Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | English Non-fiction
History Men is the story of the intersecting lives of three deeply committed historians: Sir Jadunath Sarkar (1870-1958), who was an expert on the Mughal period; G.S. Sardesai (1865-1959), whose works were on the Marathas; and Raghubir Sinh (1908-1991), who studied the Rajputs. How the three became close friends and joint workers; how they wrote about the great confrontations between the Mughals, Rajputs and Marathas; how their long association exposed continuing conflicts of interpretation and explanation; and how, together, they illuminated a historical moment make for a story worth telling. A narrative built from original research based on the correspondence and the published and unpublished writings of the three scholars, this is also a portrait of rich friendships, of the minutiae of the lives of these historians, and their fierce commitment to historical research as they addressed the significant questions of the age they lived in. Anyone who is interested in the making of historical narratives will find History Men a compelling read.
T.C.A. Raghavan has a PhD in history from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has been High Commissioner of India to Singapore and to Pakistan. He retired from the Indian Foreign Service in 2015. His first book, Attendant Lords: Bairam Khan and Abdur Rahim, Courtiers and Poets in Mughal India, was awarded the Mohammad Habib Memorial Prize for the best book on medieval Indian history by the Indian History Congress in 2017. He is also the author of The People Next Door: The Curious History of India's Relations with Pakistan (2017). He is currently Director-General of the Indian Council of World Affairs in New Delhi.
By sharing an extraordinary fellowship, Jadunath Sarkar, G.S. Sardesai and Raghubir Sinh created a benchmark for scholarship in writing about the Mughals, Marathas and the Rajputs.
– The Hindu
The joy of following Raghavan’s account is not to assess the merits or demerits of Sarkar’s monumental work. Rather, it is the unfolding of his life, and its entanglement with that of his two acolytes whom he drilled into measuring up to his stern historic practice, that is the core of History Men.
– The Wire
What bound three of India’s eminent medievalists together? Friendship and a respect for scholarship and diversity, says TCA Raghavan.
– The Indian Express
What shines ultimately in the book—and this is Raghavan’s underlying focus—is the sheer love for history that united all three men. They worked in a time of slow communications, when India was still forming itself into a single, modern whole. Their work involved plodding through fields, hunting for forgotten monuments, persuading hesitant families to publish their records, fighting court cases and legal threats, not to speak of negotiating a bureaucracy that had its own interests in manufacturing obstacles. Their work was criticized then, and their methods are in many ways outdated now, but these “history men” made phenomenal contributions and authored works of striking quality. And while students of history will entirely relate to Sarkar’s use of the term “mouth-watering” in the context of finding new records, Raghavan’s tribute to the man and his peers is equally delightful, revealing also to the lay reader what investigating the past entails, and the dynamics that shape any mission to understand India’s history—a story not just of chronicles but also of the chroniclers.