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NCERT Textbook - How, When and Where | History for UPSC CSE

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 Page 1


Introduction: 
How, When and Where
1
How Important are Dates?
There was a time when historians were 
fascinated with dates. There were heated 
debates about the dates on which rulers 
were crowned or battles were fought. In 
the common-sense notion, history was 
synonymous with dates. You may have 
heard people say, “I find history boring 
because it is all about memorising 
dates.” Is such a conception true?
History is certainly about changes 
that occur over time. It is about 
finding out how things were in the 
past and how things have changed. 
As soon as we compare the past with 
the present, we refer to time, we talk of 
“before” and “after”. 
Living in the world we do not always 
ask historical questions about what 
we see around us. We take things for 
granted, as if what we see has always 
been in the world we inhabit. But most of 
us have our moments of wonder, when we are 
curious, and we ask questions that actually are historical. 
Watching someone sip a cup of tea at a roadside tea stall, 
you may wonder – when did people begin to drink tea or 
coffee? Looking out of the window of a train you may ask 
yourself – when were railways built and how did people 
travel long distances before the age of railways? Reading 
the newspaper in the morning you may be curious to know 
how people got to hear about things before newspapers 
began to be printed.  
Fig. 1 – Brahmans offering the 
Shastras to Britannia, frontispiece 
to the first map produced by 
James Rennel, 1782
Rennel was asked by Robert Clive 
to produce maps of Hindustan. 
An enthusiastic supporter 
of British conquest of India, 
Rennel saw preparation of maps 
as essential to the process of 
domination. The picture here 
tries to suggest that Indians 
willingly gave over their ancient 
texts to Britannia – the symbol of 
British power – as if asking her 
to become the protector of Indian 
culture.
Activity
Look carefully at Fig.1 and write a paragraph explaining 
how this image projects an imperial perception.
?
chap 1-4.indd   1 6/6/2022   12:36:43 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 2


Introduction: 
How, When and Where
1
How Important are Dates?
There was a time when historians were 
fascinated with dates. There were heated 
debates about the dates on which rulers 
were crowned or battles were fought. In 
the common-sense notion, history was 
synonymous with dates. You may have 
heard people say, “I find history boring 
because it is all about memorising 
dates.” Is such a conception true?
History is certainly about changes 
that occur over time. It is about 
finding out how things were in the 
past and how things have changed. 
As soon as we compare the past with 
the present, we refer to time, we talk of 
“before” and “after”. 
Living in the world we do not always 
ask historical questions about what 
we see around us. We take things for 
granted, as if what we see has always 
been in the world we inhabit. But most of 
us have our moments of wonder, when we are 
curious, and we ask questions that actually are historical. 
Watching someone sip a cup of tea at a roadside tea stall, 
you may wonder – when did people begin to drink tea or 
coffee? Looking out of the window of a train you may ask 
yourself – when were railways built and how did people 
travel long distances before the age of railways? Reading 
the newspaper in the morning you may be curious to know 
how people got to hear about things before newspapers 
began to be printed.  
Fig. 1 – Brahmans offering the 
Shastras to Britannia, frontispiece 
to the first map produced by 
James Rennel, 1782
Rennel was asked by Robert Clive 
to produce maps of Hindustan. 
An enthusiastic supporter 
of British conquest of India, 
Rennel saw preparation of maps 
as essential to the process of 
domination. The picture here 
tries to suggest that Indians 
willingly gave over their ancient 
texts to Britannia – the symbol of 
British power – as if asking her 
to become the protector of Indian 
culture.
Activity
Look carefully at Fig.1 and write a paragraph explaining 
how this image projects an imperial perception.
?
chap 1-4.indd   1 6/6/2022   12:36:43 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
2 OUR PASTS – III
All such historical questions refer us back to 
notions of time. But time does not have to be always 
precisely dated in terms of a particular year or a month. 
Sometimes it is actually incorrect to fix precise dates 
to processes that happen over a period of time. People 
in India did not begin drinking tea one fine day; they 
developed a taste for it over time. There can be no 
one clear date for a process such as this. Similarly, 
we cannot fix one single date on which British rule 
was established, or the national movement started, or 
changes took place within the economy and society. All 
these things happened over a stretch of time. We can 
only refer to a span of time, an approximate period over 
which particular changes became visible.
