Wednesday, December 9, 2009

History of India or Europe?

This semester I discovered two history lecture podcasts to recommend. UCLA's History of India with Vinay Lal and Yale's European Civilization 1648-1945 with John Merriman. Here is to report how I fared on both series.

In advance I did not know which one I would ride until the end - listening in to 20 to 40 hours of audio for one or two reviews is quite a taxing investment. However, I was genuinely interested, especially in Indian History, as there are no comparable podcast (series) available. Professor Merriman's course on Yale, I expected, was going to mean too much of a repetition to me as there are many, many comparable series on the web. (As I pointed out in the first review) And then it worked out completely differently. By now I have flown through Merriman's course at Yale and I am stuck in the beginning in Lal's course at UCLA. And this is not because of either one's lack of quality; both are great courses.

Where I thought that lack of familiarity will glue me to the History of India and the recognition will make me abandon the History of Europe, it worked exactly the other way round. My familiarity with Europe and courses in European History made Merriman's course very accessible and allowed me to pick up on some fine details and emphases. Lal's course, on the other hand, goes through the early history or India to the background of the Hindu scripts such as the Rg Veda, the Bagvadgita and the Mahabharata and no matter how compellingly interesting this is, my sheer ignorance of the field causes this course to be extremely demanding. Nothing is familiar, everything is uncommon, new and requiring effort to digest.

So, what is the conclusion of all this? Still I will warmly recommend both courses and still I want to persevere with Lal's History of India, but if you come from where I come from, be prepared that this is no easy ride and maybe do some preparatory reading, before you go into the lectures. And isn't that completely logical and to be expected in hindsight? For the History of Europe I am already prepared, for the History of India I am not and therefore I must put in more effort. No wonder there is so much more attention for main stream Western History - it is a vicious circle.

More History of India.
More History of Europe.