tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

India Book Review: A New History of India, by Stanley Wolpert

Reading UCLA historian Stanley Wolpert’s A New History of India (8th ed.) is your (and my) just punishment for not taking an Intro to India course at university.

And reading the dense volume passim in 35-minute intervals on the TTC* during a typically bleak Canadian February (as I did) might be the best way to approach the book (and might actually make winter look not too difficult by comparison).

To be fair, Wolpert’s history of India, now in its eighth edition (the academic equivalent of the best-seller list and the Oprah book club, combined), offers you infinitely more insight and considerably more depth than those forgettable history passages in Lonely Planet.

From the Vedic civilization’s economic development to agricultural innovation on the Deccan plateau; from Hindu philosophy to the Dutch East India Company; from Mughal ascendancy to English utilitarianism to the political context of the assassination of Gandhi—actually of several Gandhis—Wolpert has you covered with agonizingly precise historical minutiae of the sort that usually attracts only lonely history buffs and comatose hospital patients (the latter in book-on-tape form, obviously).

Still, it is patently irresponsible to attempt to travel India without some concept of its history, and although there are more enjoyable ways to devour it, there is no more complete way (possibly short of enrolling in Wolpert’s class). Read it before you travel but carry it along at your own risk; while it is a sure-footed reference guide, it is not a light book!

A New History of India (8th ed.)
By Stanley Wolpert
Oxford University Press, 2009
548 pages

* TTC equals Toronto Transit Commission, or more specifically the Dundas and Spadina streetcars for this blogger.

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