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Over 5,000 years, India has been home to a rich tapestry of cultures, and the lands east of the Indus River have long been a hub for trade and cultural exchange. Today the subcontinent contains 20% of the world's population and is an economic powerhouse. Go inside this thrilling story with A History of India, a breathtaking survey of South Asia from its earliest societies through the 21st century.

A History of India is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (35 episodes). The series first aired on November 1, 2016.

A History of India is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch A History of India on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon online.

The Great Courses Signature Collection
1 Season, 35 Episodes
November 1, 2016
Cast: Michael Fisher
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A History of India Full Episode Guide

  • Today, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh make up 20 percent of the world€™s population, and the subcontinent is a rising global economic powerhouse. Professor Fisher concludes this course by recapping some of the major themes and looking at the condition of the region in the 21st century-and some of the developments on the horizon.

  • Follow the careers of Indira Gandhi and her children, who led India through many changes in the late 20th century, including the State of Emergency, the rise of ethnic political organizations such as the Sikhs and the Tamils, the nuclear arms race with Pakistan, and numerous transitions of leadership.

  • Unlike Pakistan and Bangladesh, India became a secular state after its 1947 independence, and it is now the world€™s largest democracy. This examination of the nation€™s early years examines Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru€™s vision to transform the nation and some of his successful economic programs.

  • Bangladesh-formerly East Pakistan and the Bengal region of India-was partitioned three times in the 20th century: first by the British in 1905, and then during independence in 1947, and finally from Pakistan in 1971. Professor Fisher reveals this relatively young nation€™s turbulent history and explores some of its contemporary challenges.

  • Between 1947 and 1971, Pakistan was a divided state: separated into East and West, and strained along ethnic lines. The early years of the nation saw numerous coups and uprisings, as well as border wars with India, particularly in Kashmir. Consider the role geography and ethnicity played in the distribution of power.

  • After World War II, a tense series of events led the subcontinent€™s brutal partition into India and Pakistan-majority Hindu and Muslim nations, respectively. Find out how the British, battered by the war, ceded their empire and hastily created two nation-states whose borders and contested identities left a troubled legacy felt even today.

  • While Gandhi advocated one path for reform, many of his contemporaries offered other ways to promote the rights of lower classes and Muslims. Meet Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, three influential social and political leaders, and review their approaches toward national independence and people€™s rights.

  • Learn about the life of Mohandas €œMahatma€ Gandhi, who is perhaps the 20th century€™s most well-regarded political activist. You€™ll trace his life from his young manhood in India to his education in Britain to his activism in South Africa and India. In this lecture, an admirable-but complex-figure emerges.

  • Whether as students, soldiers, or servants, South Asians who left the subcontinent contributed significantly to the cultural exchange among China, continental Europe, and Great Britain. And whereas the British Raj relied on segregation for political control, Indian immigrants in Britain found greater freedom. Reflect on the impact of South Asians throughout the world.

  • Continue your study of Indian and British relations with a detailed look at the British Raj, a 90-year period of colonialism that stretched from the 1857 uprising to the region€™s independence in 1947. Gain insight into Britain€™s racist policies, and view the beginnings of the subcontinent€™s struggle for political autonomy.

  • Tension between the British and the South Asians came to a boil in 1857, when a group of Indian soldiers rose up against the British army-to disastrous consequences. Consider the context and historical impact of this pivotal year, which forever changed the nature of British rule in India.

  • Witness the rise of the British East India Company and find out how it coincided with the rise of British imperialism. Company leaders often sought glory and expansion, which led to greater British influence and control of South Asia via joint-stock corporations. Take an inside look at these radical developments in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • Now turn from the subcontinent inlands to the sea, where European traders began arriving on the Indian coast to establish global companies, including several East India companies. After surveying Portugal€™s 200-year dominance of trade, Professor Fisher shows how the English eventually established their own foothold in the market.

  • The 17th century saw the slow decline of the Mughal Empire during the reign of Emperor Alamgir (also called Aurangzeb). As he aged, he drew the empire into war with the Deccan-based Marathas, who were led by the skillful warrior Shivaji. Watch as the Marathas humiliate the Mughals and establish their own powerful regional identity.

  • Succession is a key challenge for any empire. As Emperor Akbar aged, follow the rise of his son, Jahangir, who, once emperor, ruled with aplomb and introduced many new innovations to the subcontinent. His own son, Shah Jahan, then constructed the Peacock Throne, the Taj Mahal, and other glorious architectural triumphs.

  • Continue your study of the Mughal Empire by tracing the rule of Emperor Akbar. During his dramatic five-decade reign, he truly established the empire for the long term thanks to several key initiatives: drawing regional rulers into his army, encouraging interreligious marriage, transforming the administrative system, and creating an imperial ideology based on various mystical ideas and practices.

