The Forgotten History of India’s Maritime Past | Sanjeev Sanyal

Sanjeev Sanyal is an Indian economist, bestselling writer, environmentalist, and urban theorist. He was also the Global Strategist & Managing Director at the Deutsche Bank. He is also the author of the best selling books “The Indian Renaissance: India’s Rise after a Thousand Years of Decline (Penguin and World Scientific), “Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography”, (Penguin, 2012) and “The Incredible History of India’s Geography” published by Puffin in 2015. Sanjeev Sanyal’s talks at JNU , where he helped explore and understand India’s Maritime Past, that has been forgotten. 

Napoleon the Great?

A debate with Andrew Roberts, Adam Zamoyski and Jeremy Paxman

‘There is no immortality but the memory that is left in the minds of men.’ – Napoleon Bonaparte 

How should we remember Napoleon, the man of obscure Corsican birth who rose to become emperor of the French and briefly master of Europe? As the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo approached in 2015, Intelligence Squared brought together two of Britain’s finest historians to debate how we should assess Napoleon’s life and legacy. Was he a military genius and father of the French state, or a blundering nonentity who created his own enduring myth? Was his goal of uniting the European continent under a common political system the forerunner of the modern ‘European dream’? Or was he an incompetent despot, a warning from history of the dangers of overarching grand plans?

Championing Napoleon was be Andrew Roberts who will argue that if any ruler deserves the epithet ‘the Great’ it should be Napoleon. Not only did he revolutionise warfare, but he transformed Europe by retaining the best parts of the French Revolution – equality before the law, religious toleration, and the end of feudalism. He founded the first modern code of law (the Code Napoleon), instituted the excellent Lycée-based education system, and created a new aristocracy based on talent.

By contrast, all mention of Napoleon as ‘great’, ‘hero’, ‘villain’ or ‘monster’ has Adam Zamoyski running for the hills, bemused why – in his opinion – this rather ordinary man excites such passion in otherwise level-head intelligent people. Zamoyski argued that Napoleon is credited with creating civil institutions which were in fact the work of others. He perpetrated some of the greatest military blunders in history, including the disastrous invasion of Russia. He brought about his own downfall through a mixture of incompetence and megalomania. It’s understandable why the French cling to their poetic myth of Napoleon’s ‘greatness’ but to Zamoyski no self-respecting Brit, let alone an historian, should fall for the flim-flam of this shameless self-publicist. 

Queen Elizabeth I vs Queen Victoria

Intelligence Squared presents the battle of the queens. Both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria set their stamp firmly on their era but which was the greater monarch?

On one side stood Philippa Gregory, bestselling author of the Tudor Court series of novels. She made the case for Elizabeth I, with widely acclaimed actor Fiona Shaw bringing this most majestic and flirtatious of rulers to life with readings from her speeches and letters. In the other corner was Daisy Goodwin, writer of last autumn’s hit ITV series Victoria, who will argue the case for her heroine. Award-winning star of stage and screen Greta Scacchi revealed the determination and wit of this most human of monarchs by performing extracts from Victoria’s diaries and personal missives. Chairing the proceedings was celebrated historian and television presenter Dan Jones.

Neither Elizabeth nor Victoria grew up expecting to be queen, and each had to struggle to assert herself in a man’s world. As Gregory will argue, Elizabeth managed this by her shrewd intelligence, playing off the men in her court against each other and refusing to dilute her power by marrying, despite the intense pressure of her advisers. As Catholics and Protestants fought wars across Europe, she averted bloodshed in England by consolidating the Protestant revolution begun by her father Henry VIII, expressing her religious tolerance with the famous words, ‘I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls.’

Goodwin made the case that Victoria was not just a great queen but an icon for our own times. Not only did she save the monarchy after a succession of dissolute and incompetent Georgian kings; by embracing marriage and motherhood, she set an example that our own queen and royal family have followed to this day. Her popularity was such that when in 1848 revolutionary uprisings toppled monarchies in France, Austria, Italy and Poland, Victoria’s throne remained secure.

 

What the Ancients in India Knew

India is one of the oldest and richest civilizations in the world. It is home to the world’s first planned cities, where every house had its own bathroom and toilet five thousand years ago. The Ancient Indians have not only given us yoga, meditation and complementary medicines, but they have furthered our knowledge of science, maths — and invented Chaturanga, which became the game of chess. According to Albert Einstein, they “taught us how to count”, as they invented the numbers 1-9 and ‘zero’, without which there would be no computers or digital age. Unfairly we call this system of counting Arabic numbers — a misplaced credit. Two thousand years ago the Indians pioneered plastic surgery, reconstructing the noses and ears on the faces of people who had been disfigured through punishment or warfare. They performed eye operations such as cataract removal and invented inoculation to protect their population from Smallpox, saving thousands of lives.

Hosted by Jack Turner. Published by Discovery Channel, 2007.

Ancient India From the Indus Valley Civilisation to Mughal Imperialism

A short (48 minute) documentary of Indian history from the civilisations of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa through the ages until Islamic imperialism. Featured historians include Sunil Kumar, Dr Vivek Nanda of UCL, Dr David Hardiman of Warwick University. Narrated by John Viner.

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