A History of India

Course No. 8350
Professor Michael H. Fisher, Ph.D.
Oberlin College
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What Will You Learn?

  • Explore the ancient foundations of Hinduism with sacred poems and hymns.
  • Find out about the ancient Vedic social order (or Varna) and how it structured society.
  • Witness the rise of the British East India Company and find out how it coincided with the rise of British imperialism.
  • Learn about the life of Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi and trace his life from his young manhood in India to his activism in South Africa and India.
  • Consider the role geography and ethnicity played in the distribution of power and border tensions.

Course Overview

India is home to some of the world’s oldest, greatest, and most successful civilizations. Today the South Asian subcontinent contains 20 percent of the world’s population and is a thriving center for global business. Over the next decade, India alone is expected to surpass China in population, making this region one of most significant economic powerhouses in the world.

Beyond the globalization of the 21st century, the region has always played a critical role on the world stage. Over the past 5,000 years, the subcontinent has been home to a rich tapestry of peoples and cultures. Two of the world’s great religions—Hinduism and Buddhism—as well as some of humanity’s most significant wisdom literature all have their origins in South Asia. And with its strategic location and unique geography, the lands east of the Indus River have long been a central hub for trade, migration, and cultural exchange.

Go inside this thrilling story with A History of India, a breathtaking survey of South Asia from its earliest societies along the Indus and Ganges rivers through the modern challenges of the 21st century. Taught by Professor Michael H. Fisher of Oberlin College, these 36 sweeping lectures enable you to understand the epic scope of the subcontinent’s history. Perhaps the most important facet of this history is how diverse the region truly is. Roughly the size of continental Europe, India—along with its neighbors Pakistan and Bangladesh—contains a myriad of ethnic groups, socioeconomic classes, religions, and cultural mores.

What’s more, the subcontinent has seldom been unified under a single empire or government, making its history complicated and difficult to navigate. With the expert guidance of Professor Fisher, you will:

  • See how geography and climate shaped the development of its civilizations—sometimes facilitating contact between groups, but often isolating them, which entrenched local cultural and governance systems.
  • Trace the migration of varied peoples over the mountains from Asia and Europe, as well as in through the coasts, creating areas of dynamic cultural exchange.
  • Delve into the legacies of the Mauryan Empire, the Mughal Empire, and British colonialism, three of the few governments that ever unified the subcontinent.
  • Witness the fight for independence from European powers and the partition of the region into the countries of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh in the 20th century.
  • Review some of the largest challenges and opportunities faced by this area today, from expanding urbanization to the vast need for energy sources to the ongoing, heated political and ideological debates about national identity.

Professor Fisher reveals this complex narrative with skill and compelling insights. By the end of A History of India, you will understand the full scope of the region, its people, and its cultures, across time and today.

Discover Diverse Cultures with Complex Origins

Professor Fisher takes you back to reflect on the very beginning of human history, shedding light on the earliest societies on the subcontinent:

  • the Adivasi forest dwellers
  • the urban civilizations in the Indus Valley
  • the Vedic cultures that were the ancient cultural forebears of today’s Hindus

Few artifacts have survived to tell us about these societies, so scholars have relied on DNA evidence and linguistic analysis to provide clues about their mysterious origins. Much of our cultural understanding of ancient India has been passed down in two national epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. While not strictly fact-based histories as Westerners understand the term, these texts give us remarkable insight into the origins and development of India’s history, particularly the Vedic tradition.

One of the most fascinating topics of this course is its overview of the subcontinent’s religions, starting with the Vedic cultures. Hinduism is the religion of those who revere the Vedas as sacred truth, and this tradition had and continues to have a profoundly deep influence on South Asian societies, governments, and even economies. The rise, expansion, and influence of Jainism, Buddhism, and Islam occurred in dialogue with the Hindu ethos, and you’ll come to understand how these religions served the needs of many who felt disenfranchised by the dominant milieu. You’ll also uncover the lives of Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians (Parsis) who created thriving communities that endured for centuries, mostly in trading ports. Professor Fisher skillfully offers both an “etic” and an “emic” perspective—that is, history as it is understood from our perspective as outsiders and history as it is known within the culture—which ultimately yields a comprehensive, nuanced, and multi-voiced account of South Asia’s story.

Professor Fisher unpacks these nuances and offers profound insight into some of the great religions found on the subcontinent:

  • Learn about the Vedas and how the idea of the “cosmic man” gives division and order to social classes (“castes”).
  • Gain wisdom from the Bhagavad Gita and see why it is one of the world’s best-known texts.
  • Find out why the economic and political situation in the year 500 B.C.E. led to the rise of new religions such as Jainism and Buddhism.
  • Meet Siddhartha Gautama and follow the growth of Buddhism across Asia.
  • Consider why Islam spread so mightily throughout the subcontinent—and what the current status of Muslims is throughout the region.

