Recommend a Brief Overview History of India
May 17, 2010 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a brief overview history of India? Preferably something with a bit of personality rather than a History of India 101 textbook. I picked up a nice copy of John Keay's India: A History some time ago, but my preference when diving into something I know nothing about is to first give myself a bit of context.
posted by justcorbly to Education (11 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I'd recommend this: The Britannica Guide to India: A Comprehensive Introduction to the World's Fastest Growing Country (Amazon UK £3.50) (Amazon US $11.86)

It's an excellent book, which is very topical too. It would most certainly put things in context for you.
posted by samengland at 4:11 PM on May 17, 2010

Jawaharlal Nehru's "The Discovery of India"
(great book, however, at 500+ pages it is not brief!)
posted by prenominal at 4:17 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Peter Robb's A History of India is really great.
posted by strixus at 4:22 PM on May 17, 2010

The Granta Book Of India is marvelous, as is number 57 in the Granta series, simply titled "India." Both can be had for $1.24 or less used via Amazon. Neither is a "history," but both are loaded with essays about various aspects of India, from some amazing authors. It'll give you a lot of "context" without you having to know much of anything beyond what you could read on Wikipedia.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:46 PM on May 17, 2010

May I suggest a little bit of Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children. It's not strictly historical and it's fiction but I came away from this book feeling like I knew more about India than if I had read a textbook on the subject.
posted by talkingmuffin at 7:30 PM on May 17, 2010

There's a 6 part series called The Story of India that plays now and again on PBS. It mostly deals with history and is quite entertaining. Some of the footage is just amazing.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 9:47 PM on May 17, 2010

"A concise history of India" by metcalf and metcalf (Cambridge university press i believe) is highly recommended. It's somewhat academic but very readable.
posted by iamscott at 10:37 PM on May 17, 2010

Anything about India by William Dalrymple will delight and inform.
posted by unliteral at 11:49 PM on May 17, 2010

Although not a straight history of India, I enjoyed Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors". It looks at the history of India through the prism of popular dishes from curry-houses, and focuses on the synthesis of Western influences and native Indian cuisine in creating what most people in the West think of as Indian food. It would be a good supplement to a brief history.
posted by hilaritas at 6:07 AM on May 18, 2010

Again, not a history, but a historical novel (or rather, four of them). Paul's Scott's Raj Quartet. I learned a lot about Indian history, culture and society from these four books. And it's a cracking story too.
posted by essexjan at 12:59 PM on May 18, 2010

Shashi Tharoor's India: From Midnight to Millennium for post-Independence history.
posted by vidur at 6:21 PM on May 25, 2010

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