Wednesday, February 27, 2008

India, A Chronology: Prologue

Greetings, good readers!
Now I am not normally one to put up large blocks of names and dates, but I have done just that in my previous post. The reason why is that I feel that good hard names and dates, especially in regards to India, a country dear to my heart, are often lacking in these modern times.

Recent teaching methodology has dismissed the importance of names and dates and I agree to a degree. The essence of history is not names and dates, but the stories. The rich strands of narratives that drive forward events and ultimately make up who we are, that is what history is truly about! Often bombarding kids with names and dates will just alienate them from the true core of history. Yet names and dates are valuable. If a person can recall names and dates without any hesitation, his or her analytical thoughts can flow without interruption. I have never mastered that level of memorization but I still find knowing a few names and dates off the top of my head is a very valuable trick.

But what intrigued me most about names and dates in regards to India, is how much the historiography of India has been dominated by ideas of general forces, overall trends, and vague cultural assessments. I am not disagreeing with that school of historiography, or even that general forces drive history, but without grounding these general ideas in names and dates, historical analysis becomes mere speculation. Names and dates can often concretely link events and paint out a picture of what exactly is happening so that clear and concrete trends can be deciphered. And even when broad trends are apparent, having precise names and dates to back them up can help shut down any cliquish resistance.

Now, do not get the idea that I am making some grand criticism of historical research done in the past about India. I have great respect for most India scholars, both Indian and non-Indian, in the field today. All I want to do is add a tool to their and my investigative endeavors, and thus I am attempting to make an easy to use, easy to read chronology of India. By necessity, due to the intertwined nature of national histories, I am covering to some degree regional history, but my main focus is on India. Perhaps if I have the time I will put some effort on covering the chronology of other lands, but for now India is my destination. So let us go, post-haste!

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