  • In this first of several lectures on the great Mughal Empire, you€™ll meet a Central Asian adventurer named Babur, who rode into South Asia from Kabul and conquered the Delhi sultanate. Then witness the checkered career of his son, who almost lost the empire before it could really get started.

  • The binary opposition between Hindus and Muslims oversimplifies what has always been a complex relationship. Here, you€™ll study that relationship as you meet some of the most prominent Muslim rulers, or Sultans, from the 9th to the 16th centuries. Explore their kingdoms throughout India and their legacies.

  • Islam has had a profound impact on South Asia, and today the region has the largest Muslim population in the world. After surveying the history and pillars of Islam and its origins in the Middle East, Professor Fisher examines how many people of South Asia became Muslim via trade, invasion, devotion, or personal motivation.

  • South Asia has always been a distinctly diverse region, incorporating numerous communities of outsiders who came to the subcontinent via the coasts or across the mountains. Explore the worlds of Parsis, Jews, and Christians in India, and see how they interacted with Hindu society.

  • In the wake of the Mauryan Empire€™s collapse, many regional dynasties emerged across the north and northwest. Unpack the fascinating history of these two macro-regions. Learn about several of the major ethnic groups and the Silk Road trade routes, and then round out the lecture with a study of the famous Gupta dynasty.

  • Brahmin culture was never as strong in southern India as it was in the north, which meant a diverse range of societies were able to flourish on the Deccan plateau. After explaining some of the region€™s historical trends, Professor Fisher highlights the distinctive features and interactions of a few prominent southern kingdoms.

  • Continue your study of the Mauryan Empire with Chandragupta€™s grandson, Emperor Ashoka, who even today is likely the most famous individual from ancient India. After consolidating his territory in a vicious war, Ashoka became a Buddhist and a model benevolent ruler.

  • Because South Asia is such a large and diverse region, it has seldom been unified under one ruler. But around the time Jainism and Buddhism began challenging the old social order, Chandragupta was able to consolidate and form the subcontinent€™s first major empire. Uncover the trajectory of his life and the conditions that allowed him to build the Mauryan Empire.

  • In 500 B.C.E., the old Vedic social order was changing as the merchant classes began to achieve upward mobility. Along with these radical cultural and economic changes, alternative religious models emerged to compete with the Vedic cosmology. Here, you€™ll survey Jainism€™s origins and philosophy, which require a life of total nonviolence.

  • The Bhagavad Gita is arguably one of the most famous texts in world history. Explore the origins and context for the story, delve into the complexities of philosophy and religion that the narrative contains, and understand why it has resonated throughout Indian history and around the world. See how its wisdom is still the basis for Hinduism today.

  • Shift your attention to India€™s other major epic, the Mahabharata, which is the longest major text in human history (clocking in at a whopping 1.8 million words). After examining the sources and style of this epic, Professor Fisher surveys its plot and shows what it means from the €œemic€ perspective of Indians as well as the €œetic€ perspective of outsiders.

  • Delve into the first Indian epic: the Ramayana, which is a poem, a love story, a morality tale, and much more. Discover the story of Prince Rama, his faithful wife, Sita, and the gods that control their lives. It is also an important source for many of the historical details we have about the era.

  • The Vedic caste system is one of the most well-known aspects of Hindu society-and also one of the most misunderstood. Find out about the ancient Vedic social order (or Varnas), how it structured society, and how numerous inherited social groups (or Jatis) relate to occupation, creating a diverse and complex society.

  • Explore the ancient foundations of Hinduism, which emerged from a diverse community of people who identified themselves with the Vedas. By studying these sacred poems and hymns, you€™ll discover much about this civilization€™s culture and cosmology. You€™ll also trace the origins and development of the Indo-European language in this fascinating lecture.

  • Turn to the second group of ancient Indian communities: the urban people of the Indus Valley. Many mysteries abound regarding this long-lost Bronze Age civilization, but Professor Fisher takes you through excavated cities, examines art and artifacts, and reveals what we know about this intriguing society-and what may have happened to them.

  • Three main cultures inhabited the ancient Indian subcontinent. In this lecture, you€™ll study the first group, the Adivasi, aboriginal forest dwellers who once comprised the entirety of South Asia€™s population. See how genetic and linguistic analysis informs us about the Adivasi of 30,000 years ago-and learn about their status in India today.

  • Begin your study millions of years ago, when plate tectonics shaped the subcontinent€™s mountains, plateaus, and river systems, which in turn have affected the region€™s weather, agriculture, and cultural diversity. Review South Asia€™s four macro-regions and see how geography has guided the course of life.