How, When and Where (Class 8 History Chapter 1 Notes)

British India or Hindostan Map By JH Colon 1855
Hindostan/British India Map by JH Colton (1855)
It is tought that history is synonymous with dates, but in reality, history is synonymous with change that occur over time. It is about how things were and how things changed and how we can learn from that. It is also wrong to put a date on a particular event. Certain events happen over a period of time. However, dates are important for reason

  1. The year a king or queen was crowned.
  2. The year he or she was married and had a child.
  3. The year he or she fought a particular war.
  4. The year he or she died.
  5. The year the next ruler succeeded to the throne.

Nowadays, historians talk about how people earned their livelihood, what they produced and ate, how new cities, towns and kingdoms emerged, and how new ideas spread around the world.

Which dates?
Choosing a correct set of dates to represent history depend upon importance of events. These dates can darastically change if we look events from different persepective.

How do we periodise?
  1. One divides history into different periods in order to capture the characterstics of a particular time, its central features, and understand the change.
  2. The British divided Indian history in three period on the basis of religion of their ruler. The three periods are Hindu, Muslim and British. This classification was proposed by James Mill in his book "A History of British India."
  3. Indian historian divided Indian history into Ancient, Medieval and Modern periods. This division based on the western idea in which the modern period was associated with the growth of science, reason, democracy, liberty and equality and medieval was associated with the age where no such characterstic was observable.
  4. Many historians refers to the British rule as colonial rule as people did not have the said equality, freedom or liberty and there was no economic growth observed.

What is colonial?
  1. British gradually established their rule by subjugating local nawabs and rajas.
  2. British not brought change in economic outlook of the subcontinent but also brought change in social customs and values.
  3. However, their policies did not benefited the locals, but their rulers who were living comfortably miles apart from the subcontinent. This is why this period is known as colonial period.

How do We Know?
Historians used various sources to write about history of past 250 years. Some of these sources are:

Official documents
Administrative records
The official documents of the British administration work as an important source of information. Every act such as instruction, plan, policy decision, agreement, investigation was document which British deemed as important. They also set up record rooms attached to all administrative institutions be preserve these documents.

Surveys
Surveying became common under the colonial administration. British carried out detailed surveys to map out entire country. Besides economics suveys, they did topography, the soil quality, the flora, the fauna, the local histories, and the cropping pattern survey to better under their territories.

Limitation of official documents
Official documents do not shed any light on the individual and social life, and how British policies were affecting them.

Unofficial documents
Unofficial documents make up what official documents lack. However, they are difficult to get. Some of the unofficial documents are:
  1. Diaries
  2. Accounts of pilgrims and travellers
  3. Autobiographies
  4. Popular booklets in the local bazaars
  5. Newspapers
  6. Written ideas/pamphlets of leaders and reformers
  7. Written records of poets and novelists.

Limitation of Unofficial documents
These documents/records can only produced by literate individuals. These documents do not shed any light on villagers, tribals and peasants.