Eire, “Reformations”

In June, Yale University Press releases Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 by Carlos M. N. Eire (Yale University). The publisher’s description follows:Reformations

This fast-paced survey of Western civilization’s transition from the Middle Ages to modernity brings that tumultuous period vividly to life. Carlos Eire, popular professor and gifted writer, chronicles the two-hundred-year era of the Renaissance and Reformation with particular attention to issues that persist as concerns in the present day. Eire connects the Protestant and Catholic Reformations in new and profound ways, and he demonstrates convincingly that this crucial turning point in history not only affected people long gone, but continues to shape our world and define who we are today.

The book focuses on the vast changes that took place in Western civilization between 1450 and 1650, from Gutenberg’s printing press and the subsequent revolution in the spread of ideas to the close of the Thirty Years’ War. Eire devotes equal attention to the various Protestant traditions and churches as well as to Catholicism, skepticism, and secularism, and he takes into account the expansion of European culture and religion into other lands, particularly the Americas and Asia. He also underscores how changes in religion transformed the Western secular world. A book created with students and nonspecialists in mind, Reformations is an inspiring, provocative volume for any reader who is curious about the role of ideas and beliefs in history.

Asif, “A Book of Conquest”

In September, Harvard University Press will release A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia by Manan Ahmed Asif (Columbia). The publisher’s description follows:

Book of ConquestThe question of how Islam arrived in India remains markedly contentious in South Asian politics. Standard accounts center on the Umayyad Caliphate’s incursions into Sind and littoral western India in the eighth century CE. In this telling, Muslims were a foreign presence among native Hindus, sowing the seeds of a mutual animosity that presaged the subcontinent’s partition into Pakistan and India many centuries later.

But in a compelling reexamination of the history of Islam in India, Manan Ahmed Asif directs attention to a thirteenth-century text that tells the story of Chach, the Brahmin ruler of Sind, and his kingdom’s later conquest by the Muslim general Muhammad bin Qasim in 712 CE. The Chachnama has long been a touchstone of Indian history, yet it is seldom studied in its entirety. Asif offers a close and complete analysis of this important text, untangling its various registers and genres in order to reconstruct the political vision at its heart.

Asif challenges the main tenets of the Chachnama’s interpretation: that it is a translation of an earlier Arabic text and that it presents a history of conquest. Debunking both ideas, he demonstrates that the Chachnama was originally Persian and, far from advancing a narrative of imperial aggression, is a subtle and sophisticated work of political theory, one embedded in both the Indic and Islamic ethos. This social and intellectual history of the Chachnama is an important corrective to the divisions between Muslim and Hindu that so often define Pakistani and Indian politics today.