Education About Asia: Online Archives

The Illustrated Cultural History of India

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304 PAGES, ISBN: 978-0195691924, SOFTCOVER

Reviewed by Bruce Robinson

This volume is an adaptation of A. L. Basham’s 1975 collection of articles entitled A Cultural History of India, which succeeded in capturing the state of scholarship at the time of its publication. That volume and the present illustrated version boast contributions from a plethora of respected scholars and authorities from the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations on aspects of South Asian history and culture. Names such as Romila Thapar and Percival Spear, who wrote volumes one and two of the old Pelican History of India, jump from the table of contents. Of course, Basham himself wrote the book that introduced many of us to the field of Indology—The Wonder that Was India. While the 1975 volume was well received and served as a basic reader for years thereafter, this adaptation, comprised of recycled articles, often shows its age, demonstrating that subsequent scholarship has changed interpretation. Within these pages exists a great deal of expert information, but the volume generally leaves the reader with an understanding of South Asian society and history as understood by the field some thirty years ago.