History At The Limit of World-History

History At The Limit of World-History

Product ID: 11460

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Author: Ranajit Guha
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2003
Language: English
Pages: 116
ISBN/UPC (if available): 019566485X


The past is not just, as has been famously said, another country with foreign customs: it is a contested and colonized terrain. Ranajit Guha, perhaps the most influential figure in postcolonial and subaltern studies at work today, offers a critique of such historiography by taking issue with the Hegelian concept of World-History.

Indigenous histories have been expropriated, eclipsed, sometimes even wholly eradicated, in the service of imperialist aims buttressed by a distinctly Western philosophy of history. That concept, he contends, reduces the course of human history to the amoral record of states and empires, great men and clashing civilizations. It renders invisible the quotidian experience of ordinary people and casts off all that came before it into the nether-existence known as Prehistory.

On the Indian subcontinent, Guha believes, this western way of looking at the past was so successfully insinuated by British colonization that few today can see clearly its ongoing and pernicious influence. He argues that to breakout of this habit of mind and go beyond the Eurocentric and statist limit of World-history, historians should learn from literature to make their narratives doubly inclusive: to extend them in scope not only to make room for the pasts of the so-called peoples without history but to address the historically of everyday life as well. Only then, as Guha demonstrates through an examination of Rabindranath Tagore’s critique of historiography, can we recapture a more fully human past of experience and wonder.

This fascinating and passionately argued study will be welcomed by students and scholars of Indian history and sociology, as well as informed general readers interested in the nature and direction of contemporary historical inquiry, both in the subcontinent and elsewhere.


Guha's works have deeply influenced not only the writing of sub continental history but also historical investigations elsewhere, as well as cultural studies, literary theories, and social analyses across the world.

- Amartya Sen

A new book by Ranajit Guha is both an important event for South Asian studies and a significant occasion for the humanities. This is a deeply stirring work.

- Homi Bhabha

Ranajit Guha continues to explore questions he has raised before about the discipline of history and its deep and dangerous involvement in the life of the modern state. Guha's characteristic brilliance, style, and thoughtfulness shine through these essays that look for alternatives to statism. His truly original vision of what decolonization of history might mean in the South Asian context will make us think afresh, and even those who do not agree with him will find a great deal here that is worthy of careful consideration.

- Dipesh Chakrabarty




Historically and the Prose of the World

The Prose of History, or The Invention of World-history

Experience, Wonder, and the Pathos of Historically

Epilogue: The Poverty of Historiography - a Poet’s Reproach

Appendix: Historically in Literature by Rabindranath Tagore