History and History Writing

TWO books reviewed of A time BYGONE

The two books are placed on a traditional handmade dhurrie/dari by my mother.

ONE is the biography of Jamal Mian (1919-2012), a life across British India, independent India, East Pakistan and Pakistan. The kind of life, which would be unimaginable to most people of the subcontinent today. At the core, this is a detailed history of the changing political landscape of North India told through the life and times of an extraordinary life. The story unfolds with authority and simplicity, the kind of old-fashioned narrative history writing that barely exists. Stories and history writing are barely written like like because they do not command the short-term impact and they take years, generations to unfold through the relationship of the historian and his subject. But importantly it brings together the life and times of an individual and his milieu – showcasing the kind of “Hindustan” that no longer exists, other than in history books.

Pippa Virdee, FRANCIS ROBINSON. Jamal Mian: The Life of Maulana Jamaluddin Abdul Wahab of Farangi Mahall, 1919–2012, The English Historical Review, ceaa186, https://doi.org/10.1093/ehr/ceaa186

TWO is an account of the province(s) of Punjab; rising From the Ashes of 1947 but simultaneously being reimagined. This too is about a political landscape that has been transformed and only exists in the history books, kinder memories and sepia imaginations of some of its people. It is about the shorter, shocking and longer, hardening consequences of dividing the land of five rivers. It too has been written over a long period and reveals the changing nature of my understanding of Partition, from the beginning of my doctoral work in 2000, to the point of this publication in 2017. It has changed further still because history is about engaging with the past through the unfolding present and “reveals how far nostalgia combined with the lingering aftershocks of trauma and displacement have shaped memories and identities in the decades since 1947.”

Sarah Ansari, PIPPA VIRDEE. From the Ashes of 1947: Reimagining Punjab, The American Historical Review, Volume 125, Issue 2, April 2020, Pages 635–636, https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/rhz695

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