Taylor C. ShermanMar 29, 2023
A History in Seven Myths
Princeton University Press 2022
Nehru's India: A History in Seven Myths (Princeton UP, 2022) brings a provocative but nuanced set of new interpretations to the history of early independent India. Drawing from her extensive research over the past two decades, Taylor Sherman reevaluates the role of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, in shaping the nation. She argues that the notion of Nehru as the architect of independent India, as well as the ideas, policies, and institutions most strongly associated with his premiership—nonalignment, secularism, socialism, democracy, the strong state, and high modernism—have lost their explanatory power. They have become myths.
Sherman examines seminal projects from the time and also introduces readers to little-known personalities and fresh case studies, including India’s continued engagement with overseas Indians, the importance of Buddhism in secular India, the transformations in industry and social life brought about by bicycles, a riotous and ultimately doomed attempt to prohibit the consumption of alcohol in Bombay, the early history of election campaign finance, and the first state-sponsored art exhibitions. The author also shines a light on underappreciated individuals, such as Apa Pant, the charismatic diplomat who influenced foreign policy from Kenya to Tibet, and Urmila Eulie Chowdhury, the rebellious architect who helped oversee the building of Chandigarh.
Tracing and critiquing developments in this formative period in Indian history, Nehru’s India offers a fresh and definitive exploration of the nation’s early postcolonial era.
Anubha Anushree is a doctorate from the Department of History, Stanford University and a Lecturer at the Stanford COLLEGE Program. She could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.