u should cover mainly this part -
How do we periodise?
In 1817, James Mill, a Scottish economist and political
philosopher, published a massive three-volume work,
A History of Br i t ish India. In this he divided Indian
history into three periods – Hindu, Muslim and British.
This per iodisat ion came to be widely ac cepted. Can
you think of any problem with this way of looking at
Wh y d o we t r y a n d d i v i d e h i s t o r y i n t o d i f f e r e n t
p e r i o d s ? We d o s o i n a n a t t e m p t t o c a p t u r e t h e
characteristics of a time, its central features as they
appear to us. So the terms through which we periodise
– that is, demarcate the difference between periods –
become important. They reflect our ideas about the past.
They show how we see the significance of the change
from one period to the next.
Mill thought that all Asian societies were at a lower
level of civilisation than Europe. According to his telling
of history, before the British came to India, Hindu and
Muslim despots ruled the country. Religious intolerance,
caste taboos and superst i t ious prac t i ces dominated social life. British rule, Mill felt, could civilise India. To do
this it was necessary to introduce European manners, arts,
institutions and laws in India. Mill, in fact, suggested that
the British should conquer all the territories in India to ensure
the enlightenment and happiness of the Indian people. For
India was not capable of progress without British help.
In this idea of history, British rule represented all the forces
of progress and civilisation. The period before British rule
was one of darkness. Can such a conception be accepted today?
In any case, can we refer to any period of history as “Hindu”
or “Muslim”? Did not a variety of faiths exist simultaneously
in these periods? Why should we characterise an age only
through the religion of the rulers of the time? To do so is to
suggest that the l ives and prac t i ces of the others do not
really matter. We should also remember that even rulers in
ancient India did not all share the same faith.
Moving away from British classification, historians have
usually divided Indian history into ‘ancient’, ‘medieval’ and
‘ m o d e r n ’ . T h i s d i v i s i o n t o o h a s i t s p r o b l e m s . I t i s a
p e r i o d i s a t i o n t h a t i s b o r rowe d f rom t h e We s t wh e re t h e
modern period was associated with the growth of all the
forces of modernity – science, reason, democracy, liberty and
equality. Medieval was a term used to describe a society
where these features of modern society did not exist. Can we
uncritically accept this characterisation of the modern period
to describe the period of our study? As you will see in this
book, under British rule people did not have equality, freedom
o r l i b e r t y . N o r w a s t h e p e r i o d o n e o f e c o n o m i c g r o w t h
Many historians therefore refer to this period as ‘colonial’