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Modern South Asia: Book review

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Ayesha Jalal and Saguta Bose’s highly renowned academic textbook “Modern South Asia: History, Culture, and Political Economy” offers an in-depth evaluation of South Asia’s history from antiquity to the present.

Both Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal are renowned experts in South Asian history.  Sugata Bose is an authority on Indian history, and Ayesha Jalal is well known for her work on Pakistani history.  They each bring a lot of expertise and a unique viewpoint to the topic.

The intricate history of this area prior to the arrival of Islam on the subcontinent is explored in this book. This also describes the historical period of Hindu emperors and empires such as Ashoka at the Maurya Empire (268–232 BC), which led to the establishment of the “Sunga Dynasty” after the death of the final Maurya Emperor, “Brahadratha,” in 185 BC at the hands of his commander in chief, “Pudhyamitra Sunga.” This dynasty continued till the third century A.D.

The Kushans destroyed the Sunga Dynasty in the third century A.D., and their first emperor was Kajula Kadphases, who ruled over the largest empire at the time, which included parts of Central Asia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.

The arrival of Islam in this region following the demise of these greatest Hindu empires was likewise covered by both authors. Like Arabs, particularly after Muhammad Bin Qasim’s entrance in 712 A.D. and the way he hastened the spread of Islam across the subcontinent. After Muhammad Bin Qasim, numerous other Muslim emperors attempted to invade the subcontinent, including Mahmood Ghazni, who ruled the Ghaznavid Empire from 997 to 1030 A.D.

Shah Buddin Muhammad Ghori also created the first Muslim Sultanate following the defeat of Pritvi Raj Chuhan, which lasted from 1205 to 1526 and was ruled by many dynasties, including the Mumluks (1206-90 A.D.), Khiljis (1290-1320 A.D.), Tughluks (1320-1413 A.D.), and lastly the Loddies (1451-1526).

 This book describes how, after the Delhi Sultanate’s empire fell, the Mughals—a new Muslim empire—came into being. They ruled over India for more than 500 years, from 1526 to 1857 A.D.—under the leadership of Babar (1526–30), Humayun (1530–56), Akbar (1556–1605), Jahangir (1605–27), Shah Jahan (1628–58), and Aurangzeb (1658–1707), the last effective Mughal Emperor, the Mughal Empire gone towards decline after him because of the incapabilities of Emperors and finally ended with the defeat of Bahadar Shah Zafar (1837-57 A.D) by British.

The arrival of Portuguese, French, and the last British under the name of Traders is also explained in this book. However, when they arrived in Bengal, they opposed the Nawab of Bengal. Eventually, however, they overcame Alivardi Khan, Siraj ud Daula, Mir Jafar, and Mir Qasim in the battles of Plessay and Buxar to become the Nabobs of Bengal.

When the British defeated and imprisoned the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadar Shah Zafar, they declared that India was now a colony under the rule of the British Queen (British Crown). Ayesha Jalal and Sugata Bose write about the British colonialism process in a very beautiful way. The colony will be governed by laws issued by the British parliament, including the Indian Council Acts of 1858, 1861, 1892, 1909, 1919, and the final Indian Council Act of 1935.

In the time when they controlled India, the British also included Indians (including Muslims and Hindus) in the struggle against the Ottoman Empire by promising them that they would not destroy Turkish Muslims. Ultimately, they did as they pleased and prevailed. The Indians did not help the British in WWII as a result of this poor outcome.

The authors discuss the post-independence conditions of both countries at the end of the first two to three chapters of this book. For example, India presented its first constitution in 1949, while Pakistan did so in 1956. They also discuss the 1948 Kashmir War, problems with princely states, and refugees. The most significant is that Pakistan has had a military government four times, whereas India has never had a military government. Therefore, Pakistan’s various plans failed, and as a result, we experienced severe political and economic catastrophe.

Unquestionably, both authors are experts on the histories of their respective nations—India and Pakistan—and they convey them in this book quite effectively. Therefore, readers have complimented the book for its in-depth analysis, well-researched information, and impartial attitude to the historical events and individuals presented. It is regarded as an important tool for academics, students, and anybody else seeking to comprehend South Asian history more deeply.

Zakaria Khan
Zakaria Khan
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Zakaria Khan is a Student of Law College, University of Sargodha.
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