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9 Indian Historical Nonfiction Books Worth Your Time

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Across millenniums, the shifting political and religious landscapes of the Indian subcontinent have birthed gigantic kingdoms and a motley of contradicting cultures. A closer look at history reflects how the nation today may not be far from what it has left behind. Rightly positioning the British Raj as the darkest chapter in recent history, scholars today affirm that we must closely inspect our past, not out of sheer curiosity, but owing to the urgency of the times.


Between 1000 - 1765 AD, Eaton connects India's culture with Persian influences from Eastern Afghanistan and Central Asia that ultimately coloured the politics, culture, warfare, and languages of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, and the many states that flourished under them.

512 pages, Hardcover. Published on September 17, 2019 by University of California Press.


In sixteen linked essays, Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen presents a compelling discourse on India's intellectual and political heritage. Sen makes a case that India's argumentative tradition is essential for preserving the secular and democratic values that hold the country together.

Paperback, 432 pages. Published on September 5th 2006 by Picador.


The cosmopolitan synergy of Kerala was torn to shreds in 1498 when Vasco da Gama set foot in the state, looking for spices and Christians. Replete with political intrigue, conspiracies, ceremonies, and splendour of the time, Pillai's debut is a careful study of the struggle for power and authority in the House of Travancore.

Paperback, 704 pages. Published on October 4th 2016 by Harpercollins.


In this unique crossover between history and anthropology, Malhotra revisits the events of the India-Pakistan partition of 1947 through objects that refugees carried across the borders - evocatively capturing the shared losses between the two nations - and offers an alternative account of our history.

Paperback, 400 pages. Published on August 10th 2017 by HarperCollins.

Michel Danino's THE LOST RIVER

Danino makes a compelling case for the existence of the once mysteriously ceased Saraswati river in the Indian subcontinent. Positioning his research on the climate and culture of the era while bringing the Indus Valley civilization into perspective, the book is a deep dive into exploring the river's origins and course using modern technology.

Paperback, 368 pages. Published in 2010 by Penguin Books India


Mukhoty points her floodlights at the influential, enigmatic, and forgotten women of the Mughal Empire. While a deep research supports Muckoty's perspective, the discourse follows the sisters, daughters, wives, and milk-mothers of the kingdom who actively engaged in diplomacy, arts, and unchecked opulence of then Hindustan.

Hardcover, 276 pages. Published on May 20th 2018 by Aleph Book Company.

William Dalrymple's THE LAST MUGHAL

With the Indian revolution of 1857 - touted as one of the bloodiest uprisings in recent history - at its core, The Last Mughal is a powerful retelling of the fateful events that led to the fall of Delhi and the decisive role that Bahar Shah Zafar and his allies played in paving the road for the Indian Freedom Revolution.

Hardcover, 534 pages. Published on March 27th 2007 by Alfred A. Knopf.

William Dalrymple's THE ANARCHY

Dalrymple splits open the chain of events that led to the East India Company taking over most of Asia and India. It is a penetrating look into how the EIC evolved from a traditional company to a brutal colonial force, setting up a government run by English traders and a private army.

Hardcover, 544 pages. Published on September 10th 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing.

Shashi Tharoor's AN ERA OF DARKNESS

The East India Company, backed by the British throne, exploited India to the stages of irredeemable ruination. Tharoor impressively uses his research to shine a light on the British ruling class's violent, discriminatory, and inhumane machinations while exploring India's successful struggle for freedom.

Hardcover, 360 pages. Published on November 15th 2016 by Aleph Book Company.

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