Tamil Nadu History Book

Chapter-2 Major Approaches to the History of Modern India (Short notes – Prelims perspective)



Major Approaches to the History of Modern India

Short notes (prelims perspective)



  1. Colonial approach-


  • I-The history of the colonial countries
  • II-Works which were influenced by the colonial ideology of domination
  • Certain characteristics common to most of the works of these historians are the following:

 (i) ‘Orientalist’ representation of India;

(ii) The opinion that the British brought unity to India;

(iii) The notions of Social Darwinism—the English considered themselves   superior to the ‘natives’ and the fittest to rule;

(iv) India viewed as a stagnant society which required guidance from the British (White Man’s burden); and

(v) Establishing Pax Britannica to bring law and order and peace to a bickering society.

 2-Nationalist approach

  • Economists-Dada bhai Naroji, MG Ranade, GV Joshi, RC Dutta.
  • Nationalists-Jawaharlal Nehru, GK Gokhale, RC Majumdar, AC mazumdar,Pattabi Sittaramayya

 3-Marxist approach

  • Contradiction between interests of colonial masters and subject people and also internal contradiction between the subject people
  • Rajni Palme Dutta’s –India Today ( first published in 1940 in England, was later published in India in 1947)
  • R. Desai’s –Social Background of Indian Nationalism.( was first published in 1948)
  • P. Dutt’s-paradigm

Criticism to R.P. Dutta -Sumit Sarkar- considers Dutta’s paradigm as a “simplistic version of the Marxian class approach”. He looks at the nationalist leaders in the light of intelligentsia which acts as a “kind of proxy for as yet passive social forces with which it had little organic connection”.

4-Subaltern approach-

  • Contradiction between interests of elites and subaltern from 1980s.
  • Criticizing INC and Nationalist elite leaders
  • School of thought began- Ranjit guha

5- Communalist approach-

  • Interests were mutually different and antagonistic to each other of permanent hostile groups e.g- Hindus and Muslims

6- Cambridge school-

  • Fundamental contradiction under colonial rule was among the Indians themselves.
  • It takes the mind or ideals out of human behaviour and reduces nationalism to ‘animal politics’

7- Liberal and neo-liberal interpretations-

  • Economic exploitation of the colonies was not beneficial to the British people as a whole.
  • India was seen as a source of raw materials and markets so lot of investments in India was done and not in Britain.
  • Hence delayed development of new small industries in Britain.

8- Feminists approach-

  • Womens role in independence movements. Social atrocities, deniel of ownership
  • The High Caste Hindu Woman (1887) by Pandita Ramabai,
  • Mother India (1927) by Katherine Mayo