June 21, 2005

Resource on Facts No.1

The link www.theodora.com/wfb is a good resource on information on the countries of the world.

It claims to gather information from
USA CIA world Factbooks. I have used this resource to confirm many answers on General Studies paper.

The second source which it claims as its source of information is United Nations Statistical Office which is again a dependable source.

The third source is Library of Congress country studies. Well some may have objections to the contents of the source but the essays are very concise and gripping. They are near to fact and can be made as the starting point of the quest to learn more.

(General-for consideration)

June 13, 2005

Who Desired It? Atleast, They DID NOT!!!

The story of birth of America starts with the discovery of America by Columbus.

It is difficult to sermonize that Columbus ever knew that what actually he was doing. The discovery of American continent, the coming of Columbus to the American continent were all the result of some other forces, thoughts and game plans. In that game plan, no where it was imagined that a country by the name of America was to be built. The game plans were different. It was the desire to find a route to the East India. The need and force were the desire to acquire the products of East which were needed by Europe. Some other forces impeded the route, the traditional route. The European world had fought those forces in the name of religion. But the motivation factor behind the urge to find the route was economical. It was the urge of the people to earn profit and fulfill the mundane needs which was prompting them to find the route to East. It is difficult to discern anywhere that even Columbus had such a plan as establishing habitable areas on the way. His plan was only to find the route to the east so that he might become useful in getting the importance because he knew the route. He was trying for this even before Vasco could have set off to find the route to India by encircling Africa.

I believe that even Columbus was not a serious player. He was a mariner. His job was to sail the ships. He was without a job. He was seeking a job and he was telling people that there could be a route by moving towards west. He was seeking opportunity. It was while exploiting that opportunity that he found the American continents. What Spain was getting out of it? It was just a matter of chance that they came across some civilizations on the continent which could be overpowered and it was the greed of the European world which was satisfied there. Where was the need to find colonies on American continents? If there was no need to find the colonies in America, then the very creation of the world of America seems to be the result as a byproduct of the meaningless human endeavours which had brought fruits.

Now let us take up some concepts and facts which came up before habitation on American land was founded. Nowhere, the idea of America was there.

Concept of North West Passage:
North West Passage is sea route which joins Pacific Ocean with Atlantic Ocean passing through north of Alaska. This route was first tried by John Cabot in 1490s sea expedition while making efforts to find route to China and India. It was John Franklin who was able to trace the route to some distance between 1845 and 1854 but disappeared before reaching China. It was Roald Amunsden, Norwegian who joined a Belgian expedition, who traversed the real North West passage in 1903-1906. Finally in 1969, US Oil Tanker, Manhattan successfully used this passage. The main problem of using this passage is the ice boulders and failure of the compass to work being on the pole.

River Hudson is named after the English navigator Henry Hudson (1565-1611). It was Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian sailor and pirate from a place near Florence, who was the first European to enter New York Bay. He was employed by Francis I of France of Valois dynasty to find a route to China and claim new lands for France. However the river was first explored by Henry Hudson in 1607 after whom this river the Bay were named. He explored it for English Muscovy Company on the ship of the company named Hopewell. The target of this exploration was to find North East Passage through Arctic Ocean to Far East. When after two attempts, Hudson failed to discover the route to Far East, the English Muscovy Company withdrew its support to Hudson’s expeditions. On that, Hudson turned to Dutch East India Company which provided him the required finance. It was his third voyage in 1609 which was carried on the Ship Half Moon employed under the Dutch East India Company. On this basis of his exploration, the Dutch were able to colonies the Hudson Valley in seventeenth century.

In 1613 Adriaen Block came to the river for the Dutch company and camped at the present place of Manhattan city of New York. In 1624, The Dutch West India Company established the Colony of New Netherlands. New Amsterdam was established by the Dutch people as a trading port on the south end of Manhattan in 1625. In 1664, this colony was surrendered to English but soon regained. Finally, by the treaty of Westminster, the Dutch ceded this colony to the English.

