A History of India

Rated 5 out of 5 by from The subject is fascinating, the professor brilliant and the exposition very complete in how it looks at all subjects from different perspectives and in how it highlights the connections between subjects and lectures. I've watched the course two times and I'm about to watch it for a third. Perhaps the way of speaking is a little slow and there could be some improvement in that in order to make it more entertaining to some, but then again I couldn't care less about that since the professor is neither an actor nor a clown. Great course, looking forward to a follow up.
Date published: 2021-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great overview of a long history material I do have a fair background knowledge of Indian history from way back. That made it easier for me to follow the professor during his lectures. Several lectures covering the early history of India (before the Mogul period, prior to about the 15th century) will test your patience a little bit if you don't have some familiarity with the Indian history, because he gives a lot of names of different rulers and places in each lecture and it can be difficult to process and remember. But if you can pass thru that hurdle, then it starts getting progressively more interesting (after about the 10th lecture or a little later) and it gets easier to follow and enjoy. The important thing is that the professor has spent many years studying Indian history, and has a very good feel and sense of the importance of different aspects of Indian history. He seems to be a person who has enjoyed his scholarship in Indian history and feels some satisfaction in sharing that knowledge. Personally, I really appreciated his lectures and am thankful for his effort. One thing to note is that even after all these lectures, only a broad outline of the long history of Indian subcontinent is covered. There was still not enough time to dig deeper into some issues or to cover more details which are essential to get a good feel of the many underlying social and political stressors of Indian subcontinent. Also there was not enough time to cover more of the arts and cultural aspects since the emphasis was mostly on the political history. Overall a good course to get an overview of major historical facts.
Date published: 2020-12-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Migrations Advisas Advisai lecture tells the tale of every single culture that could not defend itself. There is nothing unknown or new in this topic. Complete waste of time, other than to mention that the tribes still exist and that they care to keep their primitive culture. Playing the victim role gets no one no where other than compound the problem.
Date published: 2020-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent historical and cultural presentation I know so many people from many parts of India and I have loved their stories about their modern culture, but I knew nothing about the history and older cultures in India and Pakistan that formed today's Indian world. I learned that the history of the South Asian cultures goes back thousands of years with numerous incursions of people from the Mid-East and the Far East. I learned about the shifts in religious practices that lead to the issues in today's Indian and Pakistani world's. I feel that I finally have a grasp of the caste systems that exist and how they have shaped history in this area, as well as how they have changed. And finally, I think I have a better understanding of the Raj and the Indian movement to independence. The professor has a unique delivery style that seems brusque at first, but his deep love and understanding of the history and culture of the South Asian people comes through and makes this course one of my favorite of the many Great Courses I have seen.
Date published: 2020-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent class Between this course, and courses on the Ottoman Empire and Mongol Empire, I feel I have learned a tremendous amount about parts of history/the world I was not familiar with. They all provide an excellent history and explanations of how/why things are as they are today.
Date published: 2020-11-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Sum. India's Basic Record of Rulers I lived and worlked in New Delhi for 5 years, from 1991-1996, working in a USGovt. office near the Qutub Minar. I loved every minute of my time in India, and travelled extensively. I found "A History of India" is quite good and covers most important events in India's history. I was impressed with the professor's obvious premium on remaining objective and establishing & sticking to the facts, and not strayng into speculation or radical theories of the causes and effects of historical events. But he strays a bit from this "Objectively Truthful" principle when the story of India touches on the British and on climate change. On these two issues he very takes the currently popular, US Leftwing Liberal view [ no surmise since he teaches at super leftwing Oberlin ] that A] the British were obviously motivated by "systemic racism" in all their actions in India and left nothing at all behind that was good for India but this legacy. [ Contrast this distorted view with his fawning attitude toward the Muslim/Mogul invaders who, over the cnetures of their rule they killed in battle or in the name of justice hundreds of thousands of indigenous Indians in pursuit of political power & economic domination. He makes out the British immoral and more immoral that any others who took political power and maintained it. I think that is just a completely false conclusion, and he was driven in that incorrect and unobjective direction by Leftist ideology prevalent these days on Left wing college campuses. B]. A collolary incorrect conclusion he draws is that India deserves "environmental justice", which he defines as India's absolution for many decades from the need to provide clean air and clean water for India's population ... and for the world's climate ... because India needs to pollute as Europe and the US did to achieve faster economic growth and catch up with the US & Europe economically before they should reduce carbon emmissons. "Environmental justice" means that India and China may continue to pollute the globes air and water ... until they are as rich as the West. That notion, BTW, is enshrined in the nutso Paris Accord on Climate Change ... a fact that Th Left have failed to explain to the American Publix. Under the Accord,Chine and India agreed to do exactly nothing at all to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution for at least 15 years. ] So in these two massive issues the Professor is hopelessly wrong and I fear that he is spreading this incorrect and harmful non-truth to many students at Oberlin and beyond.
Date published: 2020-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent lucid history of India This course covers Indian history very nicely and with nice illustrations and maps. Very informative.
Date published: 2020-09-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Typical Good Great Courses Course I have a little bit of sympathy for the complaints that this was not the most exciting of courses, and even a tiny amount for those complaining about vocabulary. But I recommend the course as a disciplined and properly-organized introduction to a vast subject. Professor Fisher does occasionally let you detect his ideology if you’re paying close attention, and sometimes treads too delicately for obvious reasons; but that didn’t interfere with conveying the facts.
Date published: 2020-07-20
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A History of India
Course Trailer
Earliest History of the Indian Subcontinent
1: Earliest History of the Indian Subcontinent

