Indian Historiography in the Pre-Independence Era



  1. Colonial Historiography
  2. Orientalist Historiography
  3. Nationalistic Historiography


Historiography in the Pre-Independence Era: 

1. Colonial Historiography:

  • The early scholars who studied and wrote Indian history were mainly British officers and Christian missionaries. 
  • Colonial historiography refers to historiography that originated in Colonial India in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Because it was written during the colonial period, the writings were heavily influenced by the ideologies of colonial rule.  
  • The five volumes of "Cambridge History of India", published during 1922-1937 C.E. are distinct examples of colonial historiography.

2. Orientalist Historiography:

  • Many European scholars felt curious about
    civilisations and countries of the East.

    Some of those scholars felt admiration

    and respect for them. These scholars

    were known as ‘Orientalists’.
  • The similarities between Sanskrit and several European languages were researched by orientalists.  
  • They placed more emphasis on Sanskrit literature and Vedic culture. As a result of their research, the theory that an ancient language might be the ancestor of all Indo-European languages was developed.  
  • Notable Orientalist scholars are Friedrich Max Muller and William Jones.

A] Sir William Jones : 

William Jones
  • In 1784, Sir William Jones founded the Asiatic Society in Kolkata.
  • It opened the doors for research in ancient Indian literature and history.   

B] Friedrich Max Muller:

Friedrich Max Muller

  • A special mention should go to Friedrich Max Muller among Orientalist academics.
  • He considered Sanskrit to be the oldest of the Indo-European languages. 
  • He had a strong passion for Sanskrit literature. He began by translating the Sanskrit book 'Hitopadesh' into German. 
  • The Sacred Books of the East were edited by him in 50 volumes. Additionally, he compiled the 'Rigveda,' which has been printed in six volumes. In German, he translated the Rigveda. 

3. Nationalistic Historiography:

  • The writings of Indian historians who were
    trained in the British educational system

    show an inclination to restore the pride

    in the ancient glory of India and the self-

    esteem of the Indian readers. Their

    writings are known as ‘Nationalistic

  • The Indian Historians through their writings made efforts to raise patriotic feelings among the Indians. They presented the glorious past of the country before the people. They put their achievement before the world that India was culturally as well as socially developed in ancient times.  
  • Historians like K.P. Jayaswal, Bankim Chandra Chatterji, Raj Narain Bose, and Chandra Nath Basu. Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda, and many others recalled the past glory of India. R.C. Dutta, Dr. Mookerjee, S.P. Sen – raised patriotic feelings among India. 

 A] Vishnushastri Chiplunkar 

Vishnushastri Chiplunkar

  • In Maharashtra, nationalist writings were inspired by Vishnushastri Chiplunkar.
  • He condemned the prejudiced history of ancient India by British historians.
  • The nationalist historians wrote about the golden period of Indian history. But they are blamed for not critically analyzing ancient Indian history.  

B] V. K. Rajwade: 

V. K. Rajwade

‘Human history is defined by Time and Space. Describing any event necessitates that the final portrayal should be spread on the complete canvass of the given time and place. Only if a balanced combination of the three factors, Time, Space, and Personalities is present, then only an event does qualify to be called so.’ - V. K. Rajwade

  • Rajwade is well recognized for his Marathi writings on a variety of topics, including linguistics, etymology, history, and grammar.  
  • He was determined that we need to create our own history. 
  • 22 volumes of 'Marathyanchya Itihasachi Sadhane' were collected and edited by him. The prefaces he wrote for each of the 22 books are quite academic. 
  • ‘History is the all-inclusive image of the past societies. It does not include only the stories of political images, conspiracies, and wars for seizing power.’ he said. 
  • It covers more than just tales of political intrigue, fights for dominance, and political images. He argued that only the original documentary source should be used to write history. 
  • Bharat Itihas Samshodhak Mandal was established on July 7th, 1910 in Pune by him to aid in historical study. 

C] Vinayak D. Savarkar 

Vinayak D. Savarkar

  • The nationalistic historiography awakened pride among the Indians and helped in triggering the national movement.
  • V. K. Savarkar wrote a book on the Indian revolt of 1857 entitled ‘The Indian War of Independence, 1857’.

D] Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade: 

Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade

  • In his book, 'The Rise of Maratha Power,' Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade provides a thorough explanation of the circumstances behind the rise of the Maratha empire.
  • He claimed that it wasn't like a forest fire that suddenly broke out because Maharashtra's social, cultural, and religious landscape had been preparing for it for a while. 

E) Govind Sakharam Sardesai: 

Govind Sakharam Sardesai

The publication of Govind Sakharam Sardesai's 'Marathi Riyasat' was a significant development in Indian historiography. People began referring to him as 'Riyasatkar' because of the fame his work had attracted. A number of volumes of Maratha's history were written by him.

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