This is a collection of previously published research papers, unpublished conference papers, and endowment lectures written between the 1970s and the 2000s. In the first section after the introduction are four essays that relate to the interface between archaeology and text: seeking the literal truth of the epics; investigating the emergence of complex society and the state in the Deccan and in Punjab; and the nature of the early cities of Bengal.
Iravatham Mahadevan, an administrator- turned scholar noted for his profound scholarship in multiple aspects of the science of ancient scripts in general and Harappan writing in particular, belongs to the galaxy of the leading epigraphists of the world and ranks foremost among the scholars in Brahmi script. The study under review, Early Tamil Epigraphy is his magnum opus.
Most narratives of the historiography of ancient India inspire a strong sense of déjà vu. There is the mandatory bashing of the imperialist historians, followed by a litany of complaints against the nationalist historians. This is followed by an account of post-Independence developments, in which the writing of ancient Indian history is presented as coming of age, with the imbalances and biases of the earlier eras replaced by a more sophisticated and sounder understanding of the past.
History at the Limit of World History and The History of History are remarkable because of the somewhat eccentric views that the two authors, of very different persuasions, hold on what ought to be hisory. Aristotle, Hegel, Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derida, Jacques Lacan, Michael Bakhtin, Rabindranath Tagore et al are passed in review by Ranajit Guha, and Ranajit Guha, in his turn is passed in review by Vinay Lal along with an equally odd assortment of Hindu communalist historians
‘Recosts et Contes Popularies dli Berry’ is a charming collection of popular folk tales, legends, patriotic and sentimental songs and even local dances. Genevieve Debais and Michel Valiere have put on record some of the traditions and customs of a region which is in the heart of central France.
All translations cut both ways. While, on the one hand, they rarely capture the nuances or flavour inherent in the original or even measure up to the fervour enshrined in it, they do serve in reaching out to a wider audience. This, latter aspect is especially and significantly heightened when the original in question is starkly socio-political in its content and has, as one of its primary aims, the creation of a widespread awareness of an unjust socio-economic and political system and its destruction.
Journalists write the first draft of history, policy analysts prescriptive analysis and scholars give historical context, meaning and analytical coherence to the contemporary rush of events. Rush at all three in a ‘quickie’, and more likely than not you will flounder, as does Nischal Nath Pandey.
The book under review is a collection of papers presented at a conference on From Winning the War to Winning Peace Post War Rebuilding of the Society in Sri Lanka’ jointly organized by the Centre for Security Analysis and Regional Centre for Strategic Studies at Colombo in August 2009.
In September 1968, the need for an Introduction to his collection of essays and reviews persuaded David McCutchion to examine the state of the criticism of Indian writing in English. His assessment was characteristically restrained but exacting: ‘the critical tradition in India is weak,’, ‘Lack of critical, especially self-critical discrimination is certainly a feature of this situation’, ‘on the one hand it (takes) the form of dismissive contempt.
Given the regular monotony with which Islamist extremists keep blowing themselves up in Iraq, Afghanistan and the border areas
of Pakistan one may be forgiven for forgetting that the suicide bomber was an invention of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)—the original big daddy of international terrorism.