Forty-eighth book reviewed as part of the 130 Challenge.
In India, we are taught about our freedom struggle for almost 5 years as part of the high school curriculum. But the study is just a brief overview of the entire movement and does very little justice to this major event in the history of the sub-continent. It involved millions of people and had several leaders that spanned many generations. While writing textbooks for high school history, the authors tend to concentrate on a few of those leaders that came towards the end of the movement (mainly Gandhi and Nehru) and ignore the ones who laid the groundwork for the final showdown.
Even when they are mentioned, they are only paid lip-service with only a short description of their work. We just know that Justice Ranade, Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozeshah Mehta, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Bal Gangadhar Tilak played a crucial role in early stages of the freedom movement, but how exactly that happened is not touched upon at all!
This book by Bipan Chandra sheds light on all of these people and introduces us to many aspects of India’s freedom struggle that we wouldn’t come across otherwise. It is a very handy compilation of quotes, anecdotes and many, many cross references from different works on this subject. It is as detailed as it can be in 650 pages and spans the entire 200 odd years of British rule in India in just 39 chapters.
I loved how Bipan Chandra has touched upon almost every single contribution to the movement, right from the Northwest frontier to the Southern tip of India. There are also accusations about the writer being biased towards the Congress, but he specifies in detail the approach adopted by him and how it borrows from all major ideologies. The introduction is in fact just about how he (and his contributors) went about gathering the data for such a magisterial work on recent Indian history.
But despite being such a big work, it is not at all tedious. It is the quotes that make it so interesting. It is like being right there in the midst of things as they happened. And I was also really impressed by the amount of background stories that Chandra has included for each of the leaders, it made the book much more personal than the dreary historical tomes on Indian history that we read in school. The leaders have been portrayed as true heroes and their exploits have been described in a quite a legendary fashion. It was a real joy reading this book. This is not just a refresher on the Indian freedom struggle, but it is also a very refreshing experience. Go for it!