Navigate a Bustling Political and Economic Hub

Because of its size and diversity, South Asia traditionally has been divided into numerous kingdoms. Nonetheless, its strategic location has also made the subcontinent an important trading center and economic hub. For instance, the Silk Road connecting China with Europe had a branch that ran through northern India. And in the 15th century, when Vasco da Gama sailed around the horn of Africa, he landed on India’s coasts, ushering in a new era of global commerce.

Professor Fisher takes you through a series of developments as people from around the world migrate in and out of the subcontinent, leading to great political upheavals as well as economic and cultural exchange.

  • Watch as myriad invaders travel through the Khyber Pass from Afghanistan to set up—or conquer—kingdoms in India.
  • Investigate how Islam spread so quickly throughout South Asia, leading to many years of sultanate rule, and examine how this new paradigm changed social relations and patterns of governance across the region.
  • Peer into the reign of the Mauryans, starting with Chandragupta, who consolidated the subcontinent’s first major empire, and continuing with the rule of his grandson, the renowned Buddhist Emperor Ashoka.
  • Witness the beginnings of the Mughal empire, as a Central Asian warrior named Babur conquered the Delhi sultanate, and follow the rise and fall of this dynasty, tracing the lives of the emperors Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan (who created the gorgeous Peacock Throne and the Taj Mahal), and Alamgir.
  • Reflect on the religious, social, and economic differences between northern India, the Deccan Plateau, and the many southern kingdoms.
  • Follow the development of European trade and colonialism, including multiple East India companies, and consider how their practices affected the local economy and politics.
  • Explore the circumstances that led to the British crown claiming rule over India, and consider the lasting consequences of the Raj for the subcontinent.

Over the past 100 years, the region has seen some astonishing developments. British rule may have unified the subcontinent, but racist policies and economic siphoning of resources did much damage to the spirit and economy of India. From the 1857 sepoy uprising through the chaotic events that led to independence and partition in 1947, Professor Fisher takes you inside the Indian and Pakistani nationalist movements.

You’ll explore the legacies of key nationalist leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and you’ll see how the quest for independence was not only a political movement—but also a question of ethnic and religious identity. Finally, you’ll also travel the world to consider the lives of Indians in Europe, Africa, and elsewhere—and how Indians in Britain often fared better than Indians under British rule on the subcontinent.

Explore India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh Today

Following the independence and partition of India and Pakistan (which was divided into East and West Pakistan) in 1947, you’ll witness great turbulence as each nation struggled to develop its own system of government in the wake of British colonialism.

In India, you’ll trace the recent history of what is now the world’s largest democracy, from Prime Minister Nehru’s five-year economic plans to boost food production through the rule of Indira Gandhi and her sons. You’ll gain new perspective on the State of Emergency in the 1970s, the three wars with Pakistan and insurrections in tribal regions, and the outlook of India’s government today.

Meanwhile, in modern-day Pakistan and Bangladesh, you’ll explore the development of their Islamic governments, witness numerous coups and shifts of power, and reflect on some of the key crisis points in recent years, from the 1971 split of East Pakistan into Bangladesh to Pakistan’s nuclear arms race with India to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

