NCERT Class 8 History Chapter 1 - How, When and Where

Chapter 1 - How, When and Where

Question and Answers
Question 1: What is the problem with the periodisation of Indian history that James Mill offers?
Answer:
James Mill thought that all Asian societies were at a lower level of civilisation than Europe. In his prejudiced version of history, British rule represented all the forces of progress and civilisation while the period before British rule represents darkness, ignorance, despotism, religious intolerance, caste taboos, superstitious practices, etc. However, the periodisation of Indian history based only on religion is problematic for several reasons. A variety of faiths, apart from Hinduism and Islam, existed in the periods categorised as Hindu and Muslim by Mill. Also, it is not right to classify an age according to the religion of the rulers of that time. By doing so it suggests that the lives and practices of others did not matter. Another point to keep in mind is that all rulers in ancient India did not share the same faith.

Question 2: Why did the British preserve official documents?
Answer:
One important source is the official records of the British administration. The British believed that the act of writing was important. Every instruction, plan, policy decision, agreement, investigation had to be clearly written up. Once this was done, things could be properly studied and debated.

Question 3: How did James Mill view India?
Answer:
James Mill did not cherish any positive idea about India. He was of the opinion that all Asian societies were at a lower level of civilisation than Europe. According to his telling of history, before the British came to India, the Hindu and the Muslim despots ruled the country. Religious intolerance, caste taboos and superstitious practices dominated social life. He felt that only British rule could civilise India. He suggested that the British should conquer all the territories of India to ensure the enlightenment and happiness of the Indian people. For India was not capable of progress without the help of the British.

Question 4: Historians divide Indian history into ancient, medieval and modem. But this division too has its problems. What are these problems?
Answer:

• This periodisation has been borrowed from the West where the modern period was associated with the growth of all the forces of modernity such as science, reason, democracy, liberty and equality. Medieval was a term used to describe a society where these features of modem society did not exist.
• It is difficult to accept this characterisation of the modern period. It is worth-mentioning that Indians did not have equality, freedom or liberty under the British rule. The country also lacked economic growth and progress in that period. Therefore many historians refer to modern period as colonial period.

Question 5: What do official records don't tell?
Answer:
Official records do not always help us understand what other people in the country felt, and what lay behind their actions. For that we have diaries of people, accounts of pilgrims and travellers, autobiographies of important personalities, and popular books, etc. that were sold in the local bazaars. With the spread of printing press, newspapers came to be published and issues began to be debated in public. Leaders and reformers wrote.to spread their ideas, poets and novelists wrote to express their feelings.

Question 6: How did surveys become important under the colonial administration?
Answer:

• Under the colonial administration, the practice of surveying became common. By the early nineteenth century, detailed surveys were being carried out to map the entire country.
• In the villages, revenue surveys were conducted. The effort was to know the topography, the soil quality, the flora, the fauna, the local histories, and the cropping pattern.
• From the end of the nineteenth century, Census operations were held every ten years.
• These prepared detailed records of the number of people in all the provinces of India, noting information on castes, religions and occupation. There were many other surveys - botanical surveys, zoological surveys, archaeological surveys, anthropological surveys, forest surveys.

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