South Asian history

If You Love Jane Austen…

August 23, 2013

Allow me to introduce Emily Eden–aristocratic spinster, political hostess, accomplished painter, and talented novelist. I first discovered Emily Eden through her connection to India. Her brother George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland, was appointed Governor-General of India in 1835. Emily accompanied him to India and served as his Burra Lady Sahib (the rough equivalent of […]

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From The Ruins of Empire

October 11, 2012

If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ve probably figured out that I like books that look at familiar history from another point of view. (For example, here, and here, and here.) It should be no surprise that Pankaj Mishra’s latest book caught my eye. In From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who […]

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Sita Sings the Blues

September 25, 2012

The Ramayana is one of the classic Indian epics. Ascribed to the great Sanskrit poet-sage, Valmiki, it’s a love story, a moral lesson, and/or a foundation myth, depending on what kind of reader you are. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl to demon king. Boy rescues girl with the help of monkey-god. Boy worries that […]

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Ashoka: The Buddhist Emperor of India

August 24, 2012

I recently blogged about Chandragupta Maurya, who created an empire out of the chaos that followed Alexander the Great’s invasion of India. Chandragupta was an empire founder, but the real empire builder in the Mauryan dynasty was Chandragupta’s grandson, Ashoka, who ruled from 269 to 232 BCE. Although he was a successful warrior, who expanded […]

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India’s First Emperor

August 16, 2012

Okay, I’m a little slow.  India’s Independence Day was yesterday.  Still, I think a bit of South Asian history is in order as a belated celebration: Cyrus the Great built the Persian empire on those of the Medes and the Babylonians.  Alexander the Great began his empire by taking over Persia.  Chandragupta Maurya created the […]

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Déjà Vu All Over Again: Back to Afghanistan

March 14, 2012

A while back I blogged about Great Britain’s first disastrous attempt to invade Afghanistan. That post barely scratched the surface of the story, so I was delighted when Shelf Awareness sent me Diana Preston’s The Dark Defile:: Britain’s Catastrophic Invasion of Afghanistan, 1838-1842 to review. In The Dark Defile,  Preston tells the story of Great […]

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Deciphering the Indus Valley

November 30, 2011

Around 2500 BCE, the first cities appeared on the banks of the Nile in Egypt, at the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates in ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), and in the valley of the Indus River in what is now Pakistan and northwest India India. Thanks to the Old Testament, traveling museum exhibitions, and popular […]

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Déjà Vu All Over Again?: Attack on the British Garrison in Kabul, 1879

September 21, 2011

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, the British government in India was always paranoid about the possibility of Russian influence on the northern border of Afghanistan.  (Some of the most paranoid even thought the Russians were behind the Indian Mutiny of 1857. *) In 1878, the amir of Afghanistan pushed British buttons when he accepted […]

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Déjà Vu All Over Again? Attack on British Garrison in Kabul, 1841

September 16, 2011

The story I’m about to tell is confusing. It’s about people you’ve never heard of, some of whom make bad decisions. In the end, people die and nothing much changes. In short, it’s a story about the West and Afghanistan. In 1838, Dost Muhammad Khan was the Amir of Afghanistan. He had seized the throne […]

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History on Display: Tipu’s Tiger

August 9, 2011

“Tipu’s Tiger” is one of the most popular exhibits at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  For generations, British school children and American tourists have lined up to watch the large mechanical tiger maul a fallen British gentleman.   Today the toy is too fragile to operate, but once upon a time the tiger roared and its […]

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