It was Henry Hudson who had explored the Delaware River in 1609. In 1610 Samuel Argall entered the Delaware Bay and named the area after the governor of Virginia Lord De La Warr. In 1638, a group of Swedes established the first settlement called Fort Christina. Now the city of Wilmington stands there. This settlement was a joint venture of Dutch and Swedish people. It was promoted by King of Sweden Gustav II Adolph, when he had become interested in colonization. The Dutch people who had joined the venture, were the members of a defunct Dutch West India Company. The settlement was called New Sweden. As it fell near to New Netherlands which was the settlement of Dutch people on present day Manhattan, the governor Peter Stuyvesant occupied New Sweden in 1655. In 1664, England brought it under its control and kept it under New York. This area was settlement of Native Americans who called themselves as Leni-Lenape. The literal meaning of Leni-:Lenape is Original People. They belonged to Algonquian linguistic group. They were highly respected by the associated Native Americans of the surrounding areas and called them grandfather.

June 11, 2005

Writing an answer for History Subject

In order to give a specific answer to a question that how a good answer can be written in a subject of history Indian Universities, I would prefer following order of the lay out of the answer.

The first Paragraph of the Answer

The first paragraph of any answer should refer to the sources of writing history for the period about which the question is asked.

The Contents of an Answer

It is generalized that in history the questions are basically about who, where, when and how. The issue of ‘why’ is also there but its is always among academicians and scholars that ‘why’ is emphasized.

Secondly ‘why’ aspect takes you to the sphere of ‘Philosophy of History’ which claims a different type of intellectual sphere.

In the field of history courses as taught at university level or in competition examination, the stress is always on who, where, when and how.

The ‘where’ and ‘when’ aspect are the vital cores of history discipline. In pure history terminology, it refers to ‘space’ and ‘time’. The ‘space’ and ‘time’ are two important functions in historic pursuit. The space refers to place, geographical area and the milieu. The ‘time’ refers to chronology. Hence, in simpler terms, it is time in past and the place which are the subject matter of history.

The other aspects of history are ‘who’ and ‘how’. The question ‘who’ may refer to a person or a group of persons after you have defined the time period and place at which those person or a person had lived.

The ‘how’ factor is a very wider term in history and also belongs to philosophy of history. You may find there is no fixed and well defined definition of history. It is not because history fails to get defined. The confusion is all about the methodology and conceptual framework that are adopted by different scholars who while studying their sources, time period and place prefer to adopt. No doubt, it is cause of bias in history interpretation also but it again may take us to different discussion of methodology and issue subjectivity and objectivity in history. It is also about ‘causation’ and ‘effect’. On the whole, this is an aspect which is again meant only for expert historians. For a general pursuer of the subject, he has to depend upon the findings of expert historians in order to explain ‘how’. This aspect also explain the need of giving quotations of the authorities in order to present a version of a period and place. It is also while playing on this aspect, that sometime students say that you can afford to say or write bluff also. But it is not all that easy.

It is the same aspect which sometimes prompt students to say that you have to write long answers in history. It is also not true. The answers become long when some topic brings out counter perception because of the working of ‘inductive’ and deductive logic’ which is carried out simultaneously while undertaking the process of interpretation in history. The best examples are two questions which an historian can ask about the cause of world war second. The historian would try to analyze by asking that the world war would have never happened had there been no Hitler. Before deducing, he would also ask that could the world war take place, had there been no Hitler. Hence, this conflict between varied version brings out the significance and influence of one historic event or fact on your present life. No doubt, that on the completion of sixty years, this questions had again became the center of heating debate in Europe. Anyhow, it is a long discussion. In conclusion to this paragraph, it can be said that answers are mainly about ‘who’, ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘how’.

On the basis of above discussion, a student should try to imbibe, absorb and understand what actually he is going to prepare, gather and write about or what knowledge he is going to get. In simple terms, he ahs to learn and write about a person or persons at one particular place on earth at a particular period of time. In order to repeat the same thing in different words, a student has to write about social, economic, political and cultural (which include religion also) aspects of a person, or a group of persons (biographical if about a person or a nation or a set of institutions in case of a particular group of persons for example Sikh history) at a given place and a fixed period of time.

