Book Review “The Quest for Modern Assam: A History, 1942-2000” by Arupjyoti Saikia

Assam, which shares borders with Bhutan, Bangladesh and used to border Myanmar and China, is the largest state in India’s volatile Northeast region. Many of the Indian states that now border Assam; Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, were all carved out of Assam’s territory post-Independence following fierce political battles for representation and autonomy. Therefore a study of Assam is vital not just for understanding events in one of India’s most geopolitical important regions

Book Review “Smoke and Ashes” by Amitav Ghosh

In 2008, Amitav Ghosh released A Sea of Poppies, the first in a trilogy of historical fiction set in India and China in the 1830s amid the outbreak of the First Opium War. The Ibis trilogy details the growth of opium in India, the role of British agents in shipping it to Canton (modern-day Guangzhou) and the massive international impact of the opium trade. Now, eight years after the final book in the trilogy was released, Ghosh has released Smoke and Ashes, a non-fiction compendium to the series

Book Review “Anarchy or Chaos: MPT Acharya and the Indian Struggle for Freedom” by Ole Birk Laursen

In Anarchy or Chaos, Ole Birk Laursen sets out to bring the life and intellectual contributions of MPT Acharya, a relatively unknown yet vitally important Indian revolutionary, to a wider audience. This biography delves into Acharya’s involvement in nationalism, anticolonialism, revolution, and anarchism, drawing extensively from memoirs, letters, newspapers, and intelligence reports. The result is a remarkable and comprehensive portrayal of a man, for whom much of his life was spent at the cent

Book Review - “Baptizing Burma: Religious Change in the Last Buddhist Kingdom”

The impact of missionaries around the world has been widely condemned by anthropologists, historians and medical professionals. They have been accused of suppressing indigenous languages, religious and social practice, disrupting countries’ social fabrics and prohibiting contraception. Moreover, missionaries were, on the whole, stalwart defenders of European colonialism. However, that does not mean they are unworthy of nuanced academic study, indeed given the immense socio-political and religiou

Book Review “Negotiating Borders and Borderlands: The Indian Experience”, edited by Gorky Chakraborty and Supurna Banerjee

Negotiating Borders and Borderlands, edited by Gorky Chakraborty and Supurna Banerjee, delves into the intricate dynamics of India’s borders and the everyday experiences of those living in its borderlands. It features a diverse collection of articles contributed by various authors, aiming to analyze and portray how borders have influenced the destiny of countries and their inhabitants. In contrast to a statist approach to border studies, the book focuses deliberately on the lives of individuals

Book Review “Northeast India: A Political History” by Samrat Choudhury

Beyond the Siliguri Corrido, the so-called chicken neck of Indian territory that runs between Bangladhesh and Nepal, lies an India very different from that of common preconceptions. This is an area surrounded by Tibet, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh, hemmed in by the Himalaya. As Samrat Choudhury writes in the introduction to his new book, Northeast India: A Political History, “the Northeast is a protuberance that hangs on to the rest of the country by a slender thread, barely 21 kilometres wide

Book Review “Fruits Of The Barren Tree” by Lekhnath Chhetri

Fruits of the Barren Tree, a translation of the Nepali-language novel Phoolange, is set near Darjeeling, the hill station in India’s West Bengal synonymous with the Raj, tea gardens and domestic honeymooners. Yet the mountainous region portrayed by Lekhnath Chhetri is a far cry from the clichés and tropes that are so often invoked when discussing the region. The book is one of the few novels set amid the Gorkhaland movement of the 1980s,which saw multiple years of political struggle, often viol

Book Review “Empire Building: The Construction of British India, 1690-1860” by Rosie Llewellyn-Jones

While most of the now common histories of the East India Company (EIC) and British India discuss the politics, conflict or culture of empire, Rosie Llewellyn-Jones’s Empire Building: The Construction of British India, 1690-1860 focuses on the physical construction of British India through the buildings that were constructed, the background to their design, the political and economic constraints that shaped their design and how these colonial constructions influenced India’s society, economy and

Book Review “I Feel No Peace: Rohingya Fleeing Over Seas and Rivers” by Kaamil Ahmed

In this remarkable debut, Kaamil Ahmed tells the story of the displacement of the Rohingya from their home in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state and their ongoing search for refuge. This is not a new story, but Ahmed puts the spotlight firmly on the Rohingya perspective and allows them to tell their own story in their own words. The book is an impressive mix of history, political analysis and extensive reportage from Myanmar, Bangladesh and Malaysia. Ahmed charts the Rohingya struggle in Myanmar f

Book Review “Return of the Junta: Why Myanmar’s Military Must Go Back to the Barracks” by Oliver Slow

After the Myanmar military seized power on 1 February 2021, the country has been in the midst of a humanitarian crisis The military, who have been a major disruptive force in Myanmar politics ever since independence in 1948, is the focus of Oliver Slow’s new book, Return of the Junta: Why Myanmar’s Military Must Go Back to the Barracks: an overview of the history of the military, its role in politics, education, and the myths and propaganda its members believe and propagate. The book opens with

