Jawaharlal Nehru, the historian who wrote about the past for the love of his daughter’s future

By | November 14, 2017


Written by Adrija Roychowdhury
| New Delhi |
Revealed:November 14, 2017 11:39 am


Nehru, childrens day, jawaharlal nehru, jawaharlal nehru birthday, 14th november, november 14, Nehru birth anniversary, jawaharlal nehru history, India news, Indian Express Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru with Indira Gandhi on the Pink Sq. in Moscow. (AP/PTI photograph)

It was the early 1930s and Jawaharlal Nehru was incarcerated for his involvement within the civil disobedience motion. Sitting within the confines of Naini jail, he learn and mirrored upon a considerable amount of literature, and within the course of began writing what would finally grow to be a voluminous account of world historical past ranging from 6000 BC to the time at which he was writing. However Nehru’s writing was not for a pupil of historical past, nor was it matter common in a method to satiate the urge for food of a historical past fanatic. The gathering of 196 segments of world historical past that Nehru put collectively, have been in reality letters doting father wrote to his daughter who had simply stepped into her years of adolescence.

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The sequence of letters that went on to be revealed as ‘Glimpses of world historical past’, was Nehru’s first try as a historian. He was conscious of the truth that historical past to him was not a tutorial enterprise. It was extra of a quest, a discovery of the unknown previous, to disclose the truths about who we’re and why we’re the best way we’re, within the current.

In Nehru’s phrases, “The roots of the current day lay previously and so I made voyages of discovery into the previous ever looking for a clue in it, if any such existed, to the understanding of the current.”

However the “Glimpses of world historical past” was greater than only a voyage to find the previous. It was additionally an effort by a father to move on knowledge to his teenage daughter. As he begins his letters to Indira Gandhi, he writes, “you already know sweetheart, how I dislike sermonizing and doling out good recommendation.” He goes on to jot down that as an alternative of passing on knowledge within the type of sermons, he would quite narrate to her the historical past of world civilisations. Within the course of, Nehru was guiding his younger daughter in direction of a path of enlightenment and rationality. Understandably, his model of writing historical past has a simplicity hooked up to it. It’s extra like an extended storytelling session that an elder individual has chalked out for the kid he cares most about. Nehru as a historian was at one stage the curious thinker attempting to hunt solutions of the human current and future, and at one other stage, he was additionally the loving father who wished to current his daughter extra than simply good needs on her thirteenth birthday.

In later years although, historians have usually been crucial of Nehru’s try at writing historical past. Historian David Kopf writes that “Nehru’s simplicity of favor and his apparent preoccupation with latest occasions have created the impression in many who the ebook is to not be taken as a severe work of historical past.” Analysing Nehru’s different reputed ebook on historical past, “Discovery of India,” his biographer, S.Gopal writes that “it’s a nice jumble of a ebook, which bears the marks of haste and pressure.” A more in-depth evaluation of his works although would present that each the ‘Glimpses of world historical past’ and ‘The invention of India’, alongside together with his autobiography, have made essential contributions to historical past writing. Additionally they present essential insights into the best way the self-discipline of historical past affected Nehru into turning into the astute statesman he went on to be.

Nehru and world historical past

Within the 196 letters Nehru wrote to Indira between 1930 to 1933, he produced a sweeping account of world historical past. Nevertheless, what’s attribute of his narration of world historical past is that for Nehru no a part of the world might be understood in isolation from all others. The right scope of historical past, in his thoughts, might by no means be native and even nationwide. “It’s fairly inconceivable to have a separate historical past of countries. We’ve outgrown that stage, and solely a single world historical past, connecting the completely different threads from all nations, and looking for to search out the true forces that transfer them, can now be written with any helpful goal,” he wrote.

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Thus, as an example when he wrote in regards to the nice reformers of the primary millennium, as an alternative of specializing in the separate cultures that gave beginning to Confucius in China, Buddha in India and Zoroaster in Iran, he spoke in particulars of the frequent situations that existed all throughout the globe at that cut-off date, resulting in the rise of the nice reformers.

Although Nehru devoted a big a part of his time as a historian, reflecting over Europe and her relationship with feudalism, capitalism, and imperialism, his actual fascination lay firmly rooted in Russia. “The yr you have been born in – 1917- was one of many memorable years of historical past when an amazing chief, with a coronary heart full of affection and sympathy for the poor and struggling, made his individuals write a noble and never-to-be-forgotten chapter of historical past. Within the very month through which you have been born, Lenin began the nice Revolution, which has modified the face of Russia and Siberia,” Nehru wrote to Indira as he went on describe to her how India is on the brink of comparable occasions at the moment as those who had modified Russia. To Nehru, the Soviet Union was the final word epitome of hope.

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The opposite main achievement in Nehru’s historical past writing is the trouble to constantly draw connections between Asia and the world. Whereas talking in regards to the interval succeeding the commercial revolution, Nehru believed that there was a sure passivity in Asian historical past which was in direct distinction to the dynamic nature of European historical past. As per him, it was the dynamism of the West that assured it a dominant standing within the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Nevertheless, he does go on to state that after the dynamism of the West allowed it to manage wealth and energy, they misplaced management over their greed and went on to create struggle and exploitation of the varieties that destroyed the spirit of the remainder of the world. Regardless of its failures although, Nehru opined that the West was nonetheless to be thanked for the contributions to literature, artwork, and language it delivered to the East.

Nehru and Indian historical past

Relating to coping with the Indian previous, Nehru is commonly in contrast and contrasted with Mahatma Gandhi. Within the phrases of Balkrishna Govind Gokhale, “the place Gandhi was completely immersed in India, Nehru, due to his early fascination for Marxism and socialism, usually tried to view the Indian previous throughout the context of the world at massive.” Nehru himself agreed that he was a “queer combination of the East and West, misplaced in all places, at residence nowhere.”

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When it got here to Indian historical past, Nehru was a rationalist and was conscious of the nation’s achievements and shortcomings. He spoke about her epochs of glory and the moments when she fell to decay. However on the identical time, Nehru was additionally emotional in regards to the Indian previous and spoke passionately in regards to the ‘soul’ and ‘future’ of India. “The awakening of India was two-fold: she seemed to the West, and on the identical time she checked out herself and her previous,” wrote Nehru in his ‘The invention of India,’ remarking on the truth that Indian nationalism was a results of each a revolution towards the British and that towards her personal previous.

Nehru’s ardour for India is most pronounced in his ‘The invention of India,’ which he wrote 12 years after he completed ‘Glimpses of world historical past.’ Historian David Kopf calls ‘The invention of India,’ to be a present of Nehru to the Indian renaissance motion. “The ebook turned a renaissance basic through which was reconstructed greater than 5 thousand years of Indian cultural historical past with a pleasure, ardour, and meticulous devotion that its creator, a famed anti-traditional futurist, couldn’t conceal,” writes Kopf.

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Nehru’s leap into the Indian previous in his ‘The invention of India,’ nevertheless, was pronounced by the truth that in his try to find India, he as soon as once more wrote the historical past of the world. His ebook was a superb try at a comparative historical past of India and the world. Thus, whereas on one hand, he took pleasure within the historical Indian achievements of medication, science, and humanities, he did so within the context of how India trusted Greek, Iranian, European and Islamic civilisations for these achievements. As Kopf states, Nehru’s writing of Indian historical past was completed in a manner “to preclude even the slightest nationalist bigotry and distortion.” For Nehru due to this fact, the Indian previous was not only a matter of pleasure for her residents, but in addition one thing that the world might gloat over.

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