Unearthing the Past Gently
Mariam Dossal
WESTERN INDIA IN HISTORICAL TRANSITION, SEVENTEENTH TO EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURIES by Hiroyuki Kotani Manohar Publications, New Delhi, 2004, 308 pp., 550.00
March 2004, volume 28, No 3

What was Indian society really like at the time when it came under colonial rule? What was the nature and extent of this encounter and how does it continue to affect the lives of millions of people today? These surely must be among the most frequently asked and challenging of questions confronting Indian historians.Just as geologists recognize that each boring, each terrestrial strata, each region, can reveal a varied combination of rock, soil and moisture, formed by different processes ranging from the volcanic, tectonic or oceanic or due to other natural activity, so too does investigation into each historical period, each social strata, reveal a wide range of relationships constructed between and across different communities and occupational groups, the result of diverse economic and political developments. Reconstructing the history of a country as large and diverse as India requires close investigation into specific regions. This is what Hiroyuki Kotani undertakes in his detailed research into the western Deccan, Konkan and coastal Gujarat for a period spanning more than three hundred years and one which saw the transition from a feudal to a colonial society.

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