17 June, 2021

The Other Indias

Keay's elegant book reaches the parts other histories ignore

The Other Indias
John Keay lives in Scotland, is a historian of world exploration, a student of Indonesia and of the strategic region around Gilgit separating South Asia from Central Asia. Also, he has been wandering inside India for 30-odd years.

In short, Keay is not a professional historian of India or anywhere else. In his own misleadingly modest words, he is only "an intermittent correspondent and political analyst". Yet if, as he puts it, he entered "gownless" into this project of writing India's history, he emerges from it crowned with astonishing success.

Keay says his history of India has a bias towards architecture and chronology. But the book contains other welcome tilts, one in favour of comprehensiveness and another in favour of charm in writing. Rather than being a history of India's beliefs, Keay's story is powerfully influenced by India's architecture, and sculpture over the ages. From inscriptions and figures in cold stone, and stone structures, he summons vivid scenes of conquest and treachery, warm tales of achievement. The bias in favour of...

In this article:

Latest Magazine

June 21, 2021

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section