Where Are The People?
URBANISATION AND URBAN SYSTEMS IN INDIA by R Ramachandran Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1989, 364 pp., 250
Sept-Oct 1989, volume 13, No 5

As a historian, I appreciate the author’s interest in the history of Indian urbanism (I have misgivings about the use of the term ‘urbanization’ which surely cannot be used for the centuries before the 20th) and could wish that more historians would share this interest. India’s long and glorious history is a cliche beloved of text-book writers and politicians. But how limited is the content of textbooks. The history of art forms, of cultural regions, even economic history (as distinct from the history of economic policies) is somewhat limited. Historical geography is one of the most fascinating aspects of South Asian history, but this is so seldom studied. As a subject of research it enjoyed a brief spell of popularity in the 1930s when the Geography Department of Madras University did launch into the histories of areas and of place-names, but this petered out. Professor Ramachandran’s first chapter is a useful historiographical survey, and may induce students to move into the field of historical geography once again. If they do, it is hoped that they will avoid the dependence implicit in the author’s statement about Indian geographers of the early 1960s—’The peer group from whom (they) sought guidance shifted from Europe to America’ (p. 8).

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