Volumes of History

A neat two-volume set on Indian history for children and young readers combines a 360-degree retelling of history with spotlights of fascinating facts to make for very readable reference.

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Often, young people look at history as a burden on memory – a jigsaw of dates, dynasties and dramatic events in so many disconnected pieces that it’s tedious to complete the puzzle. It needs someone with both a broad-brushstroke knowledge of what happened and to whom, and a detailed understanding of how and why, to narrate the story of our great and ancient, uniquely layered and polyphonic country.

Enter Archana Garodia Gupta, a BBC Mastermind ‘Champion of Champions’ and IIM alumnus, and Cornell-educated history-geek Shruti Garodia, their two-volume The History of India for Children offers a contemporary telling of India’s history and lights up the way into our eventful past.

These two volumes from Hachette India fill many gaps: they start right from prehistory (usually ignored) when the first humans lived in India right down to the present. They follow the roller-coaster, vividly colourful journey from the Harappan times through the Vedic age, the sultanates (both northern and southern), the Mughals and colonial rule to the time we became an independent resurgent nation with defined boundaries. Particular attention has been paid to oft-neglected south India, to women personalities who were vital to shaping our country, and to enduring connections between our past and present.

Far from being a sequential chronology of our country’s political history, the books display a comprehensive mosaic of our rulers and leaders, traditionalists and reformists, cultural and social leaders, artists and writers, architects and master craftsmen, rulers and invaders, traders and architects, sculptors and poets, scientists and innovators, farmers and businessmen, and millions and millions of just men and women who lent form and impetus to our history. Using the autobiographies, biographies and accounts of people who witnessed the times, the books puts the story back into history without diluting the facts.

Structurally, each chapter is well supported by photographs, a USP of the books, along with maps and illustrations, and peppered with information boxes of ‘special focus’ topics, forgotten gems and trivia, as well as off-beat facts. Each chapter ends with ‘What in the World Was Happening’ at the time so that readers get a good sense of where India stood against the backdrop of different parts of the world. Concluding each chapter is an ‘Explore More’ page that helps readers take forward what they have read, with an activity, a suggestion for exploration by travel, or reading, or watching something. A succinct timeline covers simultaneous events across India and a smattering of ‘umbrella’ topics give readers a sense of what happened across the ages, e.g., in Indian scripts, currency, calendars, even food, and more!

With their well-rounded approach and friendly style of writing, these two volumes are all set to help readers in gaining both a study-based as well as personal knowledge of the critical events and locales in our past, the dramatis personae of our national story, and why we are the way we are.

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