South Asian History

Shin-kickers From History: Dr. B. R. Ambedkar–Untouchable, Reformer, Founding Father

October 3, 2014

Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar (1891-1956) was one of the great men of the twentieth century, though he is virtually unknown in the west. Untouchable Ambedkar was born into the “untouchable” caste of Mahars in the Indian state of Maharashtra. At the time, untouchables suffered under legal restrictions that made the Jim Crow laws of the […]

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Jezebel or Joan of Arc?

September 2, 2014

In June, 1857, Lakshmi Bai, the Rani of Jhansi, belatedly committed herself and her kingdom to the revolt variously known as the Indian Mutiny, the Sepoy Rebellion, or the First Indian War of Independence. A Break in Tradition The rani had long-standing grievances against the British. She was the widow of Gangadhar Rao Niwalkar, ruler […]

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Gandhi Before India

April 29, 2014

The first volume of what may well be the definitive biography of Mohandas Gandhi, Ramachandra Guha’s Gandhi Before India covers the years from Gandhi’s birth in 1869 through his departure from South Africa in July, 1914. Biographers have often treated Gandhi’s earlier life– especially his two decades working in South Africa–as a  little more than […]

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History on Display: Lost Kingdoms

April 26, 2014

On my annual visit to New York for writerly stuff, I always try to squeeze in a visit to a museum or that mecca for all book lovers, the Strand Bookstore. This year, with my office over-flowing with books and a move on the horizon, I promised My Own True Love that I would stay […]

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The Black Hole of Calcutta

March 18, 2014

In mid-eighteenth century India, power was up for grabs. The Mughal dynasty was in decay. Smaller regional powers flourished. European trading companies, which held their trading privileges at the discretion of Indian rulers, were constantly looking for a way to get an edge. The British and French East India Companies, in particular, maintained private armies […]

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Introducing Flat Arthur, aka His Grace the Duke of Wellington

March 12, 2014

Several weeks ago, fellow Historical Novel Society member Cora Lee shared an idea that she’d been having fun with for a few months and asked if any of us would like to play along. She took the idea of “Flat Stanley” and gave it a historical twist, creating “Flat Arthur”– a two dimensional version of […]

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Shin-kickers From History: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi

January 21, 2014

American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. always claimed, “From my background I gained my regulating Christian ideals. From Gandhi, I learned my operational technique.” The son and grandson of Baptist preachers in Atlanta, George, Martin Luther King went to Crozer Theological Seminary ready to fight for civil rights but full of doubts […]

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The Amritsar Massacre: Another Step Toward Indian Independence

January 17, 2014

  World War I brought India one step closer to demanding its independence from Great Britain. Indian regiments sailed overseas and fought alongside their Canadian and Australian counterparts. (If you visit the memorial gateway at Ypres, you will see how many of them died in defense of the empire.) Indian nationalists loyally supported the British […]

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The Swadeshi Movement: The First Step Toward Indian Independence

December 20, 2013

Beginning in the 1830s, the British East India Company provided Western education to a small number of Indian elites: it was cheaper and more effective than recruiting the entire work force of the empire back home in Britain. In addition to training clerks of all kinds, the East Indian Company created as a by-product what […]

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Shin-Kickers From History: Gandhi’s March to the Sea

October 22, 2013

The American Revolution had the Boston Tea Party; the Indian independence movement had Gandhi’s salt march. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the British government in India had a heavily taxed monopoly on the production and sale of salt. It was illegal for anyone to make or sell salt. If a peasant who lived […]

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