About the Book
This volume brings together, for the first time, several of Professor Irfan Habib's seminal essays, representing more than three decades of scholarship and providing an insightful interpretation of the main currents in Indian history from the standpoint of Marxist historiography. In these, he examines the role played by the peasantry and caste in Indian history, explores the forms of class struggle and the stage of economic development in Mughal India, analyses the impact of colonialism on the Indian economy, and chronicles the changes in Marx's perception of India. The painstakingly researched and immensely erudite essays make up a volume that is indispensable for scholars and students of Indian history.
About the Author
Irfan Habib, Professor Emeritus of History at Aligarh Muslim University, is the author of The Agrarian System of Mughal India, 1556-1707 (1963; second revised edition, 1999), An Atlas of the Mughal Empire (1982) and Medieval India: The Study of a Civilization (2008). He is the General Editor of the People's History of India series.
This collection of papers brings together material published over a span of some thirty years. What gives this collection such unity as it possesses is my effort to interpret the main currents of our country's history from a standpoint which belongs to the Marxist tradition of historiography. This is the justification for the sub-title given to this collection. I realize that the reader is not likely to be interested in how the approach I use came to be adopted by me. What he may be expected to be interested in is whether we can understand our past as a people better by giving due weight to the interaction of material conditions, classes, ideas and class struggles, which it was the great achievement of Marx to establish both in theory and in actual work of description and analysis. One major requirement that Marx always sought to fulfil was a combination of breadth of generalization with rigour in detail. This is a requirement which is especially hard to meet, and I have indicated any disavowal of definitiveness in my effort by claiming for my work only an endeavour towards a Marxist approach rather than the attainment and application of such an approach in all its fullness.
I should make it clear, as the reader will soon judge for himself, that many recent trends in historiography, such as Namierism, French 'New History', Subalternity and Post modernism, have passed me by. I do not deny the insights one can gain from some or all of these (although I often find their terminology or theology difficult to follow), nor do I think that the Marxist approach necessarily excludes them or cannot gain in knowledge or method by their study. Essentially, I would argue, the difference between their practitioners and Marxists.1ies in the fact that they are asking different questions and do not share the same vision for humanity. When a reviewer, writing about my Agrarian System of Mughal India, wrote that I had a 'definitely socialist point of view', he meant, I am sure, that a person who did not feel that mankind needs socialism would have appraised even the Mughal empire quite differently.
Over the years I have gained immeasurably from the guidance and help of numerous friends and colleagues, and it is now impossible to thank them all. Some of them, alas, are no longer alive to receive my thanks. But throughout this period, I have had one source of correction, one hand by which my natural rigidities have been softened, a constant, critical companionship: I cannot thank Sayera enough.
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