TCA Raghavan’s new book is a gripping account of the friendship between three great Indian historians
Writing in 1937 to the future president of India, Rajendra Prasad, historian Jadunath Sarkar put forth his views on what would constitute a good “national history" for the country. It could not, Sarkar argued, “suppress or whitewash" that which was “disgraceful" or embarrassing in India’s past. On the contrary, it had to be “true as regards the facts and reasonable in the interpretation of them", not hesitating to acknowledge wrongs even while pointing out “nobler aspects" to offset such details. The historian’s job, Sarkar insisted, was “not to suppress any defect of the national character, but (to) add to his portraiture those higher qualities which, taken together with the former, help to constitute the entire individual". Prasad agreed, noting in his reply that unless Indians learnt to “know and understand" their own “national defects", there could be no moving forward as a people and society.