What makes India a nation? What has held its many disparate societies with their diverse, sometimes conflicting, narratives together for more than sixty years? What has allowed India to sustain its commitment to the democratic process, given its location in a region that is largely undemocratic? In this magisterial analysis of the last five hundred years of Indian history, Meghnad Desai looks at India?s colonial past, its struggle for independence and its many contemporary conundrums, to discover answers to the questions that have confronted India-watchers for decades. Rejecting much received wisdom, including narratives fashioned by India?s ruling establishment, Meghnad Desai goes back to the beginnings of the East?West encounter at the end of the fifteenth century. He tracks its impact on the cultures and politics of the present day, from the emergence of new classes under colonialism, the influence of Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi on the idea of Indian nationhood, to the entirely parallel discourses that developed in North and South India. Yet this trajectory, this outcome, was not inevitable. Through a series of ?Counterfactual Boxes? Meghnad Desai analyses the accepted defining moments of India?s past and suggests alternative courses that history could so easily have taken.
About the Author
Meghnad Desai was born in Vadodara, Gujarat, and received his BA and MA degrees from the University of Bombay. He went to the US in 1961 where he completed a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania. He taught economics from 1965 to 2003 at the London School of Economics, where he now holds the post of Professor Emeritus. He has authored over twenty books and two hundred articles. His recent books include Marx?s Revenge: Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism; Nehru?s Hero: Dilip Kumar in the Life of India; Development and Nationhood: Essays on the Political Economy of South Asia; Rethinking Islamism: Ideology of the New Terror; and a novel, Dead on Time.
Meghnad Desai has been an active member of the British Labour Party since 1971. He was made Lord Desai of St Clement Danes in 1991, and was awarded the Bharatiya Pravasi Puraskar in 2004 and the Padma Bhushan in 2008. He divides his time between London, Delhi and Goa.