Western Identity — Ours and Theirs…Part I


[Note: All the matter from the Tonybee book has been keyed in by me, & typos & errors are regretted. Sentences, paragraphs, etc. that are irrelevant to our discussion have been replaced with “…..” ]

REF#1 :

The World and the West; Arnold Tonybee

(From his BBC Reith Lectures) 99 pages.

Published: 1953; Oxford Univ Press;

library of congress catalog card # 53-5911

Chapter III (INDIA AND THE WEST) is quoted extensively in the main body of article, as [AJT QUOTE #4, in italics, split into many paragraphs]


Imagining India; Ronald Inden

Originally Published by Blackwell, Cambridge, MA; Republished in paperback by Indiana University Press

ISBN 0-253-33689-9 (Hardcover); ISBN 0-253-33689-9 (Paperback)

(See excerpt in Ref 3 below)



Blinded By The Light Of "World History"

Re-Centering India In The Mandala Of Eurasian Civilizations

By David B. Gray

Rice University

I. Introduction: The Blindness of World History

Much has been written over the past decade on the subject of Indian historiography and the inadequacy of past historiographic paradigms. It is probably not necessary to review these in length, as most of the participants in this seminar are likely to be familiar with them.1 To succinctly characterize the thrust of Colonial era historiography, it hinges, somewhat amazingly, on the claim that India, properly speaking, lacks history. This claim was made explicitly by Hegel, who wrote:

If we had formerly the satisfaction of believing in the antiquity of the Indian

wisdom and holding it in respect, we now have ascertained through being

acquainted with the great astronomical works of the Indians, the inaccuracy of all figures quoted.


Nothing can be more confused, nothing more imperfect than the chronology of the Indians; no people which attained to culture in astronomy, mathematics, &c., is as incapable for history; in it they have neither stability nor coherence.


It was believed that such was to be had at the time of Wikramaditya, who was supposed to have lived about 50 B.C., and under whose reign the poet Kalidasa, author of Sakontala, lived. But further research discovered half a dozen Wikramadityas and careful investigation has placed this epoch in our eleventh century.

The Indians have lines of kings and an enormous quantity of names, but everything is vague. 2

A more reflective scholar might have considered that such vagueness was an attribute of his own understanding, rather than of the object of study itself. Hegel, however, saw the flawed state of European understanding of the colonized Other as a sign of the Other’s flaw, and hence the inferiority of the colonized to the colonizers. This allowed him to concoct his theory of “World-History,” which was based upon a notion of the “progress of history,” metaphorically described as the march of the “Spirit” from East to West. Historical agency thence became an attribute of the modern West, leaving India and the “Far East” in a state of perpetual infancy and cultural dependence.

There is no need to dwell on the fact that this historiography was ideological, implicitly justifying the otherwise unjustifiable violent exploitation of one civilization by another.

Indeed, as Ranajit Guha has noted, Hegel’s project was “to legitimate existing

reality by conceiving it philosophically3 This “World History” paradigm not only fails to promote a sound understanding of the colonized Other,4 but also fails to even provide an adequate account of Europe’s rise to prominence in the early modern era, insofar as it is unable to articulate Europe’s dependence upon the Colonial Other.5

The lynchpin of this historiographic portrayal is the negation of India’s cultural and historical agency. As Ronald Inden wrote,

To have represented the kingdoms of India as relatively autonomous agents, as complex, inter-related polities that could unite through pacts as well as ‘force’ within a single imperial formation and create new centres not determined by a fixed military topography, would have undermined this whole orientalist project.


The inaccuracy of the claim that India lacks history has been demonstrated both by Inden as well as by Michael Witzel, who shows that the Indian historiographic tradition has been largely, but not entirely effaced by centuries of invasions and neglect.6 Excellent progress has in fact been made recently in the recovery of indigenous Indian historical narrative traditions.7

In this paper I will seek to complement such initiatives in an attempt to contribute to the efforts to restore India’s historical and cultural agency. I will do so by arguing that Europe was not unique in its development of a sophisticated and influential civilization, and that India, during the first millennium of the common era, achieved without violence an influence in Asia at least as great as that achieved by Europeans through violence during the colonial era. Specifically, in section two, drawing upon the work of Norbert Elias, I will argue that India underwent a “civilizing process” during the last half of the first millenium BCE, analogous to that experienced in Europe over a thousand years later. In section three, I will conclude by arguing that India, in turn, provided a powerful and influential model that was selectively adopted and adapted by other Asian polities as they embarked in state formation.


David Derrick’s webpage:

http://davidderrick.wordpress.com/The Tonybee convector’. Rich content, and with well structured and easily negotiable references.]

Many well written articles with details on Tonybee's "A Study of History" of world (his motivations in writing it) and Babur's invasion, and Turkey issues..

See some relevant details for this article at-

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