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Mountbatten’s Report on the last viceroyalty: 22 March-15 august 1947 Edited by Lionel Carter, Manohar, Rs 850

Mountbatten was always full of himself. Reflecting on his viceroyalty, he told an interviewer in 1970 that he was ruling by force of personality. When he returned to Britain after his stint in India, he wrote a report on his own tenure and circulated it to the people he thought were powerful. Attlee pulled him up and pointed out that the report contained much that was confidential and could not thus be circulated according to Mountbatten’s wishes. The circulation was stopped and the report was archived. Lionel Carter, former librarian of the Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, has now presented it for public consumption. The report is based on the weekly reports that Mountbatten sent to London from India. These reports have already been published in the Transfer of Power volumes. Historians who are familiar with those volumes will find nothing new here. But for those who are unwilling to plough through those tomes, this is a handy source for the endgame of an empire. Carter tries valiantly to remain neutral to the Mountbatten myth but doesn’t altogether succeed.

LIFE AFTER MARX

The Empire of capital By Ellen Meiksins Wood, LeftWord, Rs 275

Communism is dead but Marxism is alive. So many would like to believe since Marx left behind a method of understanding history and society. The issue addressed in this little book is the idea of new imperialism, the new buzzword for those opposed to globalization. Needless to say, the new imperialism is spearheaded by the United States of America. Wood contrasts this new imperialism with the earlier forms of imperialism especially capitalist imperialism led by Britain, the pioneer of the industrial revolution. According to Wood, in the new empire the global hegemony is not matched by the political reach of the imperial power. The thesis might call for a revolution after the Afghan and the Iraq war. The problem with much of Marxist analysis of the contemporary world is the refusal to accept that the nature of capitalism has undergone a radical transformation from the time Karl Marx made his incisive analysis of the capitalist system in the second half of the 19th century. That analysis can offer insights but cannot substitute for a fuller analysis. Those familiar with Marx’s intellectual quest will have no doubts about what Marx would do to understand today’s capitalism.

ROOM FOR CLARITY

Hinduism And its Sense of History By Arvind Sharma, Oxford, Rs 345

This is a simple book on a profound subject. The author first poses the question that Hinduism has no sense of history and the way this assumption has permeated the writings of most writers on ancient India, especially Western ones. He then demonstrates that this view has influenced the analysis of all aspects of Indological studies. The next chapter sets out how Hindus have sought to counter this assumption. In the final chapter, the writer re-examines the original assumption and negates it by setting it against an entire corpus of evidence. The resolution is predictable. But what is a trifle bizarre is the mode of exposition. The text consists of a jumble of quotations from different writers. There is very little analysis, gobbets are made to stand in the place of detailed textual analysis. The conclusion is worthwhile but one is left wondering if this is a valid way of writing history or historiography.

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