Why, then, do we continue to associate history with 
a string of dates? This association has a reason. There 
was a time when history was an account of battles and big 
events. It was about rulers and their policies. Historians 
wrote about the year a king was crowned, the year he 
married, the year he had a child, the year he fought a 
particular war, the year he died, and the year the next 
ruler succeeded to the throne. For events such as these, 
specific dates can be determined, and in histories such 
as these, debates about dates continue to be important. 
As you have seen in the history textbooks of the past 
two years, historians now write about a host of other 
issues, and other questions. They look at how people 
earned their livelihood, what they produced and ate, how 
cities developed and markets came up, how kingdoms 
were formed and new ideas spread, and how cultures 
and society changed.
Which dates?
By what criteria do we choose a set of dates as 
important? The dates we select, the dates around which 
we compose our story of the past, are not important 
on their own. They become vital because we focus on 
a particular set of events as important. If our focus of 
study changes, if we begin to look at new issues, a new 
set of dates will appear significant. 
Consider an example. In the histories written by 
British historians in India, the rule of each Governor-
General was important. These histories began with the 
rule of the first Governor-General, Warren Hastings, 
and ended with the last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten. In 
separate chapters, we read about the deeds of others — 
Hastings, Wellesley, Bentinck, Dalhousie, Canning, 
Fig. 2 – Advertisements help 
create taste
Old advertisements help us 
understand how markets for new 
products were created and new 
tastes were popularised. This 
1922 advertisement for Lipton tea 
suggests that royalty all over the 
world is associated with this tea. 
In the background you see the 
outer wall of an Indian palace, 
while in the foreground, seated 
on horseback is the third son of 
Queen Victoria of Britain, Prince 
Arthur, who was given the title 
Duke of Connaught.
chap 1-4.indd   2 4/22/2022   2:49:16 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 3


Introduction: 
How, When and Where
1
How Important are Dates?
There was a time when historians were 
fascinated with dates. There were heated 
debates about the dates on which rulers 
were crowned or battles were fought. In 
the common-sense notion, history was 
synonymous with dates. You may have 
heard people say, “I find history boring 
because it is all about memorising 
dates.” Is such a conception true?
History is certainly about changes 
that occur over time. It is about 
finding out how things were in the 
past and how things have changed. 
As soon as we compare the past with 
the present, we refer to time, we talk of 
“before” and “after”. 
Living in the world we do not always 
ask historical questions about what 
we see around us. We take things for 
granted, as if what we see has always 
been in the world we inhabit. But most of 
us have our moments of wonder, when we are 
curious, and we ask questions that actually are historical. 
Watching someone sip a cup of tea at a roadside tea stall, 
you may wonder – when did people begin to drink tea or 
coffee? Looking out of the window of a train you may ask 
yourself – when were railways built and how did people 
travel long distances before the age of railways? Reading 
the newspaper in the morning you may be curious to know 
how people got to hear about things before newspapers 
began to be printed.  
Fig. 1 – Brahmans offering the 
Shastras to Britannia, frontispiece 
to the first map produced by 
James Rennel, 1782
Rennel was asked by Robert Clive 
to produce maps of Hindustan. 
An enthusiastic supporter 
of British conquest of India, 
Rennel saw preparation of maps 
as essential to the process of 
domination. The picture here 
tries to suggest that Indians 
willingly gave over their ancient 
texts to Britannia – the symbol of 
British power – as if asking her 
to become the protector of Indian 
culture.
Activity
Look carefully at Fig.1 and write a paragraph explaining 
how this image projects an imperial perception.
?
chap 1-4.indd   1 6/6/2022   12:36:43 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
2 OUR PASTS – III
All such historical questions refer us back to 
notions of time. But time does not have to be always 
precisely dated in terms of a particular year or a month. 
Sometimes it is actually incorrect to fix precise dates 
to processes that happen over a period of time. People 
in India did not begin drinking tea one fine day; they 
developed a taste for it over time. There can be no 
one clear date for a process such as this. Similarly, 
we cannot fix one single date on which British rule 
was established, or the national movement started, or 
changes took place within the economy and society. All 
these things happened over a stretch of time. We can 
only refer to a span of time, an approximate period over 
which particular changes became visible.
Why, then, do we continue to associate history with 
a string of dates? This association has a reason. There 
was a time when history was an account of battles and big 
events. It was about rulers and their policies. Historians 
wrote about the year a king was crowned, the year he 
married, the year he had a child, the year he fought a 
particular war, the year he died, and the year the next 
ruler succeeded to the throne. For events such as these, 
specific dates can be determined, and in histories such 
as these, debates about dates continue to be important. 