In the end, Professor Fisher projects what might be on the horizon for each of these nations. It is clear that South Asia is on the verge of another great boom in terms of economic and sociopolitical power. True to its history, it remains one of the world’s most important clusters of civilizations, and it will continue to play an integral role in humanity’s ongoing story. A History of India is a must-have course for understanding this powerful region and its profound influence on the rest of the globe.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Earliest History of the Indian Subcontinent
    Begin your study millions of years ago, when plate tectonics shaped the subcontinent's mountains, plateaus, and river systems, which in turn have affected the region's weather, agriculture, and cultural diversity. Review South Asia's four macro-regions and see how geography has guided the course of life. x
  • 2
    Migration and the Adivasi
    Three main cultures inhabited the ancient Indian subcontinent. In this lecture, you'll study the first group, the Adivasi, aboriginal forest dwellers who once comprised the entirety of South Asia's population. See how genetic and linguistic analysis informs us about the Adivasi of 30,000 years ago-and learn about their status in India today. x
  • 3
    Indus Valley Civilization
    Turn to the second group of ancient Indian communities: the urban people of the Indus Valley. Many mysteries abound regarding this long-lost Bronze Age civilization, but Professor Fisher takes you through excavated cities, examines art and artifacts, and reveals what we know about this intriguing society-and what may have happened to them. x
  • 4
    Indo-European Vedic Culture
    Explore the ancient foundations of Hinduism, which emerged from a diverse community of people who identified themselves with the Vedas. By studying these sacred poems and hymns, you'll discover much about this civilization's culture and cosmology. You'll also trace the origins and development of the Indo-European language in this fascinating lecture. x
  • 5
    Caste: Varna and Jati
    The Vedic caste system is one of the most well-known aspects of Hindu society-and also one of the most misunderstood. Find out about the ancient Vedic social order (or Varnas), how it structured society, and how numerous inherited social groups (or Jatis) relate to occupation, creating a diverse and complex society. x
  • 6
    Epic Literature: Ramayana
    Delve into the first Indian epic: the Ramayana, which is a poem, a love story, a morality tale, and much more. Discover the story of Prince Rama, his faithful wife, Sita, and the gods that control their lives. It is also an important source for many of the historical details we have about the era. x
  • 7
    Epic History: Mahabharata
    Shift your attention to India's other major epic, the Mahabharata, which is the longest major text in human history (clocking in at a whopping 1.8 million words). After examining the sources and style of this epic, Professor Fisher surveys its plot and shows what it means from the emic" perspective of Indians as well as the "etic" perspective of outsiders." x
  • 8
    Dharma in the Bhagavad Gita
    The Bhagavad Gita is arguably one of the most famous texts in world history. Explore the origins and context for the story, delve into the complexities of philosophy and religion that the narrative contains, and understand why it has resonated throughout Indian history and around the world. See how its wisdom is still the basis for Hinduism today. x
  • 9
    The Origins and Rise of Jainism
    In 500 B.C.E., the old Vedic social order was changing as the merchant classes began to achieve upward mobility. Along with these radical cultural and economic changes, alternative religious models emerged to compete with the Vedic cosmology. Here, you'll survey Jainism's origins and philosophy, which require a life of total nonviolence. x
  • 10
    The Origins and Rise of Buddhism
    Along with the rise of Jainism, 500 B.C.E. also saw the adoption of Buddhism as an alternative to the Vedic tradition. Delve into the life of Siddhartha Gautama and the tenets of his philosophy, including the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path to enlightenment. Then find out how these ideas developed and spread across Asia. x
  • 11
    The Mauryan Empire
    Because South Asia is such a large and diverse region, it has seldom been unified under one ruler. But around the time Jainism and Buddhism began challenging the old social order, Chandragupta was able to consolidate and form the subcontinent's first major empire. Uncover the trajectory of his life and the conditions that allowed him to build the Mauryan Empire. x
  • 12
    Ashoka's Imperial Buddhism
    Continue your study of the Mauryan Empire with Chandragupta's grandson, Emperor Ashoka, who even today is likely the most famous individual from ancient India. After consolidating his territory in a vicious war, Ashoka became a Buddhist and a model benevolent ruler. x
  • 13
    Deccani and Southern States
    Brahmin culture was never as strong in southern India as it was in the north, which meant a diverse range of societies were able to flourish on the Deccan plateau. After explaining some of the region's historical trends, Professor Fisher highlights the distinctive features and interactions of a few prominent southern kingdoms. x
  • 14
    Northwest and North India
    In the wake of the Mauryan Empire's collapse, many regional dynasties emerged across the north and northwest. Unpack the fascinating history of these two macro-regions. Learn about several of the major ethnic groups and the Silk Road trade routes, and then round out the lecture with a study of the famous Gupta dynasty. x
  • 15
    Brahmanic Synthesis
    While the regional governments remained fragmented at the turn of the Common Era, the Brahmins worked to rebuild their cultural prominence. They formally developed what is today Hinduism, thanks to a series of written manuals, or shastras, which lay out the principles of an ideal life-including notions of dharma, kama, artha, and moksha. x
  • 16
    Indian Parsis, Jews, and Christians
    South Asia has always been a distinctly diverse region, incorporating numerous communities of outsiders who came to the subcontinent via the coasts or across the mountains. Explore the worlds of Parsis, Jews, and Christians in India, and see how they interacted with Hindu society. x
  • 17
    Islam Comes to India
    Islam has had a profound impact on South Asia, and today the region has the largest Muslim population in the world. After surveying the history and pillars of Islam and its origins in the Middle East, Professor Fisher examines how many people of South Asia became Muslim via trade, invasion, devotion, or personal motivation. x
  • 18
    Indian Sultans
