Our Pasts III, Chapter 1, How, When and Where
Q.1: State whether true or false:
a) James Mill divided Indian History into three periods- Hindu, Muslim, and Christian.
b) Official documents help us understand what the people of the country think.
c) The British thought surveys were important for effective administration.
Solution: a-false, b-false, true.
Q.2: What is the problem with the periodisation of Indian History that James Mill offers?
Solution: In 1817, James Mill, a Scottish Economist and Political Philosopher, published a book: A History of British India, in which he divided Indian History into three periods - Hindu, Muslim and British. According to Mill before British came to India, Hindu & Muslim despots ruled this country. He said that religious intolerance, caste taboos and superstitious practices dominated social life. He also felt that without British help India would have never progressed.
But Mill’s conception of dividing Indian History on the basis of religion has many flaws and so, is not acceptable. We can not characterize an age only through the religion of the rulers of the time. We know that a variety of faiths and religions existed simultaneously in these periods. Also all rulers in ancient India did not share the same faith. It is this country from where two other religions like- Buddhism and Jainism developed and spread to other parts of the world while Hindu religion also existed.
Q.3: Why did the British preserve official documents?
Solution: The British preserved the important official documents because these served as records of what the officials thought, what they were interested in and what they wished for. According to the British, writing was more important than speaking as the documents in archives and museums can be utilized for reference at a much later period whenever required for studying or debating. These can also serve as an information or proof of any decision or action taken earlier on some matter.
Q.4: How will the information historians get from old newspapers be different from that found in police reports?
Solution: Information is essential for writing history of a time which can be gathered from various sources. Apart from official documents in the archives, historians gather information also from old newspapers, diaries of people, accounts of pilgrims, autobiographies of important personalities and booklets etc. Information found in newspapers is varied, based on incidents that have happened across the country whereas; the police reports are limited and localized. Because of this fact sometimes the information historians get from police reports is not as useful as it is from old newspapers. However for any incidence the newspaper may not quote all the reasons behind this and biased as per the thinking of reporter while in police records we could find some evidences for an incident and unbiased reports.