Not much in the way of new evidence on early Indian society has emerged during the last decade requiring a drastic review of our general understanding of the subject. But fresh interpretation of known fact, in the light of additional evidence, can lead to a better understanding of what is known and may open up new areas of enquiry and speculation. It is with this purpose that author has put together in this book some of the papers written by her over the last ten years and published in various scholarly journals.
The papers collected here relate to the early period of Indian history to the end of the first millennium A.D. They are concerned with certain sub-themes such as society and religion, social classification and mobility, archaeological data in the study of social history, historiographical concepts of the early period and the study of regional history.
The significance of these papers is basically in terms of the interpretation suggested. These are in some cases derived from fresh evidence which is primarily archaeological and an attempt is made to integrate archaeological data with literary sources for some aspects of the social history of ancient India. Other papers emphasise methodological approaches to the interpretation of existing evidence, using where necessary, reference to those other disciplines which have a bearing on history and historical data of the early period. The papers on historiography reflect a relatively recent perspective in the enquiries of historians of early India.
Romila Thapar took her first degree from the Punjab University and her doctorate from London University in 1958. she was a lecturer in the Ancient History of South Asia at the University of London and a Reader in Ancient Indian History at the University of Delhi, before her present assignment as Professor of Ancient Indian History in the Centre for Historical Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Among her more important publications are Ashoka and the Decline of the Mauryas (1961), the first volume of A History of India (Pelican Series, 1966) and The Past and Prejudice (the Sardar Patel Memorial Lectures for 1972). She was awarded a Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship during 1976-77, and worked on 'The Itihasa-purana Tradition in Early India'.
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