"History is written by the victors" goes a famous quote. Every reading of history should be treated with some scepticism. "A People's History of the United States" written by Howard Zinn narrates history not through the government's propaganda but through common people's movements.
The book opens with Christopher Columbus' armada reaching the shores of the Americas. Official sources will claim this as a historical event that changed the world and honour this hero. But the same event through the view of the native Americans will reveal widespread genocide.
The English start settling and expanding from the north-eastern shores to the west while constantly displacing and destroying the natives. The settlers slowly become politically concious and rebel against the Queen to gain independence. The "founding fathers" (most of whom happened to be landed and slave owners) framed a constitution that safeguarded the elite's interests.
Even before the independence, ship loads of slaves from Africa were being brought in by the rich land owners to work on their farms. The southern states of the US' rebelled over a proposal to ban slavery and the American Civil war broke out.
Within a few decades, the country was pulled into the First World War and upon conclusion, it's economy was in dire straits and culminated in the Great Depression. They slowly crept out of it only to get dragged into the Second World War which ended with the dropping of nuclear bombs on Japan.
After that it regularly flirted with wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Kuwait, Iraq etc.
The book dives deep into the class-aspect of history. How the poor and the working class were disenfranchised from the beginning. Their struggles to get their voice heard and how administration after administration failed to make any difference.
The author admits that this book is biased; tilted in favour of the oppressed and goes against the grain. But it gives a new perspective into how we understand history.
Looks can be deceptive. Very deceptive. When some villagers name the protagonist "Shantaram" after his calm nature, little idea did they have of his fierce past. Shantaram tries hard to melt into his surroundings and maintain a low-key but keeps getting into trouble.
Gregory David Roberts, the author, embellishes his …read more
When breath becomes air
What would you do if you are informed that you are dying (no timeline provided)? Would you continue working towards your dream? Or give up and spend the rest of the time cursing your fate?
Paul Kalanithi is close to completing his neurosurgeon residency at Stanford. He has worked hard …read more
Dr.Anand falls in love with Anupama and it appears to be progressing like a fairy tale. After marriage, her husband leaves to England for higher studies and she is expected to follow him shortly. But she is diagnosed with Vitiligo and is shunted out of her in-laws and parents …read more
On the Origin of Species
I have heard of the phrase "Survival of the fittest" since childhood in contexts unrelated to Charles Darwin's (this phrase was added in a later edition) usage. It always piqued my curiousity on how he (and some people before him) proposed this revolutionary idea. They didn't observe the evolution of …read more
Pakistan; or the partition of India
Every person in the Indian subcontinent is aware of the misery caused by the partition of India. A lot of people believe that the Indian Congress Party and the first Prime Minister of India were responsible. They insist that the partition could have been avoided and history would've been kinder …read more
The Bourne Identity
Countless number of times people have recommended this book but I pushed back by claiming that this book didn't fit my interests. Recently I realised that my reading has been wide-ranging and I don't have a favourite genre.
A man is found almost dead by fishermen in the middle of …read more
Sometimes one just needs to read history without being judgemental to appreciate the context. It puts certain things into perspective. You don't necessarily have to take a stand but only use it to expand your realm.
Mein Kampf is Adolf Hitler's autobiography. The book traces his journey from his childhood …read more
Aurangzeb: The man and the myth
History shouldn't be used to judge even though a lot of people claim that history should be the best judge. To judge a historical period, one must also factor in the context then. Without appreciating the context, one may end up distorting history. Aurangzeb is probably the most hated Mughal …read more
The Great Gatsby
When the going is good, everyone is 'friends' with you. But when the first signs of trouble appear, only the true friends remain. "The Great Gatsby" is a novel by Scott Fitzgerald that mashes friendship, love and betrayal in a story set in America in the 1920s (post the World …read more