As India powers its way up the world GDP rankings, a case is being made for recasting its national history as ‘world history’. By looking beyond India’s boundaries and focusing on the global context of its power struggles, this American-led approach promises to reveal unexpected commonalities and find space for groups previously marginalised on grounds of gender, race or caste. Richard Eaton’s India in the Persianate Age is a fine example of this method. Ambitious enough to make sense of the often bloody and mostly unfashionable ‘middle period’ of South Asian history, it is also inclusive enough to acknowledge the contribution of, for instance, African mercenaries to the rise of the Deccan sultanates and authoritative enough to ruffle the feathers of today’s Hindu nationalists.
Eaton has form in the last of these. Not long ago he was pilloried as a ‘negationist’ (the Indian equivalent of a ‘denier’) for suggesting that, instead of ‘tens of thousands’, fewer than a hundred Hindu temples