Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Review: Tahrekh ki Daryaaft

Discovering History by
Dr. Mubarak Ali
Publisher: Dost Publishers
ISBN: 978-969-496-352-5

Tahreek ki Daryaaft (Discovering History) is a collection of several essays written by Dr. Mubarak Ali. The book is divided into two parts.

The first part discusses different methods of interpreting history in the twentieth century. It also discusses the concept of hero worship; how heroes are created, and once they are used up, how they are metamorphosed or put down by the state. It also discussed the significance of historiography in Urdu language. It discusses about different translations done in this language, and how Urdu historians have interpreted history in different eras in the sub-continent.

The second part covers a broader subject area. It discusses about different aspects of Mughal rule, the relationship between Ottomans and Mughals, robes in Mughal court, White Mughal of Delhi, Akbar the Great. Besides, it also discusses history of basic goods like coal and coffee. The author also presents a short essay on The History of Smile. There are essays on imperialism and its affects, the role of clergy, tragedy of Indian Muslims, Indus civilization to more Sindh, and also an essay on the French Revolution.

The primary purpose of the book is to present new perspectives on history. Hence, Dr. Ali reviews more than three dozen books and some research papers. The purpose is to bring history to the commoners. It tries to explain how diverse the subject of history has become in our modern age. Today history doesn't mean only memoirs, diaries, scared literature, and King's speech. The subject of history also incorporates sociology, psychology, paleontology, and empiricism. Historians today also interpret history as a class struggle. Some deliberately view it with a prejudice, for example, European historians rectify Indian colonization because they thought the only civilized race is the European race, it is the duty of the Europeans to teach civility to the world. This is the interpretation of history from a European point of view. Likewise, in India, we see different religious prejudice in writing history. There are different interpretations available on Mughal rule in India, based on who is writing it down. 

The writing style is informative and lucid. The author has consciously kept the language as easy as possible; otherwise there is a tendency in Pakistan intellectuals to make thinks look more difficult than they really are. Furthermore, as the book is a collection of essays, it is readable for academia and students alike. It's not like an ordinary history book that goes on for infinite, making the subject of history boring and a waste of time. Each essay an average is four to five pages long, but very comprehensible.

Meanwhile, the book neither has a bibliography nor an end Index. This makes referencing to a specific topic difficult. As the book is mainly a collection of criticism and appreciation of different historical work, a bibliography was a necessary requirement.  

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