    The binary opposition between Hindus and Muslims oversimplifies what has always been a complex relationship. Here, you'll study that relationship as you meet some of the most prominent Muslim rulers, or Sultans, from the 9th to the 16th centuries. Explore their kingdoms throughout India and their legacies. x
  • 19
    The Early Mughal Empire
    In this first of several lectures on the great Mughal Empire, you'll meet a Central Asian adventurer named Babur, who rode into South Asia from Kabul and conquered the Delhi sultanate. Then witness the checkered career of his son, who almost lost the empire before it could really get started. x
  • 20
    The Reign of Emperor Akbar
    Continue your study of the Mughal Empire by tracing the rule of Emperor Akbar. During his dramatic five-decade reign, he truly established the empire for the long term thanks to several key initiatives: drawing regional rulers into his army, encouraging interreligious marriage, transforming the administrative system, and creating an imperial ideology based on various mystical ideas and practices. x
  • 21
    Later Mughal Emperors
    Succession is a key challenge for any empire. As Emperor Akbar aged, follow the rise of his son, Jahangir, who, once emperor, ruled with aplomb and introduced many new innovations to the subcontinent. His own son, Shah Jahan, then constructed the Peacock Throne, the Taj Mahal, and other glorious architectural triumphs. x
  • 22
    The Mughals and the Marathas
    The 17th century saw the slow decline of the Mughal Empire during the reign of Emperor Alamgir (also called Aurangzeb). As he aged, he drew the empire into war with the Deccan-based Marathas, who were led by the skillful warrior Shivaji. Watch as the Marathas humiliate the Mughals and establish their own powerful regional identity. x
  • 23
    Competing European Empires
    Now turn from the subcontinent inlands to the sea, where European traders began arriving on the Indian coast to establish global companies, including several East India companies. After surveying Portugal's 200-year dominance of trade, Professor Fisher shows how the English eventually established their own foothold in the market. x
  • 24
    The British East India Company
    Witness the rise of the British East India Company and find out how it coincided with the rise of British imperialism. Company leaders often sought glory and expansion, which led to greater British influence and control of South Asia via joint-stock corporations. Take an inside look at these radical developments in the 18th and 19th centuries. x
  • 25
    The Issues and Events of 1857
    Tension between the British and the South Asians came to a boil in 1857, when a group of Indian soldiers rose up against the British army-to disastrous consequences. Consider the context and historical impact of this pivotal year, which forever changed the nature of British rule in India. x
  • 26
    The British Raj and Early Nationalism
    Continue your study of Indian and British relations with a detailed look at the British Raj, a 90-year period of colonialism that stretched from the 1857 uprising to the region's independence in 1947. Gain insight into Britain's racist policies, and view the beginnings of the subcontinent's struggle for political autonomy. x
  • 27
    India and Indians in the World
    Whether as students, soldiers, or servants, South Asians who left the subcontinent contributed significantly to the cultural exchange among China, continental Europe, and Great Britain. And whereas the British Raj relied on segregation for political control, Indian immigrants in Britain found greater freedom. Reflect on the impact of South Asians throughout the world. x
  • 28
    Mahatma Gandhi
    Learn about the life of Mohandas Mahatma" Gandhi, who is perhaps the 20th century's most well-regarded political activist. You'll trace his life from his young manhood in India to his education in Britain to his activism in South Africa and India. In this lecture, an admirable-but complex-figure emerges." x
  • 29
    Nationalists Ambedkar, Bose, and Jinnah
    While Gandhi advocated one path for reform, many of his contemporaries offered other ways to promote the rights of lower classes and Muslims. Meet Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, three influential social and political leaders, and review their approaches toward national independence and people's rights. x
  • 30
    The Partition of 1947
    After World War II, a tense series of events led the subcontinent's brutal partition into India and Pakistan-majority Hindu and Muslim nations, respectively. Find out how the British, battered by the war, ceded their empire and hastily created two nation-states whose borders and contested identities left a troubled legacy felt even today. x
  • 31
    West and East Pakistan
    Between 1947 and 1971, Pakistan was a divided state: separated into East and West, and strained along ethnic lines. The early years of the nation saw numerous coups and uprisings, as well as border wars with India, particularly in Kashmir. Consider the role geography and ethnicity played in the distribution of power. x
  • 32
    The New Pakistan
    Review the story of Pakistan from 1971 to the present. As you survey one shift of power after another, you will meet leaders such as General Zia, Benazir Bhutto, General Musharraf, and Nawaz Sharif. At the end of this lecture, you will have a complete sense of Pakistani history through today. x
  • 33
    Independent Bangladesh
    Bangladesh-formerly East Pakistan and the Bengal region of India-was partitioned three times in the 20th century: first by the British in 1905, and then during independence in 1947, and finally from Pakistan in 1971. Professor Fisher reveals this relatively young nation's turbulent history and explores some of its contemporary challenges. x
  • 34
    India under Nehru
    Unlike Pakistan and Bangladesh, India became a secular state after its 1947 independence, and it is now the world's largest democracy. This examination of the nation's early years examines Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's vision to transform the nation and some of his successful economic programs. x
  • 35
    Modernizing India
    Follow the careers of Indira Gandhi and her children, who led India through many changes in the late 20th century, including the State of Emergency, the rise of ethnic political organizations such as the Sikhs and the Tamils, the nuclear arms race with Pakistan, and numerous transitions of leadership. x
  • 36
    South Asia into the 21st Century
    Today, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh make up 20 percent of the world's population, and the subcontinent is a rising global economic powerhouse. Professor Fisher concludes this course by recapping some of the major themes and looking at the condition of the region in the 21st century-and some of the developments on the horizon. x