As you have seen in the history textbooks of the past 
two years, historians now write about a host of other 
issues, and other questions. They look at how people 
earned their livelihood, what they produced and ate, how 
cities developed and markets came up, how kingdoms 
were formed and new ideas spread, and how cultures 
and society changed.
Which dates?
By what criteria do we choose a set of dates as 
important? The dates we select, the dates around which 
we compose our story of the past, are not important 
on their own. They become vital because we focus on 
a particular set of events as important. If our focus of 
study changes, if we begin to look at new issues, a new 
set of dates will appear significant. 
Consider an example. In the histories written by 
British historians in India, the rule of each Governor-
General was important. These histories began with the 
rule of the first Governor-General, Warren Hastings, 
and ended with the last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten. In 
separate chapters, we read about the deeds of others — 
Hastings, Wellesley, Bentinck, Dalhousie, Canning, 
Fig. 2 – Advertisements help 
create taste
Old advertisements help us 
understand how markets for new 
products were created and new 
tastes were popularised. This 
1922 advertisement for Lipton tea 
suggests that royalty all over the 
world is associated with this tea. 
In the background you see the 
outer wall of an Indian palace, 
while in the foreground, seated 
on horseback is the third son of 
Queen Victoria of Britain, Prince 
Arthur, who was given the title 
Duke of Connaught.
chap 1-4.indd   2 4/22/2022   2:49:16 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
INTRODUCTION: HOW, WHEN AND WHERE         3
Lawrence, Lytton, Ripon, Curzon, Harding, Irwin. It 
was a seemingly never-ending succession of Governor- 
Generals and Viceroys. All the dates in these history books 
were linked to these personalities – to their activities, 
policies and achievements. It was as if there was nothing 
outside their lives that was important for us to know. The 
chronology of their lives marked the different chapters of 
the history of British India. 
Can we not write about the history of this period in a 
different way? How do we focus on the activities of different 
groups and classes in Indian society within the format of 
this history of Governor-Generals? 
When we write history, or a story, we divide it into 
chapters. Why do we do this? It is to give each chapter 
some coherence. It is to tell a story in a way that makes 
some sense and can be followed. In the process we focus 
only on those events that help us to give shape to the story 
we are telling. In the histories that revolve around the life 
of British Governor-Generals, the activities of Indians 
simply do not fit, they have no space. What, then, do we 
do? Clearly, we need another format for our history. This 
would mean that the old dates will no longer have the 
significance they earlier had. A new set of dates will become 
more important for us to know.  
How do we periodise? 
In 1817, James Mill, a Scottish economist and political 
philosopher, published a massive three-volume work, 
A History of British India. In this, he divided Indian 
history into three periods – Hindu, Muslim and British. 
This periodisation came to be widely accepted. Can 
you think of any problem with this way of looking at 
Indian history?
Why do we try and divide history into different periods? 
We do so in an attempt to capture the characteristics of 
a time, its central features as they appear to us. So the 
terms through which we periodise – that is, demarcate 
the difference between periods – become important. They 
reflect our ideas about the past. They show how we see 
the significance of the change from one period to the next. 
Mill thought that all Asian societies were at a lower 
level of civilisation than Europe. According to  his telling 
of history, before the British came to India, Hindu and 
Muslim despots ruled the country. Religious intolerance, 
caste taboos and superstitious practices dominated  
social life. British rule, Mill felt, could civilise India. To do 
Fig. 3 – Warren Hastings became 
the first Governor-General in 1773
While history books narrated 
the deeds of Governor-Generals, 
biographies glorified them as 
persons, and paintings projected 
them as powerful figures. 
Interview your mother 
or another member of 
your family to find out 
about their life. Now 
divide their life into 
different periods and 
list out the significant 
events in each period.  
Explain the basis of your 
periodisation.
Activity
?
chap 1-4.indd   3 6/14/2022   2:38:32 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 4


Introduction: 
How, When and Where
1
How Important are Dates?
There was a time when historians were 
fascinated with dates. There were heated 
debates about the dates on which rulers 
were crowned or battles were fought. In 
the common-sense notion, history was 
synonymous with dates. You may have 
heard people say, “I find history boring 
because it is all about memorising 
dates.” Is such a conception true?
