Thoughts on history and history writing
Can historians take the role of political activists?
Indian academic historians just did this type of roles!
One school of historians passed resolutions against the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi.
They very same school also opposed the Babri Masjid demolition case referred to the Supreme Court.
The so-called other school, the rightwing school, that allied to the BJP/RSS agenda helped to rewrite the history texts that extolled the activities of the RSS.
Where were the nationalist historians? They were lying low.
Even now, the Indian academic historians don’t ask the critical questions, they don’t ask great questions of history. Questions like: will Indian remain one country? Will India get more united, in its very many divisive forces, in terms of language, ethnic chauvinist politics, and religious bigotry?
There is no open-minded approach to the study of religions in his story of India. Much more important from my point of India is the question: how the British interpretation of Indian history (we cant deny the contributions of the British officials and writers in unearthing and discovering so many forgotten and lost historic sites and also the contribution of the Western knowledge to the study of the emergence of modern India) and also the outcome of the British occupation and dominance of the Indian thought processes and the very Indian outlook. How the present Indian mindset, the very mental makeup of Indians is one of subservience and suffers from a sense of deep inferiority complex. These aspects, I consider, as the most critical questions Indian historians must explore, explain and give some guidance in history teaching and history education.
History writing must start with current realities!
What is the historic meaning of economic recession?
What is the historic meaning of international terrorism?
What is history? History is and had always been about wars and the ending of wars. History can also be about big persons, leaders and about evolution of ideas.
History is one of the social sciences. As such, it must tackle political and social and sociological questions as much as even wars and waves of society’s rising and fall.
Why after building, say, the Parthenon, the Acropolis in Athens suddenly one day it became an empty place? So too the Roman colosseum, so huge an architecture suddenly one day became empty?
Why our archeological sites are important? What they convey?
History tells us, as historians from Herodotus to Thucydides to Edward Gibbon to our own times, historians like A.J.P.Taylor and others why the fortunes of a people, nations and superpowers, change dramatically. The dramatic changes on huge scale are all about history and history writing is just this only.
The 69th Indian History Congress was held in Kerala were both interesting and also a bit boring.
The historians, all are professional historians, met and debated a lot of themes in history, in history writing and the underlying conflicting ideologies in writing history. Pof.K.N.Panikkar, the Left historian and the session’s president gave the inaugural lecture and his theme, as expected, was on the Marxist interpretation which he sought to tag to the writing of Indian history. His theme was that Marxist historiography, the art of writing history from the Marxist point of view, didn’t pay enough importance to the element of culture. Anyway, it is one point of view. There were other points of view and some were explained by Prof.Habib. There were many schools of thought in history writing and one was culture, another was subalterns in the creation of history. The other was the employment of tools from Western scholarship to the study of Indian history. Edward Said was one who believed that you can’t study orientalism from the tools shaped by Western schools of history writing.
And so on and so forth. However, the current Indian historians’ bugbear, the communal vs. the Marxist history, as represented by the BJP and others came out in the deliberations.
Why the current divide in the Indian history writing between the Left and the not so right?
It is a difficult question and I would consider as a not so great question otherwise.
I had studied history as an amateur and my keen interest in history continues to this day only as an amateur only. I had read my own volumes .often in a superficial way, skipping through the pages and yet getting interested in some vital questions.