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Your professor

Michael H. Fisher

About Your Professor

Michael H. Fisher, Ph.D.
Oberlin College
Dr. Michael H. Fisher is the Robert S. Danforth Professor of History at Oberlin College, where he offers a range of courses on the history of South Asia, the environmental history of the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan, Mahatma Gandhi, and early travel narratives about India. He earned his M.A. and his Ph.D. in History with a concentration on South Asia from the University of Chicago. He also holds a B.A. in English from...
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Reviews

A History of India is rated 3.8 out of 5 by 75.
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great course; dreadful professor. 5 for the course; 1 for the professor. Not enough visuals to make it worth buying the DVDs; stick to the audio only. The professor just walks back and forth to the two exact same spots so that you begin to memorize the pictures behind him, e.g. Nehru and others. Was preparing for a trip to India so I got the DVDs; later waited for a good price for the audio so I wouldn't have to be stuck sitting and looking at him. Am an ex teacher and professor myself, so I know what I'm talking about.
Date published: 2018-09-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Some work, but a lot of insight! I knew next to nothing about the history of India. Now I know a lot, and, more importantly, have an appreciation for why India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh do what they do on the world stage. This lecture series takes time and dedication. The professor drags us through a lot of literature and a lot of geopolitics. But it was worth the effort. This is an insightful series that, to me, is time well spent. By the way, I think it worked fine to listen to it entirely in audio.
Date published: 2018-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The title correctly indicates the course content I have just been to India for the first time. It is very interesting learning the history of such a fascinating country
Date published: 2018-07-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from I was disappointed. The speaker spoke in a lot of generalities. Unfortunately, he had a wooden, boring speaking style, which is very different from the other courses I have watched or listened to. I would recommend reading a good history book about India rather than purchasing this program. (This may the first negative review I have given of a Great Courses series, and I have about 180 of them.)
Date published: 2018-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A superb introduction to a very large topic I found these lectures so fascinating, I couldn't get through them fast enough! The history of India is a vast topic & the course serves as a superb introduction, beginning with the ancient era, gradually moving to modern times, briefly also covering Pakistan and Bangladesh. The professor is scholarly and serious in nature but I hardly think these characteristics should be held against him! Personally, I prefer my professors to be masters of their subjects (which Professor Fisher certainly is) instead of mere showmen. Indeed, other criticisms voiced so far also appear somewhat unfair. For example, no one disputes the importance of the Mahabharata, but an undue emphasis on this epic would have taken time away from important historical elements that are taught. I did find myself wanting to know more - the current geography and political landscape, natural history etc. But not everything can be covered in 36 lectures, so I look forward to more self-learning, this course serving as an excellent springboard!
Date published: 2018-05-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Detailed coverage of India, but a bit too long I enjoyed this course overall, as it provides deep coverage of the history of the vast Indian subcontinent (and now India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). It's a very interesting and important subject, both for students of history and in terms of world politics today. But I felt that the course dragged a bit, especially in the first 20 lectures, and would be better if it were 30 instead of 36 lectures. I found myself tuning out at some of the gory detail in the lectures about Indian mythology and folk tales (though I paid rapt attention in those lecture about Indian kingdoms, history and politics). The lecturer speaks very clearly and knows his material, but he's a bit soporific. He comes across as reading from a script, instead of delivering a lecture with passion. Still, I enjoyed it and found it valuable.
Date published: 2018-04-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Basics are there but presentation lacking This course covered all of the basics surrounding the history of the Indian subcontinent: the people, events, and major religions. It satisfied my objective going in of providing me with a better understanding of the history of this great land and people. It was a course long overdue by The Great Courses. And I am certainly glad it was produced. But it felt like it could have been so much more. A great history course meets the requirement of covering all of the facts, events and people that comprise the subject in question but it also includes good storytelling to keep you enthralled and engaged. That second part may cause hardcore historians to vehemently object but this is a Great Course and not your local college course or history book. The Great Courses has a great tradition of history courses that satisfy that second requirement quite well and makes an 18 hour course feel like 8. Unfortunately, this was not one of them. The professor's presentation style came up short in my estimation. Anytime I find myself zoning out too often in too many lectures, it's a good indication something is lacking. First the pluses: This course has some good historical narrative covering the history and culture of the Indian subcontinent (today