History is certainly about changes 
that occur over time. It is about 
finding out how things were in the 
past and how things have changed. 
As soon as we compare the past with 
the present, we refer to time, we talk of 
“before” and “after”. 
Living in the world we do not always 
ask historical questions about what 
we see around us. We take things for 
granted, as if what we see has always 
been in the world we inhabit. But most of 
us have our moments of wonder, when we are 
curious, and we ask questions that actually are historical. 
Watching someone sip a cup of tea at a roadside tea stall, 
you may wonder – when did people begin to drink tea or 
coffee? Looking out of the window of a train you may ask 
yourself – when were railways built and how did people 
travel long distances before the age of railways? Reading 
the newspaper in the morning you may be curious to know 
how people got to hear about things before newspapers 
began to be printed.  
Fig. 1 – Brahmans offering the 
Shastras to Britannia, frontispiece 
to the first map produced by 
James Rennel, 1782
Rennel was asked by Robert Clive 
to produce maps of Hindustan. 
An enthusiastic supporter 
of British conquest of India, 
Rennel saw preparation of maps 
as essential to the process of 
domination. The picture here 
tries to suggest that Indians 
willingly gave over their ancient 
texts to Britannia – the symbol of 
British power – as if asking her 
to become the protector of Indian 
culture.
Activity
Look carefully at Fig.1 and write a paragraph explaining 
how this image projects an imperial perception.
?
chap 1-4.indd   1 6/6/2022   12:36:43 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
2 OUR PASTS – III
All such historical questions refer us back to 
notions of time. But time does not have to be always 
precisely dated in terms of a particular year or a month. 
Sometimes it is actually incorrect to fix precise dates 
to processes that happen over a period of time. People 
in India did not begin drinking tea one fine day; they 
developed a taste for it over time. There can be no 
one clear date for a process such as this. Similarly, 
we cannot fix one single date on which British rule 
was established, or the national movement started, or 
changes took place within the economy and society. All 
these things happened over a stretch of time. We can 
only refer to a span of time, an approximate period over 
which particular changes became visible.
Why, then, do we continue to associate history with 
a string of dates? This association has a reason. There 
was a time when history was an account of battles and big 
events. It was about rulers and their policies. Historians 
wrote about the year a king was crowned, the year he 
married, the year he had a child, the year he fought a 
particular war, the year he died, and the year the next 
ruler succeeded to the throne. For events such as these, 
specific dates can be determined, and in histories such 
as these, debates about dates continue to be important. 
As you have seen in the history textbooks of the past 
two years, historians now write about a host of other 
issues, and other questions. They look at how people 
earned their livelihood, what they produced and ate, how 
cities developed and markets came up, how kingdoms 
were formed and new ideas spread, and how cultures 
and society changed.
Which dates?
By what criteria do we choose a set of dates as 
important? The dates we select, the dates around which 
we compose our story of the past, are not important 
on their own. They become vital because we focus on 
a particular set of events as important. If our focus of 
study changes, if we begin to look at new issues, a new 
set of dates will appear significant. 
Consider an example. In the histories written by 
British historians in India, the rule of each Governor-
General was important. These histories began with the 
rule of the first Governor-General, Warren Hastings, 
and ended with the last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten. In 
separate chapters, we read about the deeds of others — 
Hastings, Wellesley, Bentinck, Dalhousie, Canning, 
Fig. 2 – Advertisements help 
create taste
Old advertisements help us 
understand how markets for new 
products were created and new 
tastes were popularised. This 
1922 advertisement for Lipton tea 
suggests that royalty all over the 
world is associated with this tea. 
In the background you see the 
outer wall of an Indian palace, 
while in the foreground, seated 
on horseback is the third son of 
Queen Victoria of Britain, Prince 
Arthur, who was given the title 
Duke of Connaught.
chap 1-4.indd   2 4/22/2022   2:49:16 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
INTRODUCTION: HOW, WHEN AND WHERE         3
Lawrence, Lytton, Ripon, Curzon, Harding, Irwin. It 
was a seemingly never-ending succession of Governor- 
Generals and Viceroys. All the dates in these history books 
were linked to these personalities – to their activities, 
policies and achievements. It was as if there was nothing 
outside their lives that was important for us to know. The 
chronology of their lives marked the different chapters of 
the history of British India. 
Can we not write about the history of this period in a 
different way? How do we focus on the activities of different 
groups and classes in Indian society within the format of 
this history of Governor-Generals? 
