Whether you are looking for a comprehensive history of modern India or of the many rich and complex civilizations that flourished in the Indian subcontinent in bygone eras, you’ll find yourself with an abundance of good books to read on the topic. We’ve rounded up a list of the seven most thorough and captivating books to best understand Indian history.
India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha
Guha’s India After Gandhi is the go-to book on the journey of modern India, post-independence from the British in 1947 up until the 1990s. Thoroughly covering India’s political history over the latter half of the 20th century, the book is also a good primer for understanding India’s current economic and social realities.
The Discovery of India was penned by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, from 1942–1946 while he was imprisoned by the British. A strong tribute to India’s rich history and cultural legacy, the book traces major developments in the subcontinent right from the ancient Indus Valley Civilization to the last years of British rule in India.
The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen
This collection of essays on Indian history by Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen is an essential read for anyone seeking to understand the foundations of Indian polity. Focusing on the traditions of public debate or argumentation and intellectual diversity in Indian civilizations of the past, Sen puts forth his views on what will determine the success of democracy in India.
The Great Partition by Yasmin Khan
A thorough account of the partition of British India into modern India and Pakistan, The Great Partition is an essential read for anyone seeking to understand contemporary South Asia. The book looks at both the execution and aftermath of the partition, along with giving readers a good understanding of its historical and political context.
The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple
A comprehensive account of the years marked by the decline of the Mughal Empire in India, and the emergence of the British Raj, The Last Mughal is a treat for history lovers. Through the story of the last Mughal to rule the country, Bahadur Shah Zafar II, Dalrymple offers a rich understanding of 19th-century India.
An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India by Shashi Tharoor
An Era of Darkness is a thorough exploration of the economic, cultural, social and political damage caused to the Indian subcontinent by British colonial rule. A rich, gripping read by one of India’s most globally renowned contemporary writers, this book is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand what India was like under the British.
India: A History by John Keay
Masterfully tracing over 5,000 years of civilization on the Indian subcontinent, India: A History is a perfect read for anyone looking for a crash course on Indian history. Keay’s book starts with the Harappan civilization and covers all major developments in South Asia until the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.