Modern Concept of History
Prof. Mehboob Desai[*]
In the beginning of twenty-first century, concept and objectives of a number of subjects have changed. Transformation has also come in the concept of very important subject like history. History does not mean description of events only, but it means analysis of events and fundamental factors of its creation, and interesting, sociological study of personalities. It is true, however, that our history has not yet become free from limited concepts of kings and emperors, their battles, victories, achievements or dynasties. Such a limited history is dull and lifeless like a telephone directory.
History is not only story of kingdom, but it is a story of mankind.
Such a broad understanding has become essential today as far as the study and education of history are concerned. But we have either not followed such necessity or we have not made such efforts as may lead to the understanding of new generation. We have made no change in the history taught right from primary school text-books till graduate and post-graduate levels. As a result history taught in schools and colleges has become quantum of lifeless, dull and series of years only.
Syllabi of primary-secondary schools have made history even a small portion of social science, and have made its field extremely limited, whereas the fact is in vocational examinations such as GPSC and UPSC examinations, even now graduates of different Faculties choose history as a scoring subject and enjoy high ranks in government departments. Figures are available of IAS officers spread over India, majority of who have passed with history as their subject.
In spite of this, we have always been neglecting history as a subject, useful vocationally and more than that in social construction. As a result, a live interesting and useful subject goes on losing importance from society. Of course, it has many reasons. At primary (school) level, we have failed in carrying real concept of history till new generation. The form of history taught as a part of social science from fifth till the Twelfth standard is nothing but only information centered. In the name of year wise series of wars and acquaintance of civilization, we have been putting in our syllabii heavy names and statistics only and take them as the quality of textbooks and pride. Further even such information not at all touches modern or ancient researches. We have been putting the same piles of old, stereotyped information in the text-books in the name of history. The revolt of 1857 was the first India’s struggle of independence. This has been written years before by our national history writer Shri V.D. Saverker and he has proved it with support. Yet we call the event of 1857 Mutiny only on the basis of history written by British Historians, and teach the same at graduate and post-graduate levels. Causes and effects of 1857 Mutiny have become noteworthy points even today like chewed fibrous coagulum.
Saints, mendicants, farmers and patriots had actively tried to spread the first struggle of independence of 1857 with the symbols of “Lotus” and “Roti” (‘chapatti’). If we can make even a singular event of such sincere efforts a chapter of the text-book of history, we can probably relieve our students and society from tedious concept of history. But till to date it has not struck our mind either to do or allowing it to be done.
The tragic end of Bahadurshah ‘Zafar’ who led the struggle of 1857 is not of the least amount compared with the martyrdom courted by the martyrs. In Rangoon, the nationality of Bahadurshah ‘Zafar’ who led the struggle of 1857, enchained in the lock-up of British rulers, had sprouted in the form of verse:
उमरे दराज़ मांगकर लाये थे चार दिन
दो आरजू में कट गए दो इन्तेज़ार में
कितना बदनसीब था ज़फ़र दफ़न के लिए
दो गज ज़मी भी न मिली कुए यार में
Similar such poet ‘Mirza Ghalib’ used to take a number of visits to British offices to get pension in his last days, and at that time he had suffered boundless insults of British Officers. Expressing his pain about it, he had said:
हरेक बात पे कहते हो की तू क्या है तू क्या है
ज़रा हमें बतलाओ ये अंदाजे गुफ्तुगू क्या है
In the freedom struggle of India characters of Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad are wonderful examples of heroism. But we do not know the source of the story of inspiration of that heroism. The words of Vasantidevi, the wife of patriot Chitaranjan Das and inspirer of Chandrasekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh to assassinate Mr. Scott after Lala Lajaptrai’s death, have not become a part of our history.
‘Is youth-manliness of this country really alive? As a woman of this country I ask this question publicly to the young generation of India.’
These words of Vasantidevi created history. Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad made a plot to assassinate Mr. Scott. Chandrasekhar Azad had made a plan to help the same Bhagat Singh escape from the prison. But Bhagat Singh, known as a saboteur and violent revolutionary did not accept the plan of escaping from prison and courted martyrdom.
In the text-book of standard 9th, hue and try raised against Hitler’s destructive policy is well- known. But behind the creation of character like Hitler, there was a history teacher of a primary school. Whose reference has been made by Hitler in his auto-biography “Mein Kampf”. Analysis of factors lying in the process of creation of such cruel character of history derives moral from history and nurses knowledge with education. But we are not interested in conveying such instructive and interesting history to the new generation. We carry on with only the figures of Hitler’s destructive power, considering it as history.
Oscar Wilde has said,
‘Any one can create history. But to write inspiring and interesting history is left to the luck of very few persons because it is a difficult task.’
To-day re-writing of our history and its teaching method require inevitable change from the very root. Marxists, Communists and British rulers have written history from their respective points of views, and we have with us that history. But as against it, lack is still being experienced of history written from the national point of view, and that is why, our whole post-independent generation has been deprived of our national history.
Great Historian G.H.Reinyer has said,
‘The deeper our Human Understanding, the better our history.’
Our history will be rich to the extent to which our human understanding is strong. In order to cultivate our human understanding, it is necessary to catch the throbs of common society experienced in past civilization, culture and achievements, and then only the character and nationalism of future generation will be shaped. Of course, such history should be put forward before future generation not as heavy bundles of information, but in interactive, yet interesting style. We shall be able to take a little pride of shaping the best citizens and society having pure character if we understand this fact as early as possible.
[*] Professor and Head, post-graduate Department of History, Bhavnagar University, Bhavnagar.