When we write history, or a story, we divide it into 
chapters. Why do we do this? It is to give each chapter 
some coherence. It is to tell a story in a way that makes 
some sense and can be followed. In the process we focus 
only on those events that help us to give shape to the story 
we are telling. In the histories that revolve around the life 
of British Governor-Generals, the activities of Indians 
simply do not fit, they have no space. What, then, do we 
do? Clearly, we need another format for our history. This 
would mean that the old dates will no longer have the 
significance they earlier had. A new set of dates will become 
more important for us to know.  
How do we periodise? 
In 1817, James Mill, a Scottish economist and political 
philosopher, published a massive three-volume work, 
A History of British India. In this, he divided Indian 
history into three periods – Hindu, Muslim and British. 
This periodisation came to be widely accepted. Can 
you think of any problem with this way of looking at 
Indian history?
Why do we try and divide history into different periods? 
We do so in an attempt to capture the characteristics of 
a time, its central features as they appear to us. So the 
terms through which we periodise – that is, demarcate 
the difference between periods – become important. They 
reflect our ideas about the past. They show how we see 
the significance of the change from one period to the next. 
Mill thought that all Asian societies were at a lower 
level of civilisation than Europe. According to  his telling 
of history, before the British came to India, Hindu and 
Muslim despots ruled the country. Religious intolerance, 
caste taboos and superstitious practices dominated  
social life. British rule, Mill felt, could civilise India. To do 
Fig. 3 – Warren Hastings became 
the first Governor-General in 1773
While history books narrated 
the deeds of Governor-Generals, 
biographies glorified them as 
persons, and paintings projected 
them as powerful figures. 
Interview your mother 
or another member of 
your family to find out 
about their life. Now 
divide their life into 
different periods and 
list out the significant 
events in each period.  
Explain the basis of your 
periodisation.
Activity
?
chap 1-4.indd   3 6/14/2022   2:38:32 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
4 OUR PASTS – III
this, it was necessary to introduce European manners, arts, 
institutions and laws in India. Mill, in fact, suggested that the 
British should conquer all the territories in India to ensure 
the enlightenment and happiness of the Indian people. For 
India was not capable of progress without British help.
In this idea of history, British rule represented all the forces 
of progress and civilisation. The period before British rule was 
one of darkness. Can such a conception be accepted today?
In any case, can we refer to any period of history as “Hindu” 
or “Muslim”? Did not a variety of faiths exist simultaneously 
in these periods? Why should we characterise an age only 
through the religion of the rulers of the time? To do so is to 
suggest that the lives and practices of the others do not really 
matter. We should also remember that even rulers in ancient 
India did not all share the same faith.
Moving away from British classification, historians 
have usually divided Indian history into ‘ancient’, ‘medieval’ 
and ‘modern’. This division too has its problems. It is a 
periodisation that is borrowed from the West where the 
modern period was associated with the growth of all the  
forces of modernity – science, reason, democracy, liberty 
and equality. Medieval was a term used to describe a society 
where these features of modern society did not exist. Can 
we uncritically accept this characterisation of the modern 
period to describe the period of our study? As you will see in 
this book, under British rule people did not have equality, 
freedom or liberty. Nor was the period one of economic 
growth and progress.
Many historians therefore refer to this period as ‘colonial’. 
What is colonial? 
In this book, you will read about the way the British came 
to conquer the country and establish their rule, subjugating 
local nawabs and rajas. You will see how they established 
control over the economy and society, collected revenue to 
meet all their expenses, bought the goods they wanted at low 
prices, produced crops they needed for export, and you will 
understand the changes that came about as a consequence. 
You will also come to know about the changes British rule 
brought about in values and tastes, customs and practices. 
When the subjugation of one country by another leads to these 
kinds of political, economic, social and cultural changes, we 
refer to the process as colonisation. 
You will, however, find that all classes and groups did not 
experience these changes in the same way. That is why, the 
book is called Our Pasts in the plural.
chap 1-4.indd   4 4/22/2022   2:49:18 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 5


Introduction: 
How, When and Where
1
How Important are Dates?
There was a time when historians were 
fascinated with dates. There were heated 
debates about the dates on which rulers 
were crowned or battles were fought. In 
the common-sense notion, history was 
synonymous with dates. You may have 
heard people say, “I find history boring 
because it is all about memorising 
dates.” Is such a conception true?
