A History

John Keay

Introduced by the author

Spanning 5,000 years from the Bronze Age to the present, India: A History is John Keay’s masterful story of the subcontinent; revised and updated for the Folio Society in this fully illustrated edition.

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‘Certainly the most balanced and the most lucid history. His passion for India shines through and illuminates every page ... [and] puts Keay in the front rank of Indian historiographers.’
  1. Spectator

John Keay’s history of India is a work of extraordinary ambition from one of our finest writers on South Asia and the Far East. He unfolds the 5,000-year story of a subcontinent larger and more diverse than Europe, from the first civilisations to settle the Indus Valley to the urbanised societies of modern-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Keay’s authoritative and immensely readable account brings to life an intricate tapestry of peoples, cultures, religions and dynasties. Each of the two volumes is lavishly illustrated with 48 pages of images – from ancient artifacts and temple architecture to art and photojournalism – alongside plentiful maps and diagrams. As with his companion history of China, Keay has fully revised India: A History for the Folio Society, bringing it up to the present day and contributing a new preface. With beautiful bindings, endpapers and slipcase by artist Florian Schommer, this is the definitive edition of an indispensable work of history.

Bound in three-quarter blocked cloth with a cloth front board printed and blocked with a design by Florian Schommer

Set in Warnock with Quadraat as display

Two volume set

816 pages in total

48 pages of colour plates per volume (96 pages in total)

62 integrated maps and diagrams across both volumes

Endpapers printed with a design by Florian Schommer

Slipcase blocked with a design by Florian Schommer

10˝ x 6¾˝

The Folio Society has carefully chosen 48 pages of full-page colour illustrations for each volume. There are terracotta figurines from the earliest Indus civilisations, Buddhist sculptures – from the exquisite to the monumental – and intricate examples of miniature art, depicting scenes from classic texts such as the Ramayana and Babur-nama. The full glory and variety of ancient temple architecture is revealed, in sites such as Ellora, the largest rock-cut Hindu temple cave complex; the Golden Temple of Amritsar; the flamboyantly ornate Ranganathaswamy Temple; and the tomb of Sher Shah Suri. The illustrations take in battles and religious festivals, emperors on the Peacock Throne and swaggering Maharajas, and the splendour of Mughal craftsmanship from weapons to drinking cups. Photography captures vital moments in India’s modern history, with photography by Henri Cartier-Bresson and iconic images of Gandhi, Nehru and Bhutto.

This is the most inclusive and comprehensive short history of India. While many books focus on the colonial era, John Keay devotes three quarters of India: A History to events before the British landed in 1608. His narrative begins with the seldom-told story of the Bronze Age civilisations of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, passing through the age of Hindu mythology and the great Sanskrit epics, to the rise of Islam, the splendour of the Mughals and their long dynastic rule. The final quarter of the book provides an up-to-date and incisive account of modern India and its sister states, moving beyond the British Raj and the tragedy of Partition to technological riches and nuclear brinkmanship. Written with passion and drawing upon the latest scholarship, India is a clear, detailed panorama of a uniquely complex nation and region.

John Keay is the author of numerous classic histories and travel books, largely concerning Asia or Scotland. They include The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company (1991), Collins Encyclopedia of Scotland (1994), India: A History (2000; Folio edition 2022), Sowing the Wind: The Seeds of Conflict in the Middle East (2003; Folio edition 2016), China: A History (2008; Folio edition 2021) and Midnight’s Descendants: South Asia from Partition to the Present Day (2014). In 2009, the Royal Society for Asian Affairs awarded him the Sir Percy Sykes Memorial Medal for his literary contribution to Asian studies.


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