If you are able to absorb above elaboration, then you may get confidence on how to go about your subject matter. On that basis, you can easily discern that you have to either talk about some social or political or economic or cultural (religious, art, literature) aspects. In order to become more confident, you should have some understanding on the lines that what it is, when you say that you are talking about social or political or economic aspects. In order to give a very simple definitions on the above aspects, the following elaboration can be discussed.

When we talk about ‘social aspect’ then we have to learn and discern that what the people did while interacting with each other from day to day basis. What was the basis of cohesion and unity among them or other way round? On day to day basis, you live in a family; you eat; you interact while visiting friends and relatives and similar type of things.

When it is political aspect, then you study the struggle for power. Here you talk about wars, administration, theories and practices (doctrines) adopted by different political centres.

When you talk about economic aspects, you study about creation and distribution of wealth. Here you talk about agriculture, trade, industry, revenue collection, taxation etc.

When you talk about cultural aspects, this aspect being very subtle, and all pervading, you talk about religion, art, literature, thought process etc.

Try to understand the real verve and meaning of above elaboration.

June 06, 2005

TransAtlantic Communication

TransAtlantic Communication

History Making Them Jittery

Is it a coincidence that just a month back on May 1, 2005, V. N. Datta had written a review on "Jinnah’s Early Politics: Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity" by Ian Bryant and nearly a month afterwards L. K. Advani visits Islamabad and lays wreath on the mazar of Jinnah? Adavni further calls him a secular leader and man of history. The reviewer in there had raised some issues about the evaluation of the Indian history and the history of sub-continent. He has emphasized that somewhere we are just looking other side from what the history tries to tell us. It is raising some issues which requires understanding. If we are not able to tackle them and have the right perception, then we may put ourselves in embarrassing situation. Pakistan is a reality. There is not doubt about it. But history is also a reality. Somewhere, we have not been able to see our problems in right perspective. We are not able to understand that the divide was created in a particular situation and it is our shortcoming that we just do not see the truth. It is applicable both to India and Pakistan. We have to accept that the leaders has responded to "contingencies" and "vicissitudes of human offices" as the reviewer has remarked in the review of Arun Shourie book.

The Hurriyat Conference and JKLF are presenting their version of history which is being used as justification of their vision of the view of Kashmir. Are they watching all these things? Can they understand that what blunder they are committing by claiming separate identity to Kashmir. Why do they forget about Rani Didda and Varman Kings who were claimed to once have conquered north India? Zain-ul-Abadin, the Akbar of Kashmir was known to have Hindu officers. On what basis M. Y. Malik of JKLF refute the truths mentioned above. How can they deny that Kashmiri Pandits were there before the advent of Islam (or rather Sufism) in Kashmir? It is fascinating to read newspapers wherein there are reports of APHC visit on the top and below them appears the news that Kashmiris did not back Pakistan in 1965. The only thing which is being tried here is to convey to the rest of the people of this region to learn the actual cause of such contradictory views by the leaders.

The author of this blog never had had the hunch that his comment would be predicting something which would take place so soon. The comment has been made by the author of this blog which reads, "It is will be a matter of great curiosity to learn that how the present pseudo-nationalist would react at the phrases used in the title of the book. In the conclusion of the article also, though it is a review, but even then, a message is conveyed that Jinnah was a great nationalist."

Today again, giving a review of a different book, the eminent scholar has passed some observations. The author of this blog has again commented in the conclusion thus: "It is desired here to repeat that "History, by no means, is a cookbook to offer recipes". It is a rationality and logic which should always remain present at the foundation on which the answers to the "contingencies" and "the vicissitude of human offices" should be formulated and executed."

Let us hope that a message is conveyed and rationality be allowed to prevail.

This is an after thought and added later.

It is being felt that the Hindus have wrongly overreacted on the remarks of L. K. Advani. They are not doing the right thing to their leader. Personally I have not affiliation with BJP or RSS. However, this is a feeling of a student of history in the perspective of some answered questions on history of India. I may dilate much on it but I desire to present the following views very strongly.

