Distortions in Indian Historiography

Course content:

The central argument of the course will be made by a close study of key texts produced by denialist historians and their critics. We will examine modern historiography before Indira Gandhi by stalwarts like Jadunath Sarkar and R.C. Majumdar. Though generally honest and consistent with the then prevailing international standards, it was the object of the “secularist” historians’ ire, mainly for taking the communal dimension of Indian history seriously and for promoting the idea of India’s historical unity. This Hindu-centered idea of India had been taken in his stride even by Jawaharlal Nehru but would subsequently become a battleground both in India and around the world. From the 1970s onwards, historiography became ideologically streamlined in a “secularist” sense. We look into the dramatis personae (S Nurul Hasan, P.N. Haksar, R.S. Sharma, Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, et al.), their motivation and methods, and the resulting distortions of the historical record. This approach has remained dominant till today, unchallenged even by the present Indian government. It can often be characterized as having the typical elements of a grand but little-questioned conspiracy theory. Finally, we highlight the handful of critical publications that have nonetheless been devoted to this trend.

Course Learning Objectives:

In this course students will be able to:

  1. Evaluate Facts, Distortions, Narratives, and Motives.
  2. Recognize ‘Negationism’ as a phenomenon and its consequences
  3. Explore Case Studies such as the Ram Janmabhoomi issue.
  4. Assess if the Hindu experience can be characterized as a Holocaust or Genocide.
  5. Reflect on the prospects for reconstructing Hindu history without biases at either end

Class Structure

There will be a minimum of 1 contact hour with one or more faculty every week. The class is structured in a way that promotes discussion and debate based on self-study and reflection each week. While the content being discussed in each class will be concluded within 90 minutes, the discussion time will be free format and can continue for an additional 30 minutes maximum. During the course, students will be required to submit one or two short essays. They need not be academic quality papers – but should be based on students’ self-reflection on what they have learned and assimilated so far.  Selected essays may qualify for being published on the University’s website.

Area of Study: History and Method

Required / Elective: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Faculty / InstructorDr. Koenraad Elst

Day: Sunday

Start Date: October 10, 2021

End Date: December 19, 2021

Time: 12 pm EST – 2 pm EST

Quarter Offered: Fall 2021