Problems of Historical Knowledge

Home/ Problems of Historical Knowledge
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSLS2HS0044

Semester and Year Offered: Semester Monsoon and since 2011

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Dhiraj Kumar Nite (Coordinator), Dr Yogesh Snehi and Prof Sanjay Sharma

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: This course focuses on questions and problems involved in historical research and writing, and it reviews various formulations of historical method. The course familiarises students with seminal ideas of modern philosophy that have influenced the development of the historical science. While the first unit of this course explores theory and philosophy of history, subsequent modules deal with particular examples of the making of historical knowledge and illustrate how an understanding of ‘historical reality’ has changed or been challenged by new discoveries or approaches. Another purpose of these case studies is to illustrate how historical facts and ‘discoveries’ gain different significance over time and are dependent on various social and political contexts of interpretation.

Course Outcomes: On successful completion of the course:

  1. Students adopt the ideas of history, methods of historical knowledge and its significance for the study of historical science.
  2. Students Engage with the student with epistemological foundation of historical knowledge, sources of multiple interpretations and explanations in historical studies, the link between facts and arguments, and the function of narrative structure.
  3. Students attain the approaches of connected and comparative historical studies.
  4. Students pursue the reference materials in a critical and comparative manner in order to assess the divergent viewpoints on historical episodes.
  5. Students begin to work out a research plan.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Unit 1. The historian and her problems: an overview of philosophical-methodological issues (Dr DK Nite: August-September)

Unit 2. The Revolt of 1857 (Prof. Sanjay Sharma, October-November)

Unit 3. ‘Hindus’, ‘Muslims’ and the idea of India (Dr Yogesh Snehi, October-November).

Assessment Details with weights:



Date/period in which Assessment will take place



Unit essay*

See note below



Unit essay*

See note below



End-semester comprehensive written examination

Late November (between 19 and 30 November)


*Students must write one essay for any two course units of their choice: i.e., not one essay for each of three units but two essays for any two units. ‘Unit I’ essay due in first week of September.  ‘Unit 2’ essay due in late-October.  ‘Unit 3’ essay due by 15 November.


Reading List:

UNIT 1 READINGS (A few of them only be manadatory reading, others as alternate and optional):

Partha Chatterjee, 2002. History as Present (Introduction Chapter), Delhi: Permanent Black.

EH Carr, 2006. What Is History? London: Penguin Books

K. Jenkins, 2003. Re-thinking History, 2nd edition, London/New York: Routledge.

P. Munz, 1997. ‘The Historical Narrative’, in Companion to Historiography, ed. Michael Bentley, London/NYC: Routledge, pp. 833-52.

Rao, V. N., D. Schulman and S. Subramanyam, 2001. Textures of Time: Writing History in South India, 1600-1800, Delhi: Permanent Black.

H. White, 1988. The Content of the Forms: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

J. Nair, 2016. ‘Textbook Controversies and the Demand for a Past: Public Lives of Indian History’, History Workshop Journal, vol. 82 (1), pp. 235-254.

Jan Breman, 2009. Working in the mill no more: photographs and design, Parthiv Shah.

Neeladri Bhattacharya. 2008. ‘Predicaments of Secular Histories’, Public Culture, 20 (1), pp. 57-73.

Chatterjee, Partha. 2003. The Princely Imposter, Delhi: Permanent Black.

Amin, Sahid. 2016. The Gazi Pir, Delhi: Orient Blackswan.

EP Thompson, 1991. Customs in Common.

Ginsburg, 1976. The Cheese and Worms, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

J. Legoff, 1992/1988. Medieval Civilisation, Paris: Blackwell.

D. Chakrabarty, 2008/2000. Provincilsing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

P. Ricoeur, 1984. Time and Narrative (Translated by Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer), Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


