India A Short History

Andrew Robinson


India has always been a land of great contradictions. To Alexander the Great, the country was a place of clever naked philosophers and massive armies mounted on elephants – which eventually forced his army to retreat. To ancient Rome, it was a source of luxuries, mainly spices and textiles, paid for in gold—hence the enormous numbers of Roman gold coins excavated in India. At the height of the Mughal empire in 1700, India boasted 24 percent of the world economy—a share virtually equal to Europe’s 25 percent. But then its economy declined. Colonial India was known for its extremes of wealth and poverty, epitomized by the Taj Mahal and famines, maharajas and untouchables, and also for its spirituality: many-armed Hindu gods and Buddhist philosophy, Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.

India: A Short History places as much emphasis on individuals, ideas and cultures as on the rise and fall of kingdoms, political parties and economies. Anyone curious about a great civilization, and its future, will find this an ideal introduction, at times controversial, written by an author who has been strongly engaged with India for more than three decades.


Materials from the author’s own prolific earlier work on the yet undeciphered Indus valley writing system, on Rabindranath Tagore, and on the life and films of Satyajit Ray add depth to this overview.

— Choice

In this engrossing read, Robinson examines the broad sweep of Indian-subcontinent history, distilling four millennia into 200 pages. An excellent introduction to the subcontinent’s history.

— Library Journal

Pithy, admirable…Robinson is at his best when dealing with India's earlier history. Compressing 4,000 years into 200 pages proves a tall order and leads him to reserve nearly half the book for the BC(E) millennia.  But he here picks his way with assurance and insight.

— John Keay The Times Literary Supplement

Andrew Robinson tackles this country of incredible depth with a primer that stylishly takes readers from the roots of Indian civilization up through today…India provides travelers with an essential introduction to the land and its people.

— Virtuoso Life

Robinson aims to navigate the middle passage between polarities, negative and positive, while promoting better understanding of the Indian civilization.

— Protoview


Andrew Robinson


Andrew Robinson has published nine books about India. His definitive study of Rabindranath Tagore was described by The New Yorker as a “superb biography.” He lives in London.