Begin your study millions of years ago, when plate tectonics shaped the subcontinent's mountains, plateaus, and river systems, which in turn have affected the region's weather, agriculture, and cultural diversity. Review South Asia's four macro-regions and see how geography has guided the course of life....

33 min
Migration and the Adivasi
2: Migration and the Adivasi

Three main cultures inhabited the ancient Indian subcontinent. In this lecture, you'll study the first group, the Adivasi, aboriginal forest dwellers who once comprised the entirety of South Asia's population. See how genetic and linguistic analysis informs us about the Adivasi of 30,000 years ago-and learn about their status in India today....

34 min
Indus Valley Civilization
3: Indus Valley Civilization

Turn to the second group of ancient Indian communities: the urban people of the Indus Valley. Many mysteries abound regarding this long-lost Bronze Age civilization, but Professor Fisher takes you through excavated cities, examines art and artifacts, and reveals what we know about this intriguing society-and what may have happened to them....

31 min
Indo-European Vedic Culture
4: Indo-European Vedic Culture

Explore the ancient foundations of Hinduism, which emerged from a diverse community of people who identified themselves with the Vedas. By studying these sacred poems and hymns, you'll discover much about this civilization's culture and cosmology. You'll also trace the origins and development of the Indo-European language in this fascinating lecture....

31 min
Caste: Varna and Jati
5: Caste: Varna and Jati

The Vedic caste system is one of the most well-known aspects of Hindu society-and also one of the most misunderstood. Find out about the ancient Vedic social order (or Varnas), how it structured society, and how numerous inherited social groups (or Jatis) relate to occupation, creating a diverse and complex society....

30 min
Epic Literature: Ramayana
6: Epic Literature: Ramayana

Delve into the first Indian epic: the Ramayana, which is a poem, a love story, a morality tale, and much more. Discover the story of Prince Rama, his faithful wife, Sita, and the gods that control their lives. It is also an important source for many of the historical details we have about the era....

31 min
Epic History: Mahabharata
7: Epic History: Mahabharata

Shift your attention to India's other major epic, the Mahabharata, which is the longest major text in human history (clocking in at a whopping 1.8 million words). After examining the sources and style of this epic, Professor Fisher surveys its plot and shows what it means from the "emic" perspective of Indians as well as the "etic" perspective of outsiders....

30 min
Dharma in the Bhagavad Gita
8: Dharma in the Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita is arguably one of the most famous texts in world history. Explore the origins and context for the story, delve into the complexities of philosophy and religion that the narrative contains, and understand why it has resonated throughout Indian history and around the world. See how its wisdom is still the basis for Hinduism today....

28 min
The Origins and Rise of Jainism
9: The Origins and Rise of Jainism

In 500 B.C.E., the old Vedic social order was changing as the merchant classes began to achieve upward mobility. Along with these radical cultural and economic changes, alternative religious models emerged to compete with the Vedic cosmology. Here, you'll survey Jainism's origins and philosophy, which require a life of total nonviolence....

30 min
The Origins and Rise of Buddhism
10: The Origins and Rise of Buddhism

Along with the rise of Jainism, 500 B.C.E. also saw the adoption of Buddhism as an alternative to the Vedic tradition. Delve into the life of Siddhartha Gautama and the tenets of his philosophy, including the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path to enlightenment. Then find out how these ideas developed and spread across Asia....

29 min
The Mauryan Empire
11: The Mauryan Empire

Because South Asia is such a large and diverse region, it has seldom been unified under one ruler. But around the time Jainism and Buddhism began challenging the old social order, Chandragupta was able to consolidate and form the subcontinent's first major empire. Uncover the trajectory of his life and the conditions that allowed him to build the Mauryan Empire....