  1. Bayly, C.A., Origins of Nationality in South Asia: Patriotism and Ethical Government in the Making of Modern India, Delhi, OUP, 1998 (Chapter on 1857)
  2. Gooptu, Sharmistha, Revisiting 1857: Myth, Memory, History, Lotus Roli, 2007.
  3. Joshi, P.C. (ed.), Rebellion 1857, PPH, 1957, NBT Reprint, New Delhi, 2007.
  4. John William Kaye, A History of the Sepoy War in India, 1857-58 (3 Vols.), London, 1864-76.
  5. Metcalf, Thomas., Aftermath of the Revolt, India 1857-1870, Princeton 1964, New Delhi, Manohar, 1990.
  6. Mukherjee, Rudrangshu, Awadh in Revolt 1857-1858, Delhi, OUP, 1984.
  7. Mukherjee, Rudrangshu, Mangal Pandey: Brave Martyr or Accidental Hero? Penguin paperback, 2005.
  8. Leela Sarup, The Trial of Mangal Pandey: State Papers, New Delhi, Niyogi Books, 2008.
  9. Mukherjee, Rudrangshu, “Rebels and the Raj: The Revolt of 1857 and its Representations”, Theme 11 in the NCERT History textbook for Class XII, Part III.
  10. Nayar, Pramod K., The Penguin 1857 Reader, New Delhi, Penguin Books India, 2007.
  11. Roy, Tapti, The Politics of a Popular Uprising: Bundelkhand in 1857, Delhi, OUP 1994.
  12. Savarkar, V.D. The Indian War of Independence of 1857, London, 1909.
  13. Sen, S.N. Eighteen Fifty-Seven, New Delhi, The Publications Division, 1957
  14. Stokes, Eric, The Peasant Armed: The Indian Rebellion of 1857 edited by C.A. Bayly, Delhi, OUP, 1986.
  15. Stokes, Eric, Peasant and the Raj: Studies in Agrarian Society and Peasant Rebellion in Colonial India, Cambridge, CUP, 1978.
  16. Bhattacharya, S, Rethinking 1857, New Delhi, Orient Longman, 2007.
  17. Pati, Biswamoy (ed). The 1857 Rebellion, Delhi, OUP, 2007.
  18. Articles in EPW, May 12-18, 2007, Vol. 19. Also published as 1857: Essays from Economic and Political Weekly, Hyderabad, Orient BlackSwan, 2008.
  19. Bhadra, Gautam, “Four rebels of eighteen fifty-seven” in Ranajit Guha (ed). Subaltern Studies, IV, Delhi, OUP, 1985.
  20. Dalrymple, William, The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty 1857, New Delhi, Penguin, 2007. Also available in Hindi as Aakhri Mughal.
  21. Bates, Crispin (ed), Mutiny at the Margins: New Perspectives on the Indian Uprising of 1857, Volume 1: Anticipations and Experiences in the Locality, New Delhi, Sage, 2013.
  22. Bates, Crispin and Andrea Major (eds.), Mutiny at the Margins: New Perspectives on the Indian Uprising of 1857, Volume 2: Britain and Indian Uprising, New Delhi, Sage, 2013.
  23. Deshpande Prachi, “The Making of an Indian Nationalist Archive: Lakshmibai, Jhansi, and 1857”, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 67, No. 3 (August) 2008: 855-879.
  24. Harleen Singh, The Rani of Jhansi: Gender, History, and Fable in India, New Delhi, Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  25. Roy, Tapti, Raj of the Rani, New Delhi, Penguin Books India, 2006.
  26. Gupta, Amit Kumar, Nineteenth-Century Colonialism and the Great Indian Revolt, New Delhi, Routledge, 2016.
  27. Farooqui, Mahmood, Besieged: Voices from Delhi 1857, New Delhi, Penguin, 2010.
  28. Vishnubhatt’s Majha Pravas, original in Marathi translated by Amritlal Nagar as Aankhon Dekha Ghadar, Delhi, Rajpal, 2011 and by Madhuker Upadhyaya, 1857: Vishnubhatt ki Aatmkatha, New Delhi, Vani Prakashan, 2007.
  29. Upadhyaya, Madhuker, 1857: Ramkahani Sitaram, New Delhi, Vani Prakashan, 2007.
  30. Khan, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, The Causes of the Indian Revolt, first published 1859, republished by Patna, Khuda Baksh Oriental Public Library, 1999.
  31. Ghadar: 1857: Aakhon Dekha Vivran by Moinuddin Hasan, translated by Abdul Haq, Delhi University Hindi Madhyam Karyanvaya Nideshalaya Publication, 1999.
  32. Chakravarty, Gautam, The Indian Mutiny and the British Imagination, Foundation Books, 2008.
  33. Palit, Chittabrata and Mrinal Kumar Basu, Revisiting the Revolt of 1857, B.R. Publishing Corporation, 2009.
  34. Nizami, Khwaza Hasan, Begmaat ke Aansoo, New Delhi, Swarna Jayanti, 1998.
  35. Nagar, Amritlal, Ghadar ke Phool, Rajpal and Sons, Delhi, 2011.
  36. Ray, Rajat Kanta, The Felt community: Commonality and mentality before the Emergence of Indian Nationalism, New Delhi, OUP, 2003 (esp. part 2: “The Mentality of the Mutiny: Conceptions of the Alternative Order in 1857”.
  37. Husain, Iqbal, Religion and the Ideology of the Rebels of 1857, Delhi, Primus Books, 2013.
  38. Wagner, Kim A., The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857, Gurgaon, Penguin Random House India, 2017.
  39. Marx and Engels, The First Indian War of Independence (1857-1858)
  40. and the East India Company (June-August 1853); Marx & Engels in the New-York Daily Tribune, July 1857 - October 1858.


