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CHETAN SINGH: HIMALAYAN HISTORIES



This book locates essential aspects of the material, mental, and spiritual world of western Himalayan peasant society.

In this large and difficult region, human enterprise and mountainous terrain long existed in a precarious balance. Natural adversity occasionally disrupted this balance.

Small peasant communities lived here in scattered environmental niches and tenaciously extracted from their harsh surroundings a rudimentary but sustainable livelihood. Family organisation, social custom, and religious practices were adapted to their purposes.

The communities were integral constituents of larger political institutions, the state being one such. This laboriously created life-world was enlivened by myth, folklore, legend, and religious tradition.

When colonial rule was established in the region during the eighteenth century, it transformed the peasant’s relationship with his natural surroundings. Old political allegiances were weakened. Yet, resilient customary hierarchies retained their influence through religio-cultural practices. These are some of the many themes of Himalayan history offered in this book.

Indian historians have mainly studied riverine belts and life in the plains. Sophisticated mountain histories are relatively rare. This book, by one of India’s most reputed historians of the Himalaya, is essential for a more complete understanding of Indian history.


Chetan Singh, former Professor of History at Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla, has been researching and writing on the history and culture of the western Himalaya for more than two decades. He was Director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, from 2013 to 2016. His publications include Natural Premises: Ecology and Peasant Life in the Western Himalaya, 1800–1950 (1998), and Region and Empire: Panjab in the Seventeenth Century (1991).



TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. Introduction
  2. Defining Spaces, Constructing Identity: Regional History and the Himalaya
  3. Defining Community: A Historical Study of Territory and Transformation in the Western Himalaya
  4. Geography, Religion and Hegemony: Constructing the State in the Western Himalaya
  5. Nature, Religion and Politics: Case Studies of Keonthal and Kumharsain
  6. The Dum: Community Consciousness, Peasant Resistance or Political Intrigue?
  7. The Place of Myth, Legend and Folklore in Himalayan Society
  8. Strategy of Interdependence: Gaddi, Peasant and State
  9. Between Two Worlds: The Trader Pastoralists of Kinnaur
  10. Migration and Trade in Mountain Societies: A Comparative Study of Historical Processes in Upper Dauphine (Alps) and Kulu–Kinnaur (Himalaya)
  11. Pastoralism and the Making of Colonial Modernity in Kulu, 1850-1952
  12. Diverse Forms of Polyandry and Customary Rights of Inheritance and Landownership in the Western Himalaya
  13. Thresholds in the Wilderness: Identities, Interests and Modernity in Western Himalayan Borderlands
  14. Riverbank to Hilltop: Pre-Colonial Towns and the Impact of British Rule on Urban Growth
  15. Bibliography

Series: Hedgehog and Fox
HB/ Rs 895/ copublished with Ashoka University

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