Most people who take up History in college expect a lot from the subject. One can usually see enthusiastic first years say on the first day of college, “I want to do archaeology, hence I took up history”, “I like history as I love memorising dates”, and then one can also hear the clichéd line, “I want to crack the Civil services, hence I took up history”. Well, all first year history students should brace themselves for something completely different! History is not just about dates and wars, it’s a discipline that transcends all conventional notions of education. I am sure teachers must have already started giving out huge bibliographies to you all, which must have tired your wits out! It’s completely understandable, that after coming from diverse backgrounds and schools, you will find it difficult to initially adjust to the incessant xeroxing and fragmented readings. But like our NCERT and Frank brothers, we also have some base books for History (hons.), which will help you garner a good grounding in your subject.
But the million dollar question is: Which are the books that will help me sail my way through the first year? Don’t assume that I am creating a guide book list for all of you: this is just a preliminary guideline, to help you in your initial days through this indecipherable course called History (hons.) in Delhi University.
The first honours paper: Ancient India, seems like a very difficult paper in the beginning, but one book will save everybody’s souls and studying time- ‘A History of Ancient and Medieval India: from the stone age to the 12th century’ by Dr. Upinder Singh (yes, she is Manmohan Singh’s daughter). The name of the book may sound daunting, but trust me; it is your bible in the first year. Not only will this book save you hours of reading through subsidiary readings, it is also an excellent resource for the section on Harappa. But at the same time, it is also quite inadequate for a lot of stuff, so don’t do the mistake of reading this book alone! You can also buy R.S Sharma’s ‘Ancient Past’ if you want (but for those people who are content with buying Upinder Singh: it won’t be much of a loss). But the real joy of Ancient India comes through reading up lots of stuff, so please do not miss out on that. The paper requires a lot of debate, so make sure you read up as much as possible, so that you can substantiate your paper with relevant arguments.
The second paper: Social Formations and Cultural patterns of the Ancient and Medieval world (don’t worry about remembering the name, most of us forget it by the time we reach our third year), or popularly called, “Sofo”, can be cracked with the help of Dr. Amar Farooqui’s famous book (every student in DU reading history has read him once in their lifetime), ‘Early Social Formations’. This is undoubtedly the most comprehensive and detailed book on the subject. There is just one problem- in case your college teaches you Shang China, then the only person who can save you is K.C Chang. Otherwise, it’s Amar Farooqui all the way!
And as for the qualifying paper: Hindi, life would have been so much easier without this paper wouldn’t it? The only guidance I can suggest is guide books. They will be enough to make you pass with a decent grade. The second semester will hopefully be less hard for you all, as by then you would have learnt to navigate your way through this course and of course your college! And above everything, there are always teachers and seniors to help you all out, so keep them on your reference list too!