L. K. Advani is a politician. He is the person who had given the doctrine of Pro-Active approach to commando mentality of Musharaf. The astute politician knew that when he was visiting the mazar of Qaidi Azam, the APHC was moving from Murshidabad to Islamabad. He knew that President of Pakistan, an equally articulate and astute general would not let occasion to go without making some gains for his establishment. What would have they done? General had declared, if it is right, before the visit of L. K. Advani to mazar that coming of the APHC without Indian passports had proved that the Kashmir issue was a disputed issue. They would have then gone to sanctify it by borrowing from the heritage of Qaidi Azam. L. K. Advani, who had just repeated what Qaidi Azam had said himself about the secular motives of Pakistan. The picture which had emerged afterwards was totally different what Qaidi Azam had envisaged for Pakistan from which L. K. Advani had quoted. Now by doing so, L. K. Advani had denied the chance to get leverage over their heritage. Is it not so?

We must learn to have faith in the credentials and commitments of our fellow nationals. L. K. Advani has played an astute politician who has the interest of his country at heart regardless of the manner in which he is being evaluated and rated by other political groups hues. If Laloo Parsad Yadav call all the migrants there as Bihari and the brothers, the nationalists do not treat it sacrilegious.

This Sindhi knows what he is doing. He is not simling just for nothing.

June 05, 2005

Challenges to India’s security

Another review by V. N Dutta has appeared in Spectrum, a pull out of The Sunday Tribune.

It has all those ingredients for which V. N. Dutta, Professor Emeritus has attracted and influenced my understanding of history.

The review appears on the following link in the newspaper The Tribune.

The review is of the book, "Will the Iron Fence Save A Tree Hollowed by Termites?" by Arun Shourie. It is review of the book on Indian foreign and military policies.

Some of the comments of the reviewer is worth noting for a person who is more interested in reading and understanding of history. The relevant comments are quoted below.

"Towards the end of his life, Bismarck was asked: "How did you make Germany a great country?" The Iron Chancellor replied: "Alone, alone, alone." But, I think, it was Bismarck’s system of alliances and alignments that enabled Germany to consolidate. I wish that Shourie had emphasised the need for refining our diplomatic skills, too."

In the above quotation, a student who has read Treaty system in depth (though from limited and only Indian sources) delighted to read it because somewhere there is a suggestion how the understanding of history not of one nation but history as a subject can help in guiding the policies of the country.

The next important observation is thus: "Doubtless, there is an urgent need for us to know our neighbours through their history, literature and languages."

Somewhere, there is suggestion that how history should be taught. In many of previous posting it has been contended that there need to understand the actual definition of history while deciding the syllabus of history for a country. Secondly, there is need to rewrite the history for a country which has entered into new phase in 1947.

The last paragraph is worth reading for a student of history and especially for a student of philosophy of history. I quote, "Throughout the book, the author persists in suggesting maxims for guiding political and military leaders for forming government policies. Such a convenient rule-of-the-thumb approach universally applied tends to overlook the role of "contingencies" and " in the vicissitude of human offices. History, by no means, is a cookbook to offer recipes, as Kissinger tells us. History cannot give us any conceptual framework within which evolving political or military systems can be conveniently fitted…… The learned writer should know better than this reviewer that nationalism, unless leavened by liberalism, turns into chauvinism and fascism."

There is need to given stress on the line, "The learned writer should know better than this reviewer that nationalism, unless leavened by liberalism, turns into chauvinism and fascism."

Well the author of this blog would be expecting out of the world experience but if ever Arun Shourie happens to read these comments or the review by V. N. Dutta, (I have hunch that he would definitely read the review by V. N Dutta), it is not a criticism of Arun Shourie. Here there reviewer is expressing what a student of history feels when ever the subject of history is treated by other people and by a nation. It is a comment addressed to the general body of history faculty as well as the policy makers of the country and also general public. Somewhere it is being said that it is sad that history has been used merely as a tool. It is sad that real message which history is giving, is always taken as a defense and argument to promote ones own stand. The movement that is done, the lesson of history is overlooked and forgotten and history is reduced to level of a propaganda material. It becomes merely a justification for ones own versions.

It is desired here to repeat that "History, by no means, is a cookbook to offer recipes". It is a rationality and logic which should always remain present at the foundation on which the answers to the "contingencies" and "the vicissitude of human offices" should be formulated and executed. Is the reviewer perturbed by criticism of some of the leaders by the author of the book?

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