History is certainly about changes 
that occur over time. It is about 
finding out how things were in the 
past and how things have changed. 
As soon as we compare the past with 
the present, we refer to time, we talk of 
“before” and “after”. 
Living in the world we do not always 
ask historical questions about what 
we see around us. We take things for 
granted, as if what we see has always 
been in the world we inhabit. But most of 
us have our moments of wonder, when we are 
curious, and we ask questions that actually are historical. 
Watching someone sip a cup of tea at a roadside tea stall, 
you may wonder – when did people begin to drink tea or 
coffee? Looking out of the window of a train you may ask 
yourself – when were railways built and how did people 
travel long distances before the age of railways? Reading 
the newspaper in the morning you may be curious to know 
how people got to hear about things before newspapers 
began to be printed.  
Fig. 1 – Brahmans offering the 
Shastras to Britannia, frontispiece 
to the first map produced by 
James Rennel, 1782
Rennel was asked by Robert Clive 
to produce maps of Hindustan. 
An enthusiastic supporter 
of British conquest of India, 
Rennel saw preparation of maps 
as essential to the process of 
domination. The picture here 
tries to suggest that Indians 
willingly gave over their ancient 
texts to Britannia – the symbol of 
British power – as if asking her 
to become the protector of Indian 
culture.
Activity
Look carefully at Fig.1 and write a paragraph explaining 
how this image projects an imperial perception.
?
chap 1-4.indd   1 6/6/2022   12:36:43 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
2 OUR PASTS – III
All such historical questions refer us back to 
notions of time. But time does not have to be always 
precisely dated in terms of a particular year or a month. 
Sometimes it is actually incorrect to fix precise dates 
to processes that happen over a period of time. People 
in India did not begin drinking tea one fine day; they 
developed a taste for it over time. There can be no 
one clear date for a process such as this. Similarly, 
we cannot fix one single date on which British rule 
was established, or the national movement started, or 
changes took place within the economy and society. All 
these things happened over a stretch of time. We can 
only refer to a span of time, an approximate period over 
which particular changes became visible.
Why, then, do we continue to associate history with 
a string of dates? This association has a reason. There 
was a time when history was an account of battles and big 
events. It was about rulers and their policies. Historians 
wrote about the year a king was crowned, the year he 
married, the year he had a child, the year he fought a 
particular war, the year he died, and the year the next 
ruler succeeded to the throne. For events such as these, 
specific dates can be determined, and in histories such 
as these, debates about dates continue to be important. 
As you have seen in the history textbooks of the past 
two years, historians now write about a host of other 
issues, and other questions. They look at how people 
earned their livelihood, what they produced and ate, how 
cities developed and markets came up, how kingdoms 
were formed and new ideas spread, and how cultures 
and society changed.
Which dates?
By what criteria do we choose a set of dates as 
important? The dates we select, the dates around which 
we compose our story of the past, are not important 
on their own. They become vital because we focus on 
a particular set of events as important. If our focus of 
study changes, if we begin to look at new issues, a new 
set of dates will appear significant. 
Consider an example. In the histories written by 
British historians in India, the rule of each Governor-
General was important. These histories began with the 
rule of the first Governor-General, Warren Hastings, 
and ended with the last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten. In 
separate chapters, we read about the deeds of others — 
Hastings, Wellesley, Bentinck, Dalhousie, Canning, 
Fig. 2 – Advertisements help 
create taste
Old advertisements help us 
understand how markets for new 
products were created and new 
tastes were popularised. This 
1922 advertisement for Lipton tea 
suggests that royalty all over the 
world is associated with this tea. 
In the background you see the 
outer wall of an Indian palace, 
while in the foreground, seated 
on horseback is the third son of 
Queen Victoria of Britain, Prince 
Arthur, who was given the title 
Duke of Connaught.
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INTRODUCTION: HOW, WHEN AND WHERE         3
Lawrence, Lytton, Ripon, Curzon, Harding, Irwin. It 
was a seemingly never-ending succession of Governor- 
Generals and Viceroys. All the dates in these history books 
were linked to these personalities – to their activities, 
policies and achievements. It was as if there was nothing 
outside their lives that was important for us to know. The 
chronology of their lives marked the different chapters of 
the history of British India. 
Can we not write about the history of this period in a 
different way? How do we focus on the activities of different 
groups and classes in Indian society within the format of 
this history of Governor-Generals? 
