02 March, 2021

August Motto: Only Disconnect

For a fast, frothy record of events, Hiro’s book passes muster. Yet, premised on a ‘primeval’ Hindu-Muslim hatred, his is often an unresearched, prejudiced waffle.

August Motto: Only Disconnect

The blurb on the front cover describes Dilip Hiro as a ‘chronicler’. That is accurate, for Hiro is a pretty good archivist, but hardly a historian. At best, his work could be described as narrative history, a useful, if selective, compilation of facts, events, personalities and dates but little informed by any sense of interpretative history, let alone serious historiography.

It was the Cambridge historian, E.H. Carr, who in his 1961 lectures on What is History? pointed out that while it is important for the historian to know that the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066 and not in 1065 or 1067, history had to answer not the question of its date but why it was fought, how it turned out the way it did, and the consequences of that path-breaking event in the history of England. Hiro’s compilation of clippings from the past one hundred years is useful as a chronicle but fails the Carr test as history. The calendar of events runs smoothly off his computer, but there is little by way of in-depth analysis or thought-provoking reflection. And when a...

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