Author: John Whelption
Publisher: Cambridge University press
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0-521-67141-8
Nepal emerged as a unified state over 200 years ago, centered on the Kathmandu Valley with its 2000 years of urban civilization. While John Whelpton’s history focuses on the period since the overthrow of the Rana family autocracy in 1950-1, the early chapters are devoted to the origins of the kingdom and the evolving relations of its diverse peoples. By drawing on recent research on Nepal’s environment, society and political institutions from the earliest times, the author portrays a country of extraordinary contrasts, which has been constantly buffeted through history by its neighbours, the two Asian giants, China and India. Economic and Political turmoil over the last fifty years came to a climax in the massacre of the royal family in 2001, when the country erupted into civil war.
The book represents the first widely available one-volume treatment in English of the whole span of Nepalese history to appear for over a generation. Its comprehensive and accessible approach will appeal to students, professional and those visiting the region for the first time.
Nepal as a state emerged in its present form only in the late eighteenth century when the small hill kingdom of Gorkha, some eighty miles west of Kathmandu, brought much of the Himalayan foothills and an adjoining strip of the North Indian plain under its control, and the kingdom’s shah dynasty moved its court to the Kathmandu Valley. From 1846 to 1951, though the Shahs remained on the throne, effective political power was in the hands of the Rana family, who as hereditary prime ministers were in a roughly analogous position to the Japanese shoguns before the Meiji restoration.
The Rana system was eventually brought down by an alliance between the monarchy and modernizing intellectuals, with decisive backing from newly independent India, and a policy of seclusion from the outside world that the country had followed throughout most of its modern history was finally abandoned. After experiment with parliamentary democracy in the 1950s, party politics were banned and power centralized in the royal place from 1960 until the mass protests of 1990 brought about a return to the multi-party system and rule by elected governments. However, the failure of the new system to provide stable government at the centre was compounded by the growth of Maoist insurgency from 1996 onwards, and deep-seated economic and social problems remain to be solved.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
LIST OF MAPS
LIST OF TABLES
NOTES ON ROMANISATION AND TERMINOLOGY
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
1. Environment, state and society in the central Himalayas to 1743
2. Unification and sanskritisation, 1743-1885
3. Nepal under the Shamsher Ranas, 1885-1951
4. The monarchy in ascendance: domestic politics and foreign relations, 1951-1991
5. The quest for development: economy and environment, 1951-1991
6. Lifestyle, values, identities: changes in Nepalese society, 1951-1991
7. Democracy and disillusionment: Nepal since 1991