  1. Identities in a ‘Secular’ Historiography
  2. Neeladri Bhattacharya. 2008. ‘Predicaments of Secular Histories’, Public Culture, 20 (1), pp. 57-73.
  3. Romila Thapar. 1998. ‘Imagined Religious Communities? Ancient History and the Modern search for a Hindu Identity’, Modern Asian Studies, 23(2), pp.209-23.
  4. Cynthia Talbot. 1995. ‘Inscribing the Other, Inscribing the Self: Hindu-Muslim Identities in Pre-Colonial India’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 37 (4), pp. 692-722.
  5. Gyanendra Pandey. 1999. ‘Can a Muslim be an Indian?’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 41(4), pp. 608-29.
  6. Question of Conversions
  7. Richard M. Eaton. 2009. ‘Shrines, Cultivators and Muslim ‘Conversion’ in Punjab and Bengal, 1300- 1700’, The Medieval History Journal, 12(2), pp. 191-220.
  8. Stephen F. Dale. 1990. ‘Trade, Conversion and the Growth of the Islamic Community of Kerala, South India’, Studia Islamica, No. 71, pp. 155-175.
  9. Yoginder Sikand. . ‘Arya Samaj and Muslim Tabligh: Muslim Reaction to Arya Samaj Proselytizaton (1923-30)’, Rowena Robinson and Sathianathan Clarke (eds) Religious Conversions in India: Modes, Motivations and Meanings, New Delhi: Oxford University press, pp. 98-118.
  10. Yogesh Snehi. 2014. 'Dissenting the Dominant: Caste Mobility, Ritual Practice and Popular Sufi Shrines in Contemporary Punjab' Vijaya Ramaswamy (ed) Devotion and Dissent in Indian History, New Delhi: Foundation Books, pp. 271-298.
  11. Pathologies of Violence
  12. C. A. Bayly. 1985. ‘The Pre-History of 'Communalism'? Religious Conflict in India, 1700-1860’, Modern Asian Studies, 19(2), pp.177-203.
  13. Paul R. Brass. 2005. Forms of Collective Violence: Riots, Pogroms, and Genocide in Modern India, New Delhi: Three Essays Collective.
  14. Dilip M. Menon. . ‘The Blindness of Insight: Why Communialism in India is about Caste’, Aakash Singh and Silika Mohapatra (eds) Indian Political Thought: A Reader, London: Routledge, pp.123-135.
  15. Hilal Ahmed. 2013. ‘Muzaffarnagar 2013: Meanings of Violence’, Economic and Political Weekly, 48(40), pp.10-13.
  16. Revisiting Temple Destruction Debates
  17. Romila Thapar. 2008. ‘Somanātha: Narratives of a History’, Sunil Kumar (ed) Demolishing Myths or Mosques and Temples? Readings on History and Temple Desecration in Medieval India, New Delhi: Three Essays Collective, pp. 65-87.
  18. Richard M Eaton. 2000. ‘Temple Desecration and Indo-Muslim States’, Journal of Islamic Studies, 11 (3), pp. 283-319.
  19. Peter Vaan Der Veer. 1992. ‘Ayodhya and Somnath: Eternal Shrines, Contested Histores’, Social Research, Vol. 59 (1), pp.85-109.
  20. Supriya Varma and Jaya Menon. 2010. ‘Was There a Temple under the Babri Masjid? Reading the Archaeological ‘Evidence’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XLV (50), pp. 61-72.


  1. R. Guha, 1983. ‘The Prose of Counter Insurgency’, Subaltern Studies, Vol. II, Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  2. R. Guha, 1984. ‘The Chandra’s Death’, Subaltern Studies, Vol. III, Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  3. R. Guha, 1986. ‘Dominance Without Hegemony’, Subaltern Studies, Vol. V, Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  4. Jacques Derrida, 2002/1976. Of Grammatology (translated b GC Spivak), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
  5. J. Derrida, 2006/1994. The Spectre of Marx: the state of the debt, the work of mourning and the new international, London: Routledge.
  6. V. Chhiber, 2014. The Spectre of Capital: A Critique of Post-colonial Theory, Verso.
  7. E. Said, 1978. Orientalism, Pantheon Books.
  8. M. Foucault, 1976. The Order of Things, Human Science.
  9. J. Banaji, 2010. Theory as History: Essays on Modes of Production and Exploitation, Leiden: Brill.
  10. Stefan Berger and Bill Niven (eds.), 2014. Writing the History of Memory, London: Bloomsbury Academic.
  11. Donald A. Ritchie (Ed.), 2010. The Oxford Handbook of Oral History, Oxford: OUP, 2010. [Article of Anna Green.]
  12. Dhiraj Kumar Nite, 2014. ‘Life History and Memory: The Mining Persons in South Africa, 1951-2011’, South African Historical Journal, vol. 66 (1).
  13. Ravi Vasudevan, 2012. The Melodramatic Public: Film form and spectatorship in Indian cinema, Palgrave Macmillan.
  14. Pierre Bourdieu, 1996/19984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (translated by Richard Nice), Cambridge & Masachussets: Harvard University Press.
  15. M. Rangrajan, 2015. Environment, Conservation and Nation.
  16. Michel de Certeau, 1988/1984. The Practice of Everyday Life, California/London: University of California Press.