31 min
Ashoka's Imperial Buddhism
12: Ashoka's Imperial Buddhism

Continue your study of the Mauryan Empire with Chandragupta's grandson, Emperor Ashoka, who even today is likely the most famous individual from ancient India. After consolidating his territory in a vicious war, Ashoka became a Buddhist and a model benevolent ruler....

30 min
Deccani and Southern States
13: Deccani and Southern States

Brahmin culture was never as strong in southern India as it was in the north, which meant a diverse range of societies were able to flourish on the Deccan plateau. After explaining some of the region's historical trends, Professor Fisher highlights the distinctive features and interactions of a few prominent southern kingdoms....

31 min
Northwest and North India
14: Northwest and North India

In the wake of the Mauryan Empire's collapse, many regional dynasties emerged across the north and northwest. Unpack the fascinating history of these two macro-regions. Learn about several of the major ethnic groups and the Silk Road trade routes, and then round out the lecture with a study of the famous Gupta dynasty....

31 min
Brahmanic Synthesis
15: Brahmanic Synthesis

While the regional governments remained fragmented at the turn of the Common Era, the Brahmins worked to rebuild their cultural prominence. They formally developed what is today Hinduism, thanks to a series of written manuals, or shastras, which lay out the principles of an ideal life-including notions of dharma, kama, artha, and moksha....

30 min
Indian Parsis, Jews, and Christians
16: Indian Parsis, Jews, and Christians

South Asia has always been a distinctly diverse region, incorporating numerous communities of outsiders who came to the subcontinent via the coasts or across the mountains. Explore the worlds of Parsis, Jews, and Christians in India, and see how they interacted with Hindu society....

30 min
Islam Comes to India
17: Islam Comes to India

Islam has had a profound impact on South Asia, and today the region has the largest Muslim population in the world. After surveying the history and pillars of Islam and its origins in the Middle East, Professor Fisher examines how many people of South Asia became Muslim via trade, invasion, devotion, or personal motivation....

30 min
Indian Sultans
18: Indian Sultans

The binary opposition between Hindus and Muslims oversimplifies what has always been a complex relationship. Here, you'll study that relationship as you meet some of the most prominent Muslim rulers, or Sultans, from the 9th to the 16th centuries. Explore their kingdoms throughout India and their legacies....

31 min
The Early Mughal Empire
19: The Early Mughal Empire

In this first of several lectures on the great Mughal Empire, you'll meet a Central Asian adventurer named Babur, who rode into South Asia from Kabul and conquered the Delhi sultanate. Then witness the checkered career of his son, who almost lost the empire before it could really get started....

33 min
The Reign of Emperor Akbar
20: The Reign of Emperor Akbar

Continue your study of the Mughal Empire by tracing the rule of Emperor Akbar. During his dramatic five-decade reign, he truly established the empire for the long term thanks to several key initiatives: drawing regional rulers into his army, encouraging interreligious marriage, transforming the administrative system, and creating an imperial ideology based on various mystical ideas and practices....

35 min
Later Mughal Emperors
21: Later Mughal Emperors

Succession is a key challenge for any empire. As Emperor Akbar aged, follow the rise of his son, Jahangir, who, once emperor, ruled with aplomb and introduced many new innovations to the subcontinent. His own son, Shah Jahan, then constructed the Peacock Throne, the Taj Mahal, and other glorious architectural triumphs....

33 min
The Mughals and the Marathas
22: The Mughals and the Marathas

The 17th century saw the slow decline of the Mughal Empire during the reign of Emperor Alamgir (also called Aurangzeb). As he aged, he drew the empire into war with the Deccan-based Marathas, who were led by the skillful warrior Shivaji. Watch as the Marathas humiliate the Mughals and establish their own powerful regional identity....

32 min
Competing European Empires
23: Competing European Empires

Now turn from the subcontinent inlands to the sea, where European traders began arriving on the Indian coast to establish global companies, including several East India companies. After surveying Portugal's 200-year dominance of trade, Professor Fisher shows how the English eventually established their own foothold in the market....

29 min
The British East India Company
24: The British East India Company

Witness the rise of the British East India Company and find out how it coincided with the rise of British imperialism. Company leaders often sought glory and expansion, which led to greater British influence and control of South Asia via joint-stock corporations. Take an inside look at these radical developments in the 18th and 19th centuries....

32 min
The Issues and Events of 1857
25: The Issues and Events of 1857

Tension between the British and the South Asians came to a boil in 1857, when a group of Indian soldiers rose up against the British army-to disastrous consequences. Consider the context and historical impact of this pivotal year, which forever changed the nature of British rule in India....