India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) from the earliest societies (30,000 BC) to the 21st century. Areas of focus include: o The earliest inhabitants known as the Adivasis o The first urban society and perhaps the first in world history: the Indus Valley Civilization (Aprx. 3300 to 1300 BC) o The community of people known as the Vedas who formed the foundations of Hinduism o Sacred texts such as the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavad Gita o Origins of Jainism and Buddhism o The first major empire of India: the Mauryan Empire begun by Chandragupta (322 to 187 BC) o Islamic Sultan empires from the 600s to 1800s AD including the Delhi Sultan and the Mughal Empire o European colonization starting with the Portuguese in the late 1400s/early 1500s, the British building the largest empire India had ever seen in the 1700s and 1800s, and, to a lesser extent, the Dutch and France presence in the 1600s o The end of British rule and the birth of the nations of India and East & West Pakistan in 1947 (and its histories to 2016) o Pakistan splitting into the countries of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) and Pakistan (formerly West Pakistan) in 1971 (and its histories to 2016) An interesting topic for me was the interplay of Islam and Hinduism in India including: o The recurring theme of how the various Muslim Indian rulers in the 7th to 19th centuries interacted with Hindi leaders/subjects: some were tolerant of Hinduism and actually followed a lot of its practices while others were adversarial to it and instituted restrictive laws against it o How the Hindi and Muslim divide factored into the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent into different countries post colonization My favorite lectures were 6 (the epic Ramayana) and 22 (the origins of European colonization). That's when the professor captured and held my attention more than any other time. The Minuses: The Professor’s presentation style was not a big hit: his speaking style very often sounded like someone trying to whisper something which to me was just weird. I don’t recall him laughing and only once attempted anything resembling humor and it wasn’t exactly a hit (Indian officials offering a license to him for a vasectomy). A lot of times it sounded like he was just reciting something vs. teaching. Even the one positive I can think of has an eerie feeling to it: I don’t recall him using one filler word (“uhh” or “umm” or “you know”) in the entire course which is an amazing, almost inhuman achievement. In some twisted way (twisted on my behalf admittedly) it reinforces his non-personable/relatable approach. As stated earlier I had a hard time staying focused/interested while listening and found myself zoning off in many lectures. Maybe it was the lack of flair from the professor but these 36 lectures felt like 52. If you are interested in the history of the Indian subcontinent I would still recommend this course....or until The Great Courses puts out another one. But just don't expect it to change your life. And I can honestly say other courses by this great company have.
Date published: 2018-02-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So good to finally learn more about this ancient civilization and start to understand more about a country that is a major presence in the world today.
Date published: 2018-01-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good review of India culture Many lectures dealing with history of India and a bit light on current situation - economic, political, cultural. I've watched the last 4 lessons a few times and still am scratching my head on what is going on there. I travel to India frequently for business and this was a good course on ancient history.
Date published: 2017-12-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I learned a heck of a lot. It can, at times, seem tough to keep track of things, but I suppose that's inevitable when a course covers a lot of ground (the prehistoric geological formation of India through the present) but on the whole, it was an eye-opener. It's easy for people looking at India today to assume it's a "country" with a "history." Actually, this course showed how oversimplified that characterization would be. I already knew about the 1947 partition and the controversies of boundary delineation, but this course brought that awareness to a whole different and deeper level and about how it's so much more complicated than Hindus vs Muslims. I had never before quite understood how entrenched Islam is in that region, and hadn't realized some of the more famous dynasties were, in fact, Muslim, and even how the word Hindu actually encompasses a lot of variety. Most intriguing was what the course revealed about the whole idea of what a "country" is or isn't, an issue that rages on not just in India-Paistan-Bangladesh but many other parts of the world, especially in areas formerly part of theBritish empire. It's not the easiest course to digest, but it's well worth the effort.
Date published: 2017-12-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not Recommended I've purchased several dozen Great Courses over the years, but this was the one I most looked forward to. I've spent a lot of time in India, and love and respect that amazing ancient culture immensely. This lecturer, however, seems determined to consistently present India in the worst possible light. For example, the Mahabharata is one of the most engaging, thrilling and inspiring epic sagas ever told. You'd never know this if you take this course; the speaker doesn't introduce any of the amazing stories but spends the entire lecture attacking Hindu culture. This course was so disappointing I wound up returning it. I hope TGC commissions future courses on India that are fairer to this great, great civilization.
Date published: 2017-12-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well done! I llearned a lot from this course, but a lot of time was spent on religion.
