NCERT Textbook - How, When and Where UPSC Notes | EduRev

History(Prelims) by UPSC Toppers

Created by: C K Academy

UPSC : NCERT Textbook - How, When and Where UPSC Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


1
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.
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 2


1
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.
© NCERT
not to be republished
OUR PASTS – III 2
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 –
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.
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 3


1
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.
© NCERT
not to be republished
OUR PASTS – III 2
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 –
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.
© NCERT
not to be republished
3
Hastings, Wellesley, Bentinck, Dalhousie, Canning,
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, 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
HOW, WHEN AND WHERE
Fig. 3 – Warren Hastings became
the first Governor-General of India
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
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 4


1
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.
© NCERT
not to be republished
OUR PASTS – III 2
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 –
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.
© NCERT
not to be republished
3
Hastings, Wellesley, Bentinck, Dalhousie, Canning,
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, 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
HOW, WHEN AND WHERE
Fig. 3 – Warren Hastings became
the first Governor-General of India
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
© NCERT
not to be republished
OUR PASTS – III 4
social life. British rule, Mill felt, could civilise India. To do
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.
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 5


1
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.
© NCERT
not to be republished
OUR PASTS – III 2
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 –
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.
© NCERT
not to be republished
3
Hastings, Wellesley, Bentinck, Dalhousie, Canning,
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, 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
HOW, WHEN AND WHERE
Fig. 3 – Warren Hastings became
the first Governor-General of India
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
© NCERT
not to be republished
OUR PASTS – III 4
social life. British rule, Mill felt, could civilise India. To do
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.
© NCERT
not to be republished
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.
HOW, WHEN AND WHERE
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.
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
position is 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
© NCERT
not to be republished
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