India: A History – John Keay

Having read China: A History, I was eager to dive into this book. I suppose that if you used to fall asleep in history class that this book, at 640 pages, might be a bit daunting, but I enjoyed it almost as much as the author’s history of China.

While one may think that the history of China and India would be as lengthy, it was interesting to find that there is much less definitive B.C.E. history in India than China. Still, the author pulls together as much information as is available, beginning around 3000 B.C.E. with the Harappan civilization. He takes the story all the way to the current day (or at least as the book was last revised in 2011). The nice thing is that he treats all the eras of history pretty equally, not just concentrating on the more recent history.

My ignorance of Indian history was greatly relieved by this book. It was fascinating to see the ebb and flow of civilization across the continent, and even within the regions of the country. History is messier than we would like it to be, and the history of India is no exception. The dominating effects of religious belief on the history of India is clear in its history, both past and present. Indeed, one of the main takeaways from this book for me was the constant secular struggles that will probably plague the Indian continent for centuries (or more) to come. It also sheds light on the nature and influence of the Islamic faith throughout the world, both yesterday and today.

If you are looking for a concise, one-volume history of India, I would recommend this book highly. Well-written and readable, it will educate and entertain you. Well worth your while.

(Finished 11/30/14)