Date published: 2017-11-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Dry, boring, un-interesting & the lecturer has a penchant for using words not in common usage or normally understood. Also his pronunciation of Indian names is highly affected and is not in common usage and that is from some highly educated Indian friends I have and have asked, also the quality has slipped - several freezes and skips.
Date published: 2017-11-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Nicely done Very good review, so far. I haven't finished yet. Unfortunately for me, I don't know much of this history, so it's all new, but I'm learning a lot.
Date published: 2017-11-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging and engrossing I bought this video after a trip to India and realizing I would be going back again and again. I am so glad to have this resource: it is informative, engaging, relevant to the average person and a total success. In addition, I love the company; they are always so consumer friendly and accommodating.
Date published: 2017-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting, I found the course to be very interesting; A history that I knew only slightly.
Date published: 2017-09-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I can see that Professor Michael Fisher has indepth knowledge of Indian History and he delivered it well within the time frame. I would like him to give more details in each lecture, expanding each one of them into 12 or more lectures or divide them in to separate courses like Ancient Indus Valley civilization, Dravidian history etc. It is very good and enjoyable, will recommend to anybody. Would like to see more pictures of places, ruins and monuments
Date published: 2017-09-20
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Most boring course I've purchased I was very disappointed in this course. The lecturer has a boring presenting style and spends entirely too much time on technical historical terms (i.e. "emetic") and on the wrongs done to minorities in the country. I love history, and it has been a chore to try to persevere through this course. I would recommend the topic, but not this lecturer.
Date published: 2017-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from From Pre-history to the Raj and Beyond My knowledge of India came mostly from a social studies unit in junior high, and from reading (and watching) British stories of the Raj. Professor Fisher exploded my narrow boundaries in a course that covers millennia of social, religious, and political developments in the huge South Asian sub-continent. I took the video version of the course, which is extremely useful with its maps, illustrations, and portraits of key individuals. Prof. Fisher’s style is a little on the choppy side, but his content is excellent and the course guidebook is thorough. I’m grateful that TGC is now supplying closed captioning, but a proofreader would be more than welcome in that department. This is a fine overview that will dispel many stereotypes and preconceived notions about India and its people. I would recommend taking this course before taking the course on the British Raj, which focuses on a narrower slice of Indian history.
Date published: 2017-06-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I haven't finished yet..but I have gotten through about a third of the classes. So far its really boring. I am now in my 50's and doing this for pleasure. I want the lectures to be interesting..and so far its really really boring. As well, there are very few slides and all I'm watching is the professor pacing back and forth.
Date published: 2017-05-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very informative Although I purchased it some time ago, I just got around to listening to it. I am about 1/2 way done. It is very informative and very interesting, but, especially in the early parts, somewhat repetitive. I suspect it was a regular course and the beginning of each lecture reviewed the past few.
Date published: 2017-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting! I really enjoyed listening to this in my car. It will certainly be one that I will listen to again.
Date published: 2017-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A History of India is a General overview of south Asia for India did not become a country until 1947. It covers the major events that shaped this area of the world. Some of the major topics are Vedic and Muslim Cultures, and European influence. The course covers spiritual beliefs with whole chapters devoted to Jainism, and Buddhism, with Hinduism and Islam covered over the whole of the course. There are chapters on Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavad Gita and the Caste system has it's own chapter. Lastly the leadership is covered through out the whole course, and the different influences this leadership had on the people of this area of the world. This course covers the modern countries of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, for these areas were part of one country before 1947. Note I have purchased the DVD version of this history course, and the visuals help with understanding of the topic. As a foundational history or if one travels to India this course is very good and the reason for the five stars. That being said some persons may have to do research on different topics of the course to gain a better understanding of the topic for South Asia has huge diversity, and can be confusing.
Date published: 2017-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A thorough history This is clearly a five star course. Prof. Fisher delivers a comprehensive, coherent history, well balanced between the ancient and contemporary with a good concise treatment of the Islamic period and the Mughals in between. I did Indian history as a graduate student and have read much since. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that Prof. Fisher's course is as informative and 'readable' as any general history of India I have read. Only quibble. In a couple of lectures there is a strange, rather gratuitous rant against the British which I found unbalanced and rather more aggressive than anything I used to hear from my many Indian friends, most of whom were actually born in colonial times.
