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History is passe? Not really...

Sonal Srivastava tracks a few authors who are repackaging history to cater to the general audience.

india Updated: Nov 23, 2006 13:55 IST
Sonal Srivastava (HT Style)
Sonal Srivastava (HT Style)

History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalises memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.

So said Cicero, and today it is the flavour which has caught the fancy of authors who see wars, revolts, conquests, kings and queens in an altogether new light. Not just that.

The subject is fast slipping out of the domain of the intelligentsia and is now appealing to the non-academic variety as well.

"Popular history is a vague term, if history has to be relevant, it has to address the general audience".

--------Author William Dalrymple

History retold

The number of books which were released on the subject in the capital alone in the past few months speaks volumes about the way history is packaged and sold to readers.

Says Pramod Kapoor of Roli Books, “History is turning a new leaf. People at large are interested in the subject. And there are books on history which are not just textual but also pictorial.”

Beginning with William Dalrymple’s The Last Mughal to Nick Robins’s The Corporation That Changed The World to Karan Singh’s Jammu and Kashmir, a compilation of letters between Dr Karan Singh and Jawaharlal Nehru, Bonfire of Kashmiriyat by Sandeep Bamzai, the list is endless.

Apart from the regular heavy narratives, there are some coffeetable books as well to add colour and make for an interesting read like Amin Jaffer’s Made for Maharajas which explores the realms of the luxury pursued by the Maharajas. Sudeep Sen, editor Atlas Magazine, concurs, “The books now have a story, plot and characters are presented in a way that appeals to the public.” So much so to market history and make it comprehensible, readable and engrossing.

Touch of taste
But what is boggling is the reason behind the spurt in the reproduction of history? Mushirul Hasan, V-C, Jamia Millia Islamia, who has authored Partners In Freedom Jamia Millia Islamia detailing the contribution of Jamia University to the national freedom struggle, says, “People are asking questions about the past.

There is a growing interest in the subject which augurs well for the writers.” Well, in a nutshell it is the demand which governs the supply.


First Published: Nov 23, 2006 13:50 IST