The best books on the history of modern India

Dinesh C. Sharma Author Of The Outsourcer: The Story of India's IT Revolution
By Dinesh C. Sharma

The Books I Picked & Why

India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy

By Ramachandra Guha

India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy

Why this book?

India is an enigma to many people – a developing country beset with a number of problems yet a resounding democracy; a nuclear and space power yet grappling with poverty, malnutrition, and illiteracy; a source of great talent for global corporations and a nation of innovators yet experiencing violence and acrimony based on caste and religion. India After Gandhi is a comprehensive guide to understand these apparent contradictions and make sense of modern India. It is history told in an accessible, evidence-based fashion, and free from biases.


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Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation

By Nandan Nilekani

Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation

Why this book?

It is a book on the history of modern India but told from the perspective of an entrepreneur and a business leader – and one of the architects of the IT revolution. It tells the story of ideas that dotted India’s transition from the era of socialism to that of liberalization and globalization, while highlighting successes and failures. It projects new ideas – technological as well as creative policy options - for meeting some of the pressing challenges of poverty, health, education, and economic growth. 


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The Technological Indian

By Ross Bassett

The Technological Indian

Why this book?

Indian engineers and technologists are among the most sought-after globally, particularly from the elite Indian Institutes of Technology that were originally modeled after MIT. The book traces India’s engagement with MIT from the 1880s to 2000 through the story of Indians who went to MIT to study and their contributions to engineering and industry back in India. It is a fascinating account of a few elite engineers but woven into it is a social, political, economic, and cultural history of modern India. 


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Grassroots Innovation: Minds On The Margin Are Not Marginal Minds

By Anil K. Gupta

Grassroots Innovation: Minds On The Margin Are Not Marginal Minds

Why this book?

The discourse on modern India is often about achievements in science and technology, R&D in national laboratories, and industry. However, in a country of one billion plus people, innovation is happening not just in formal sectors. Ordinary people – farmers, teachers, students, artisans, school dropouts, homemakers – are constantly innovating to solve everyday problems using frugal means. The book is an account of spotting grassroots innovations, nurturing them, and building networks with formal systems and markets. It is critical to understand this process for a deeper appreciation of contemporary India. 


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The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable

By Amitav Ghosh

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable

Why this book?

Tropical cyclones, floods, droughts, heatwaves, rising sea levels have become too frequent and intense in India. They all affect the poor the most. Changing weather patterns are impacting food production. Rising sea levels are altering coastlines, flooding fertile lands, gorging up villages, and making people refugees in their own lands. Yet the climate change debate is caught in scientific jargon, diplomatic talks, and arcane government plans. Through powerful prose and imagery, the book focuses on climate change as a phenomenon that is directly hitting the people and their livelihoods.    


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