Date published: 2017-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative I knew a little about the history of India but this expansive course really showed me the enormity of what I did not know. The lectures could be accused of being a little dry- but still very engaging and informative.
Date published: 2017-03-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from so far so good. one thing that I don't like, however about the new(ish) production is the bookending of theme music before and after each lecture. it's like the lecturer is effectively being shooed offstage when the time runs out. And some of this music is downright ridiculous!
Date published: 2017-03-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very informative course The depth of knowledge of the professor was very obvious. There was a lot of background material to be absorbed rather quickly, so some effort on the part of the listener was required.
Date published: 2017-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent, well structured course I took this course via CDs which worked well, although you either need to have a map with you or have an overall grasp of the geography of South Asia. The course is very well organized and well delivered. A big feature for me is that Professor Fisher does not confine himself to the written record, as do many teachers of history. Instead, he describes the geography of the region and its influence on the people. He also draws on the archaeological record and the oral histories of its inhabitants in order to explain the region’s origins and social and religious structures. Again, unlike traditional histories, Dr. Fisher mostly avoids telling the story through a forgettable succession of rulers but concentrates on broader influences, such as trade and religion. As a result of this “big picture” approach, I found the material easy to grasp and easy to retain. I was brought up in England and thought that I had a reasonable grasp of Indian history but this course has shown me that I did not. The only criticism that I have is that Sri Lanka is barely mentioned.
Date published: 2017-03-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Good Overview But Too Short Let me first say that in spite of the professor’s rapid fire presentation, there was a lot of good information presented. This one is probably best for someone, such as I, who had no real knowledge about India. I mistakenly, had a negative view of the caste system and its apparent design; which was apparently to describe skill levels – not sociological status. Yes, the system has been abused. The description of the topography was good, as well as the description of the three basic immigrant groups. I thought the treatment of the first group could have been handled better, both in the beginning, and during development of the country. Same comment concerning the handling of the Muslim influx! The course seemed decidedly Hindu oriented. Dr. Fisher then went on with a dizzying description of the various kingdoms, rulers, gods, and customs. The names and symbols, etc., were a bit overdone, sometimes just outright confusing. I was sorely tempted to give it up but hung in. It got more interesting and informative when it came to British colonization of India. The role of Gandhi could have been more detailed as well as the partitioning end game. All in the entire course is worthwhile, but would have been a much better 48 lecture course. I would recommend the DVD version, especially when on sale.
Date published: 2017-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Broad but Detailed Professor Fisher (as in all courses of this type) must be given kudos for the effort involved in assembling a history of India covering everything from the plate tectonics that formed the Indian subcontinent to today’s three countries. And not only for the effort, but for the finished product, mostly following events in an historical, time forward fashion, but occasionally skipping forward or going backwards to make points about particular subjects, such as Jainism or Buddhism that necessitate their own timelines. Dr. Fisher’s ability to bring order as he goes from the time the Indus valley was settled to today, while including and interweaving cultural and religious topics with individual persons and personalities, conquerors, leaders, writers, geography, languages, weather and climate is amazing. A difficult job well done. For me, there was a wealth of information of which I had been unaware, or did not really fully appreciate. For example I thought I understood the caste system. But Dr. Fisher has made me realize just how incomplete and inadequate my understating was, including the fact that the word “caste” is a misnomer going back to the Portuguese. Of particular interest for me was the ebb and flow of conquerors, migrations, differing religions and rulers holding sway over different and expanding and contracting territories over time, some of which are still to be resolved. Some other reviews have found Professor Fisher to be a bit stilted. I thought that his delivery was just fine, very precise and clear. I do agree with the criticism of the continually changing camera angles as he pivots and goes from one side of the room to the other, although I’m reasonably sure that is how he was directed by the course producer, as it seems to be the way a great many of the lectures are delivered in a number of courses. Even though some topics in this course are covered in more detail in other courses, there is enough covered in each topic to satisfy, except for those already expert or knowledgeable in a particular area, and taken as a whole, I’d be very surprised if there was not a lot that almost anyone would learn while listening to Dr. Fisher. I know I did.
Date published: 2017-03-03
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