and continues to inspire a wide selection of well-researched books. If your bookshop features a history section and you are interested in expanding into Indian history, you should consider looking up these – some of the best books on Indian history:

1) India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy - Ramachandra Guha

This book is a history of contemporary India, explaining how the nation moved through its painful, postcolonial birth pangs through a sometimes troubled relationship with its neighbours, to become the outward looking, growing economic superpower it is today. Guha’s 900-page opus covers Indian politics and history in intimate detail, from the legacy of Gandhi and the policies of Nehru to the conflicts with Pakistan and the war on terror.

2) A Corner of a Foreign Field - Ramachandra Guha

For lovers of cricket, this playfully written book tells the definitive story of India’s national sport. The story traces how an obscure British pastime took root in India and became a country-wide obsession. For anyone interested in how cricket has and continues to shape Indian culture and society, this is the book for you!

3) The Argumentative Indian - Amartya Sen -
ISBN: 9780141012117, PB £10.99

A series of historical essays by Amartya Sen, who holds a Nobel Prize for economics. Each essay covers a different aspect of Indian history with own a special focus on cultural identity. Sen’s argument is that the strength of Indian culture has always lain in its religious, intellectual and social diversity, with the disputations between different points of view adding a dynamic strength to the culture that stood the test of time.

4) A Brief History of Modern India – Rajiv Ahir

Re-released in a new 2015 edition by Spectrum Books and edited by Athar Azeem of Delhi University, A Brief History of Modern India is itself an important document of Indian history. The first edition was published in English in 1899, making it possibly the first academic book to cover the period of history ranging from the Indian Mutiny in 1857 to the ‘present day’. It was subsequently expanded to cover the independence struggle and partition up to 1950. By the standards of modern history books, A Brief History is a bit of a dry read, rather like an old-fashioned textbook, but it is still a very good introduction to the issues that shaped modern India. Each chapter is clearly structured so that the reader can examine the political background, administrative causes and social repercussions of the issues it addresses. An important reference work and primary witness to the awakening of modern India.

5) India Since Independence – Bipan Chandra -
ISBN: 9780143104094, PB £9.99

This in-depth but engrossing narrative history is perhaps the definitive story of modern India since 1947. Every event in contemporary history is covered in wide-ranging detail, including the birth of the Constitution, Nehru’s social and political agenda, conflict with Pakistan, the 1991 Green initiatives and land reform and the victory of the United Progressive Alliance in the 2004 general election. In fact, every significant political and cultural figure and historical drama up to 2008 can be found in the broad sweep of this book. The towering intellect of Bipan Chandra (1928 -2014), India’s most influential modern political and economic historian, ensures that each chapter is both grounded in documentary evidence and replete with human drama. This is an extremely popular contemporary history book within India, and is now available as an international paperback edition.

We also highly recommend India’s Struggle For Independence, by the same author – it is constantly in the top 100 selling books by Indian authors in India (ISBN Number: 9780140107814,  PB: £11.99).

There are dozens of fantastic books available on the market that cover every element of Indian history, and more are being released all the time. To keep up-to-date with the latest topics and trends, give one of our Indian books specialists a call today on 01727 761677. For further information, you may also wish to download our free ‘Independent Booksellers Guide to Books From India’ by clicking here.

For a full list of titles we are able to supply, contact

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