When we write history, or a story, we divide it into 
chapters. Why do we do this? It is to give each chapter 
some coherence. It is to tell a story in a way that makes 
some sense and can be followed. In the process we focus 
only on those events that help us to give shape to the story 
we are telling. In the histories that revolve around the life 
of British Governor-Generals, the activities of Indians 
simply do not fit, they have no space. What, then, do we 
do? Clearly, we need another format for our history. This 
would mean that the old dates will no longer have the 
significance they earlier had. A new set of dates will become 
more important for us to know.  
How do we periodise? 
In 1817, James Mill, a Scottish economist and political 
philosopher, published a massive three-volume work, 
A History of British India. In this, he divided Indian 
history into three periods – Hindu, Muslim and British. 
This periodisation came to be widely accepted. Can 
you think of any problem with this way of looking at 
Indian history?
Why do we try and divide history into different periods? 
We do so in an attempt to capture the characteristics of 
a time, its central features as they appear to us. So the 
terms through which we periodise – that is, demarcate 
the difference between periods – become important. They 
reflect our ideas about the past. They show how we see 
the significance of the change from one period to the next. 
Mill thought that all Asian societies were at a lower 
level of civilisation than Europe. According to  his telling 
of history, before the British came to India, Hindu and 
Muslim despots ruled the country. Religious intolerance, 
caste taboos and superstitious practices dominated  
social life. British rule, Mill felt, could civilise India. To do 
Fig. 3 – Warren Hastings became 
the first Governor-General in 1773
While history books narrated 
the deeds of Governor-Generals, 
biographies glorified them as 
persons, and paintings projected 
them as powerful figures. 
Interview your mother 
or another member of 
your family to find out 
about their life. Now 
divide their life into 
different periods and 
list out the significant 
events in each period.  
Explain the basis of your 
periodisation.
Activity
?
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4 OUR PASTS – III
this, it was necessary to introduce European manners, arts, 
institutions and laws in India. Mill, in fact, suggested that the 
British should conquer all the territories in India to ensure 
the enlightenment and happiness of the Indian people. For 
India was not capable of progress without British help.
In this idea of history, British rule represented all the forces 
of progress and civilisation. The period before British rule was 
one of darkness. Can such a conception be accepted today?
In any case, can we refer to any period of history as “Hindu” 
or “Muslim”? Did not a variety of faiths exist simultaneously 
in these periods? Why should we characterise an age only 
through the religion of the rulers of the time? To do so is to 
suggest that the lives and practices of the others do not really 
matter. We should also remember that even rulers in ancient 
India did not all share the same faith.
Moving away from British classification, historians 
have usually divided Indian history into ‘ancient’, ‘medieval’ 
and ‘modern’. This division too has its problems. It is a 
periodisation that is borrowed from the West where the 
modern period was associated with the growth of all the  
forces of modernity – science, reason, democracy, liberty 
and equality. Medieval was a term used to describe a society 
where these features of modern society did not exist. Can 
we uncritically accept this characterisation of the modern 
period to describe the period of our study? As you will see in 
this book, under British rule people did not have equality, 
freedom or liberty. Nor was the period one of economic 
growth and progress.
Many historians therefore refer to this period as ‘colonial’. 
What is colonial? 
In this book, you will read about the way the British came 
to conquer the country and establish their rule, subjugating 
local nawabs and rajas. You will see how they established 
control over the economy and society, collected revenue to 
meet all their expenses, bought the goods they wanted at low 
prices, produced crops they needed for export, and you will 
understand the changes that came about as a consequence. 
You will also come to know about the changes British rule 
brought about in values and tastes, customs and practices. 
When the subjugation of one country by another leads to these 
kinds of political, economic, social and cultural changes, we 
refer to the process as colonisation. 
You will, however, find that all classes and groups did not 
experience these changes in the same way. That is why, the 
book is called Our Pasts in the plural.
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INTRODUCTION: HOW, WHEN AND WHERE         5
How do We Know?
What sources do historians use in writing about the last 
250 years of Indian history? 
Administration produces records
One important source is the official records of the British 
administration. The British believed that the act of writing 
was important. Every instruction, plan, policy decision, 
agreement, investigation had to be clearly written up. Once 
this was done, things could be properly studied and debated. 
This conviction produced an administrative culture of 
memos, notings and reports. 
