This is a collection of previously published research papers, unpublished conference papers, and endowment lectures written between the 1970s and the 2000s.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.

Empirical Richness and Rigour

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.

What Ought to be History

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

Harbingers of Revolution

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.

Changing Pattern

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.