29 min
The British Raj and Early Nationalism
26: The British Raj and Early Nationalism

Continue your study of Indian and British relations with a detailed look at the British Raj, a 90-year period of colonialism that stretched from the 1857 uprising to the region's independence in 1947. Gain insight into Britain's racist policies, and view the beginnings of the subcontinent's struggle for political autonomy....

31 min
India and Indians in the World
27: India and Indians in the World

Whether as students, soldiers, or servants, South Asians who left the subcontinent contributed significantly to the cultural exchange among China, continental Europe, and Great Britain. And whereas the British Raj relied on segregation for political control, Indian immigrants in Britain found greater freedom. Reflect on the impact of South Asians throughout the world....

31 min
Mahatma Gandhi
28: Mahatma Gandhi

Learn about the life of Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi, who is perhaps the 20th century's most well-regarded political activist. You'll trace his life from his young manhood in India to his education in Britain to his activism in South Africa and India. In this lecture, an admirable-but complex-figure emerges....

29 min
Nationalists Ambedkar, Bose, and Jinnah
29: Nationalists Ambedkar, Bose, and Jinnah

While Gandhi advocated one path for reform, many of his contemporaries offered other ways to promote the rights of lower classes and Muslims. Meet Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, three influential social and political leaders, and review their approaches toward national independence and people's rights....

30 min
The Partition of 1947
30: The Partition of 1947

After World War II, a tense series of events led the subcontinent's brutal partition into India and Pakistan-majority Hindu and Muslim nations, respectively. Find out how the British, battered by the war, ceded their empire and hastily created two nation-states whose borders and contested identities left a troubled legacy felt even today....

30 min
West and East Pakistan
31: West and East Pakistan

Between 1947 and 1971, Pakistan was a divided state: separated into East and West, and strained along ethnic lines. The early years of the nation saw numerous coups and uprisings, as well as border wars with India, particularly in Kashmir. Consider the role geography and ethnicity played in the distribution of power....

28 min
The New Pakistan
32: The New Pakistan

Review the story of Pakistan from 1971 to the present. As you survey one shift of power after another, you will meet leaders such as General Zia, Benazir Bhutto, General Musharraf, and Nawaz Sharif. At the end of this lecture, you will have a complete sense of Pakistani history through today....

30 min
Independent Bangladesh
33: Independent Bangladesh

Bangladesh-formerly East Pakistan and the Bengal region of India-was partitioned three times in the 20th century: first by the British in 1905, and then during independence in 1947, and finally from Pakistan in 1971. Professor Fisher reveals this relatively young nation's turbulent history and explores some of its contemporary challenges....

29 min
India under Nehru
34: India under Nehru

Unlike Pakistan and Bangladesh, India became a secular state after its 1947 independence, and it is now the world's largest democracy. This examination of the nation's early years examines Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's vision to transform the nation and some of his successful economic programs....

31 min
Modernizing India
35: Modernizing India

Follow the careers of Indira Gandhi and her children, who led India through many changes in the late 20th century, including the State of Emergency, the rise of ethnic political organizations such as the Sikhs and the Tamils, the nuclear arms race with Pakistan, and numerous transitions of leadership....

29 min
South Asia into the 21st Century
36: South Asia into the 21st Century

Today, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh make up 20 percent of the world's population, and the subcontinent is a rising global economic powerhouse. Professor Fisher concludes this course by recapping some of the major themes and looking at the condition of the region in the 21st century-and some of the developments on the horizon....

34 min
Michael H. Fisher

Understanding the long history of the people and cultures of the Indian subcontinent from their origins to the present, we can better appreciate all these developing patterns and the major reasons for them.

ALMA MATER

Oberlin College

INSTITUTION

University of Chicago

About Michael H. Fisher

Dr. Michael H. Fisher is the Robert S. Danforth Professor of History at Oberlin College, where he offers a range of courses on the history of South Asia, the environmental history of the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan, Mahatma Gandhi, and early travel narratives about India. He earned his M.A. and his Ph.D. in History with a concentration on South Asia from the University of Chicago. He also holds a B.A. in English from Trinity College. Professor Fisher has published 12 books and more than 50 articles on aspects of Indian history. His special interests include the interactions between Indians and Europeans, both in India and in Europe, from the 16th century onward. His books include biographies of Indian settlers and visitors to Britain and histories of the British Empire as it originated and developed in India. His most recent book is A Short History of the Mughal Empire. Since 1971, Professor Fisher has lived, researched, and taught for long periods in India, with briefer trips to Pakistan and Bangladesh. He has been a visiting faculty fellow at the University of Delhi, University of Hyderabad, University of Allahabad, Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, and the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. Professor Fisher has also served on the major committees of the American Historical Association and the American Institute of Indian Studies, among others.

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