As recently as the turn of the century, Western images of India pictured it as a land of religion, luxury, and desperate poverty-holy men sitting cross-legged by the roadside, fat maharajas on bejeweled elephants, or poverty-stricken beggars picking garbage for scraps to eat. Now that image has started to change. Today Americans are more likely to imagine Indian workers in call centers taking jobs needed in the United States or kids winning fortunes on quiz shows as in Slumdog Millionaire. Admired for its spiritual traditions (two of the world's major religions-Hinduism and Buddhism-originated here), for its peaceful struggle for independence led by Mohandas K. Gandhi, and for its vibrant culture (from Bollywood and spicy cuisine to classical music and world-renowned authors), India has had a long and fascinating history. However, while most people are familiar with certain parts of Indian history and culture, the roots of the country's contemporary society and politics are not always well understood in the West. Covering approximately 5,000 years of history, this revised resource offers an accessible, reliable introduction to the rich and diverse history of India.
Judith E. Walsh, Ph.D., obtained her Ph.D. in Modern South Asian History from Columbia University and is currently a Professor in the Humanities and Languages Department at the State University of New York, Old Westbury. She has more than 20 years' experience writing, lecturing, and teaching courses on India and South Asia. She has also studied Sanskrit, Hindi, and Bengali and recently published a book of translations from 19th-century Bengali-language texts.