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The History of HistoryPolitics and Scholarship in Modern India$
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Vinay Lal

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195672442

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195672442.001.0001

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The History of Ahistoricity

The History of Ahistoricity

The Indian Tradition, Colonialism, and the Advent of Historical Thinking1

(p.27) 1 The History of Ahistoricity
The History of History

Vinay Lal

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyses the nationalist obsession with history in India during the nineteenth century, focusing on the history of ahistoricity and the Indian tradition, colonialism, and the advent of historical thinking in the country. It offers a dissenting perspective on why historical literature and thinking were absent in India until very recent times. It disagrees with those scholars who, in their rejection of nineteenth-century colonialist and nationalist interpretations as equally orientalist, but in their simultaneous embrace of historicism, have adopted the view that Indians sustained an engagement with historical reasoning, albeit not of the European variety. While these scholars are well-intentioned, they have no place for ahistoricism in their scheme of knowledge. The chapter also examines Bankimcandra Chatterji's quest for a masculine Hinduism and a historical Krishna, as well as Mahatma Gandhi's view of the Mahabharata as a historical record and the historicity of Krishna.

Keywords:   history, India, ahistoricity, colonialism, Bankimcandra Chatterji, Mahatma Gandhi, Hinduism, Krishna, Mahabharata, historicity

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