JAC Board Class 8th Social Science Notes History Chapter 1 How, When and Where
→ How Important are Dates?
- History is certainly about changes that occur over time. It is about finding out how things were in the past and how things have changed.
- We can only refer to a span of time, an approximate period over which particular changes became visible.
- For different events such as when the king was crowned, when he got married, etc., specific dates can be determined, and in histories such as these, debates about dates continue to be important.
→ Which dates?
- Dates become vital because we focus on a particular set of events as important. If our focus of study changes, and we begin to look at new issues, a new set of dates will appear significant.
- In the histories written by British historians in India, the rule of each Governor-General was important.
- All the dates in these history books were linked to these personalities – to their activities, policies, achievements.
- In the histories that revolve around the life of British Governor-Generals, the activities of Indians simply do not fit, they have no space.
→ How do we periodise?
- In 1817, a Scottish economist and political philosopher, named James Mill published a massive three-volume work, A History of British India.
- In this, he divided Indian history into three periods – Hindu, Muslim and British. This periodisation came to be widely accepted.
- We periodise in an attempt to capture the characteristics of a time, its central features as they appear to us. So, the terms through which we periodise – that is, demarcate the difference between periods become important.
- Mill thought that all Asian societies were at a lower level of civilisation than Europe. According to him, history, before the British came to India, Hindu and Muslim despots ruled the country.
- Religious intolerance, caste taboos and superstitious practices dominated social life. British rule, Mill felt, could civilise India.
- In fact, Mill suggested that the British should conquer all the territories in India to ensure the enlightenment and happiness of the Indian people. For India was not capable of progress without British help.
- We should also remember that even rulers in ancient India did not all share the same faith.
- If we don’t consider British classification, historians have usually divided Indian history into ‘ancient’, ‘medieval’ and ‘modem’. This division too has its problems.
- Under British rule people did not have equality, freedom or liberty. Nor was the period one of economic growth and progress. Many historians therefore refer to this period as ‘colonial’.
→ What is colonial?
- When the subjugation of one country by another leads to these kinds of political, economic, social and cultural changes, we refer to the process as colonisation.
- All classes and groups did not experience these changes in the same way.
→ How do We Know?
Administration produces records
- One of the important sources is the official records of the British administration. The British believed that the act of writing was important. Every instruction, plan, policy decision, agreement, investigation had to be clearly written up.
- The British also felt that all important documents and letters needed to be carefully preserved. So, they set up record rooms attached to all administrative institutions.
- The village tahsildar’s office, the collector, the commissioner’s office, the provincial secretariats, the law courts had their record rooms. Specialised institutions like archives and museums were also established to preserve important records.
- In the early years of the nineteenth century, these documents were carefully copied out and beautifully written by calligraphists.
- By the middle of the nineteenth century, with the spread of printing, multiple copies of these records were printed as proceedings of each government department.
→ Surveys become important
- The practice of surveying also became common under the colonial administration. The British believed that a country had to be properly known before it could be effectively administered.
- By the early nineteenth century detailed surveys were being carried out to map the entire country.
- From the end of the nineteenth century, Census operations were held every ten years.
- There were many other surveys such as botanical surveys, zoological surveys, archaeological surveys, anthropological surveys, forest surveys.
→ What official records do not tell
- Official records tell us what the officials thought, what they were interested in and what they wished to preserve for posterity. These records do not always help us understand what other people in the country felt, and what lay behind their actions.
- We have diaries of people, accounts of pilgrims and travellers, autobiographies of important personalities and popular booklets that were sold in the local bazaars.
- Leaders and reformers wrote to spread their ideas, poets and novelists wrote to express their feelings as printing spread.
- All these sources, however, were produced by those who were literate. It becomes difficult to know about the tribals and peasants.