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The Past Before Us: Historical Traditions of Early North India

 
Romila Thapar (Author)
Synopsis

It has so often been said that Indian civilization lacks historical writing and therefore a sense of history that this notion passes for a truism. There has been little attempt to show up the falsity of the generalization. In the present book a magisterial historiographical survey of every major form within which ancient North Indian history is embedded or evident Romila Thapar shows an intellectually dynamic ancient world profuse with ideas about the past, an arena replete with societies constructing, reconstructing, and contesting various visions of worlds before their own.

She argues that to possess history a civilization does not have to reveal writing in forms regarded as belonging to the established genres of history. In fact, a variety of ancient Indian texts reflect a consciousness of history; and, subsequently, there come into existence recognizable historical traditions and forms of historical writing. Both varieties of texts those which reflect a consciousness of history and those which reveal forms of historical writing were deployed to reveal the past, and drawn upon as a cultural, political, religious, or other resource to legitimize an existing social order.

The Vedic corpus, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the itihasa-purana tradition, the Buddhist and Jaina canons, the hagiographical and biographical literature, the inscriptional evidence, a variety of chronicles, and dramatic forms such as the Mudrarakshasa are all scrutinized afresh in this book: not as sources for historical data, but instead as a civilizations many ways of thinking about and writing its history.

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About the author
In the spotlight

Romila Thapar

Romila Thapar was born in India in 1931 and comes from a Punjabi family, spending her early years in various parts of India. She took her first degree from Punjab University and her doctorate from London University. She was appointed to a Readership at Delhi University and subsequently to the Chair in Ancient Indian History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, where she is now Emeritus Professor in History. Romila Thapar is also an Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and has been Visiting Professor at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania as well as the College de France in Paris. In 1983 she was elected General President of the Indian History Congress and in 1999 a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. Among her publications are Ashoka and the Decline of the Mauryas, Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations, From Lineage to State, History and Beyond, Sakuntala: Texts, Readings, Histories and Cultural Pasts: Essays on Indian History as well the children's book Indian Tales.

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Bibliographic information

Title The Past Before Us: Historical Traditions of Early North India
Author Romila Thapar
Format Hardcover
Date published: 09.07.2013
Edition 1st. ed.
Publisher Permanent Black
Language: English
isbn 8178242958 , 9788178242958
length xvii+758p., 7 Maps; 23cm.