Talking History: Romila Thapar in Conversation with Ramin Jahanbegloo

ISBN : 9780199474271

Ramin Jahanbegloo; Romila Thapar
368 Pages
138 x 216 mm
Pub date
Jan 2017
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Talking History is the eighth title in the OUP series of Ramin Jahanbegloo's conversations with prominent intellectuals who have influenced modern Indian thought. This volume excavates the life and career of Romila Thapar as a historian and a public intellectual. Her multifaceted work, from her early research on Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas to her classic studies on the lineage system in India, her questioning of the dominant paradigms of historians from both the colonial era and from the more recent nationalist era to the role of a public intellectual in India, have made her one of the most frequently read, discussed, and cited historians of our times. Across the six parts of the book, Jahanbegloo probes her to talk about some of the central issues of history writing in India, such as the function of a historian, conflict with Hindu fundamentalism, authority in historical research, oriental despotism, and the polymorphous structure of Hinduism, as also about her life.


Introduction: Thinking History in Critical Times

Part I: From Punjab to London
Chapter I: A Happy Half-Way
Chapter II: Religions and Storytelling
Chapter III: A Secular Environment
Chapter IV: Talking Politics
Chapter V: Following Gandhi
Chapter VI: Facing Hindu Fundamentalism
Chapter VII: Living with the British
Chapter VIII: Reading Novels
Chapter IX: Discovering the Indian Classics
Chapter X: A Nehruvian Ideal
Chapter XI: A Radical-Minded Student
Chapter XII: Reading Philosophy
Chapter XIII: Hollywood or Bollywood?
Chapter XIV: Living in London in the 1950s
Chapter XV: Becoming a Historian
Chapter XVI: Return to India
Chapter XVII: Marx and Marxism
Chapter XVIII: Stalinism and After
Chapter XIX: Teaching at JNU

Part II: The Function of the Historian
Chapter I: Reading the Past
Chapter II: Is There a Pattern in History?
Chapter III: What Is a Historical Fact?
Chapter IV: Objectivity in the Work of a Historian
Chapter V: The Sources in History
Chapter VI: Is History a Single Voice?
Chapter VII: Is Historical Narrative a Rational System?
Chapter VIII: Historians and Philosophy of History
Chapter XIX: What Is Oral History?
Chapter X: What Is Historicity?
Chapter XI: A Two Way Process
Chapter XII: Which Authority Festures in Historical Research?
Chapter XIII: History and the Greeks
Chapter XIV: History and Epic

Part III: Modern Writing of Early Indian History
Chapter I: The Orientalists and the Utilitarians
Chapter II: What Is Oriental Despotism?
Chapter III: Kingship or Empire
Chapter IV: India without the British
Chapter V: Culture of Civilization?
Chapter VI: The Idea of the Indian Nation
Chapter VII: Tradition and Culture in India
Chapter VIII: Tradition and Non-Violence
Chapter IX: Going beyond the Blurriness
Chapter X: Memory and Forgetfulness

Part IV: Lineage and Kingship
Chapter I: Ashoka: Between the Ethical and the Political
Chapter II: Ashoka and Gandhi
Chapter III: Ashoka and Marxist Historians
Chapter IV: History and Charismatic Literature
Chapter V: Attitude towards Spiritualism and Mysticism
Chapter VI: A Rationalist Historian
Chapter VII: Communal Ideologies in India
Chapter VIII: The Role of Archaeology and Anthropology
Chapter IX: Blood, Kinship and Lineage
Chapter X: History and Political Ideologies
Chapter XI: The Ideas of Hindusim
Chapter XII: The Ideologues of Hindu Nationalism

Part V: The Historian and the Epic
Chapter I: Looking at the Epic
Chapter II: The Historicity of the Epic
Chapter III: The Two Levels of Temporality
Chapter IV: Concepts of Time
Chapter V: The Moderns and the Concept of Inevitability
Chapter VI: Linearity and Evolution
Chapter VII: The Heroes and Exile
Chapter VIII: Retaliation and Forgiveness
Chapter IX: Tragic Drama in India
Chapter X: Machiavelli and the Arthashastra

Part VI: Shakuntala and Somanatha
Chapter I: The Historian's Impulse
Chapter II: Somanatha and Communal Historical Writing
Chapter III: The Rashomon Effect
Chapter IV: Why Is Somanatha important?
Chapter V: The Centrality of the Event
Chapter VI: Is There an Indian Marxism?
Chapter VII: New Schools of History Writing
Chapter VIII: Looking at the Past

About the Author

About the author: 

Ramin Jahanbegloo is professor and vice dean and executive director, Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Peace Studies, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana.; Romila Thapar is a renowned historian whose area of study is ancient India. She is the professor emerita at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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