Book Review “Museum of the World” by Christopher Kloeble

While the foreigner in colonial India has become, at least since EM Forster, something of a genre unto itself, the foreigners are almost invariably British and the novels mostly in English. Museum of the World by Christopher Kloeble is something of a novelty not just because it is based on the true story of the three Bavarian Schlagintweit brothers who explored India for the East India Company in the mid-19th century, but also because it was written in German; this new member of the canon appear

Book Review “Tragic Nation Burma: Why and How Democracy Failed” by Amitav Acharya

Since the coup on 1 February 2021, Burma (the author’s term) has seen a humanitarian crisis in all regions of the country, with mass displacement and a myriad of human rights abuses. What happened in Burma and how the situation deteriorated to this point is the topic of Amitav Acharya’s new book Tragic Nation Burma: Why and How Democracy Failed. The book is a mixture of analysis and opinion, liberally layered with numerous quotations and interviews with members of Burma’s Civil Disobedience Move

Book Review “Anglo-India and the End of Empire” by Uther Charlton-Stevens

In his new book, Uther Charlton-Stevens provides a rich history of the Anglo-Indian community, people of both Indian and British heritage, and explains why this small but important community deserves a greater focus. In this book he outlines the curious identity and relationship of Anglo-Indians with both the UK and India, and explains how they were “never simply the colonisers nor the colonised, but something in between”. Through this prism, he argues, we can re-analyse Indian history through a

Book Review “Himalaya: Exploring the Roof of the World” by John Keay

John Keay has written well over 20 books, ranging from European to Middle Eastern history, but it’s his writing on the Subcontinent that he’s best known for. His new book draws on decades of research to provide a comprehensive portrait of the Himalaya from geology and politics to revolution and religion. “History has not been kind to Himalaya,” writes Keay, opening with an account of Younghusband’s bloody expedition, or rather invasion, of Tibet in 1904. Keay then moves onto an explanation of H

Book Review “High: A Journey Across the Himalayas” by Erika Fatland

In her new book High, Erika Fatland traverses the Himalaya. Her journey starts in Kashgar in Western China. From her starting point in Xinjiang, she crosses the border into Pakistan and travels down the Karakorum highway onto Gilgit, Chitral and the Swat Valley. Dropping down to Lahore her journey takes her across the Punjab and into Indian Kashmir, then Leh, Manali, Dharmsala, Darjeeling and Sikkim before venturing onto Bhutan and Arunachal and Assam. Then in a second later trip to Nepal, Fatla

Book Review “In the Language of Remembering: The Inheritance of Partition” by Aanchal Malhotra

While celebrations kicked off in August to mark 75 years of Indian and Pakistani independence, a second more somber anniversary also took place, remembering the largest human displacement in history, an event which has shaped and defined the sub-continents past, present and future: Partition. While there are a myriad of books on the history of partition, ranging from reportage to political analysis, yet as Aanchal Malhotra writes in In the Language of Remembering: The Inheritance of Partition,

Book Review “Science on the Roof of the World: Empire and the remaking of the Himalaya” by Lachlan Fleetwood

The exploration of the Himalaya contributed vastly to scientific knowledge. From botanical discoveries, to understanding of how human bodies work at altitude, to pioneering the use of new scientific equipment, the mountain range had an immense importance. Yet its hostile environment meant that this knowledge was not easily gained. Moreover these scientific endeavors were by no means apolitical. Empire and imperialism was a central aspect of these activities. Despite the notional purity of scienc

Book Review “Everest 1922: The Epic Story of the First Attempt on the World’s Highest Mountain” by Mick Conefrey

The story of George Mallory’s 1924 failed and fatal attempt on Everest is perhaps mountaineering’s greatest unsolved mystery. Last spotted 250 meters from the summit, Mallory and his partner Andrew Irvine disappeared from view and would never be seen alive again. When Mallory’s body was eventually found in 1999, Irvine’s body never was. The mystery of whether they reached the summit before they perished on the mountain has never been solved. Yet this was not Mallory’s first attempt on the summit

Book Review “Making Refugees in India” by Ria Kapoor

India is home to more than 200,000 refugees in India today including Afghans, Tibetans, Sri Lankan Tamils, Rohingya and more. Yet almost counterintuitively, the Indian government is highly skeptical of international refugee mechanisms designed to help conditions for refugees. India has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention and has been widely criticized for its treatment of Muslim refugees. Ria Kapoor argues in Making refugees in India that India’s complex relationship with refugees is “born of

Book Review - “Political Economy of Social Change and Development in Nepal” by Jeevan R Sharma

Nepal has undergone immense social change since 1951 and the end of the Rana dynasty. It has been transformed from a feudal autocratic monarchy to a federal republican democracy. Its politics, society and economy have been irrevocably changed by coups, civil war and political movements. So vast and far reaching are these changes that Jeevan R Sharma dubs them Nepal’s “great transformation”. Political Economy of Social Change and Development in Nepal is an attempt to provide a concise overview of
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