The British also felt that all important documents 
and letters needed to be carefully preserved. So they 
set up record rooms attached to all administrative 
institutions. The village tahsildar’s office, the collectorate, 
the commissioner’s office, the provincial secretariats, 
the lawcourts – all had their record rooms. Specialised 
institutions like archives and museums were also 
established to preserve important records.
Letters and memos that moved from one branch                
of the administration to another in the early years                       
of the nineteenth century can still be read in the 
archives. You can also study the notes and reports 
that district officials prepared, or the instructions 
and directives that were sent by officials at the top to 
provincial administrators. 
In the early years of the nineteenth century, these 
documents were carefully copied out and beautifully 
written by calligraphists – that is, by those who specialised 
in the art of beautiful writing. By the middle of the 
nineteenth century, with the spread of printing, multiple 
copies of these records were printed as proceedings of each 
government department. 
Source 1
Reports to the  
Home Department
In 1946 the colonial 
government in India was 
trying to put down a mutiny 
that broke out on the ships 
of the Royal Indian Navy. 
Here is a sample of the 
kind of reports the Home 
Department got from the 
different dockyards:
Bombay: Arrangements 
have been made for the 
Army to take over ships 
and establishment. Royal 
Navy ships are remaining 
outside the harbour.
Karachi: 301 mutineers 
are under arrest and a few 
more strongly suspected 
are to be arrested … All 
establishments … are 
under military guard.
Vizagapatnam: The 
positionis completely 
under control and no 
violence has occurred. 
Military guards have 
been placed on ships 
and establishments.
No further trouble is 
expected except that 
a few men may refuse  
to work.
Director of Intelligence, HQ. India 
Command, Situation Report No. 7. 
File No. 5/21/46 Home (Political), 
Government of India
Fig. 4 – The National Archives of India came up in the 1920s
When New Delhi was built, the National Museum and the National 
Archives were both located close to the Viceregal Palace. This location 
reflects the importance these institutions had in British imagination.
chap 1-4.indd   5 6/3/2022   5:07:10 PM
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Read More
FAQs on NCERT Textbook - How, When and Where | History for UPSC CSE
1. What is the significance of the title "How, When and Where"?
Ans. The title "How, When and Where" refers to the three fundamental questions related to historical events. These questions help us understand the events, their causes, and the context in which they occurred. The title of the chapter is appropriate as it discusses the historical developments in India from the ancient period to modern times, while answering these three questions.
2. What are the objectives of studying history?
Ans. History is a subject that helps us understand our past, the present, and the future. The objectives of studying history are as follows: 1. To understand the evolution of human societies and civilizations. 2. To learn from the successes and failures of our ancestors. 3. To appreciate the cultural and ethnic diversity of our world. 4. To develop critical thinking and analytical skills. 5. To gain a better understanding of our identity and place in the world.
3. What are the sources of information for studying history?
Ans. The sources of information for studying history are divided into two categories: 1. Primary sources: These are the original sources of information that were created during the time period being studied. Examples include documents, artifacts, and eyewitness accounts. 2. Secondary sources: These are sources of information that were created after the time period being studied. Examples include textbooks, scholarly articles, and historical documentaries. Both primary and secondary sources are important in studying history, as they provide different perspectives and insights into the events being studied.
4. How did the British rule impact India's economy?
Ans. The British rule had a significant impact on India's economy. The British introduced a capitalist economic system in India, which led to the growth of industries such as textiles, jute, and mining. However, this growth was largely based on the exploitation of India's natural resources and labor. The British also introduced a system of cash crops, which led to the displacement of farmers and the loss of traditional agricultural practices. The British also imposed high taxes on Indian goods, which made it difficult for Indian industries to compete with British goods and led to the decline of the Indian economy.
5. What were the main causes of the Indian Rebellion of 1857?
Ans. The Indian Rebellion of 1857, also known as the First War of Independence, was caused by several factors. The main causes were as follows: 1. The introduction of new land revenue policies and high taxes by the British, which led to the displacement of farmers and the loss of traditional agricultural practices. 2. The introduction of new laws that were seen as discriminatory towards Indians, such as the Doctrine of Lapse and the abolition of the practice of sati. 3. The use of Indian soldiers in foreign wars, such as the Anglo-Afghan War, which led to resentment among the soldiers. 4. The introduction of new religious policies, such as the use of cow and pig fat in the cartridges of guns, which offended both Hindu and Muslim soldiers. 5. The overall feeling of discontent among the Indian population towards British rule, which had been growing for several decades.
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