The History of India from Earliest Times to the Modern World

History 114A

Fall 2016
310 Hearst Mining
Day & Time: 
TuTh 2-330P

This course offers a panoramic overview of the history of the Indian subcontinent, covering the many centuries from the first human habitation to sometime in the middle of the eighteenth century. Along the way we will examine the development and interplay of religions, philosophy, aesthetics and science; the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires; and relations of intellectual, cultural, and economic exchange with other parts of the world until the dawn of the modern era. No previous familiarity with the history of the subcontinent is presumed. Students will be required to produce reading responses, engage in online discussion, and produce two short reading responses over the course of the semester aside from a mid-term and take-home final examination. In this course we will develop a panoramic view of the long sweep of Indian History until the sometime in the middle of the eighteenth century. We will supplement our understanding of the political history of the subcontinent’s many empires with close attention to the literary and aesthetic artifacts that reveal the richness and diversity of their cultures over the centuries. Beginning from the earliest signs of settled civilization, we will examine the growth of empires and urban societies in the subcontinent. Studying the development of links with the Hellenic world in the aftermath of Alexander’s invasion, we will focus on the development of science, religion, and philosophy in the Indo-Greek world and the empires of India which followed. We will then turn to the making of the Delhi Sultanate in North India as well as the dynasties of the South, and trace the development of new religious traditions and hybrid political formations such as the Kingdom of Vijayanagar. Next we will visit the roughly simultaneous arrival of two new groups who did much to shape the course of the subcontinent’s recent past: the first of the Europeans, who arrived in the form of Vasco da Gama in 1498, and a young man of noble blood by the name of Babur, who founded the Mughal dynasty in North India after his great victory in 1526. We will follow the fortunes of both groups in South Asia until the practical dissolution of the Mughal empire and the rise of the East India Company.

Course Books

India before Europe by Asher, Catherine and Talbot, Cynthia Cambridge. ISBN: 978-0521005395 Required
India: Brief History of a Civilization by Trautmann, Thomas Oxford. ISBN: 978-0190202491 Required