Asian History: Asian History: India, China by Edward Pannell and Raymond C Nelson

Title: Asian History: Asian History: India, China

Authors: Edward Pannell and Raymond C Nelson

Publisher: Amazon Asia Pacific Holdings Private Limited

Date of Publication: 14 September 2017

Genre: History/ Politics

Rating: 4/5

“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great-grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.”- Mark Twain

An unbiased and concise guide that delves into the very heart of the Indian subcontinent.

Opening with the inevitable enchantment that the very name has left for ages on the minds of people, Edward Pannell vows to leave no stone unturned. Drawing on the exotic ambience that became the reason for invaders to want to occupy this land, Pannell presents a historical perspective from the days of “milk and honey”. The narrative begins with the medieval era, ever since which the rise and demise of several ruling dynasties left India to be juggled from one hand to the other only to augment its magnetism. The French, Portuguese and European naval arrivals led to the British settlements leaving the final blow to the subcontinent by forcing its split into 3 parts of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Noting the various impressions on this land, he dissects the evolution of Indian history in a precise and factual manner. The counter events and civil revolutions are pitched with pros and cons to the original events that have several political bases. Pannell masters the art of presenting such a vivid and vibrant picture within mere 55 pages.

The language of the book is concise with short sentences that are easily understood. His apt choice of words presents the facts in a scientific and precise manner. Everything is to the point. The book follows a chronological movement of events. Images are patterned in the order in which they actually occurred. Pannell does not provide any personal detailing or added comments. The book serves as a handy guide for those interested in visiting or are already planning a trip to India in the near future. It may even be used as an introductory course book for school.

Some interesting facts included in the book are: corruption is not the only reason for India’s regression; it is the largest democracy in the world; falls in the category of one of the top 10% of wealthy nations; though a large section of the society is lives in abject poverty struggling for access to basic necessities. For those above them in the social strata things aren’t any better. They can only avail infrastructure and employment facilities that are below average in comparison to a lot of the world. Yet, India poses to be a promising superpower on the rise. The addition of “Interesting Facts” and “Pop Quizzes” at the end of each chapter makes the book more engaging. It highlights that one of the primary characteristics of India’s rich culture and heritage is its unity in the midst of diversity. It reassures of making a visit to India a unique experience that once attracted tourists because of its well established education, cultural and spiritual centres which explains the presence of eligible Indian origin workforce abroad, the spread of Ayurveda and the global practice of yoga to name a few.

The book gives an overview into everything Indian but it does not provide any travel tips though it may complement a travel guide well. Towards the end of the book is some useful information about sight-seeing in Delhi, visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra or Jaisalmer forts and Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad though the information is limited and misses out travel tips on the whole. However, the book helps in forming a connection with India to those who are absolutely alien to its rich history and culture.

Effortless, briefly enlightening and a very helpful handbook.

“A journey of a thousand miles, / begins at one’s feet.” Dao De Jing

Raymond Nelson returns with yet another concise but detailed coverage of Chinese history in terms of its economic, political, cultural and religious heritage. The book begins with the task of clarifying the misconception that the isolation of China had made it weak and not as prosperous as its Western contemporaries. Though trading with the West had stopped abruptly during the Ming Dynasty but it only made it a strong economic driving force in the region. The book opens with a timeline of China’s dynastic leagues from the Prehistoric Times through the Xia, Shang, Qin, Xin, Sui, Liao dynasties to the modern day People’s Republic of China established in 1949. Some of these dynasties are elaborated in detail along with the workings of the famous Silk Route.

China has emerged as a modern rising nation though in the past it had to battle the invasion of Genghis Khan and his ancestors who marked a fairly long reign. Again during World War II, Mao Zedong’s Communist Party allied with the Nationalist party to take a leap forward in Chinese politics. This became a major turning point in Chinese history and can be seen as laying the ethic of combining industry and agriculture which is very inclined towards the betterment of the working classes and is anti- capitalist. Despite the ups and downs China’s significant role in the entrepreneurial global chessboard and its influence cannot be denied. The book also shows China’s remarkable online growth in spite of its state controlled media. Very summarily, it also sketches the growing smartphone and fashion industry that has been able to create rippling effects globally, making China a tough global competitor. Further, the book shows the stages of development in the Chinese language and script along with chapters on the therapeutic effects of Chinese medicinal practices. Chinese religious beliefs and cultural mores find mention in their influence, depth and far reaching appeal. An aspect of China’s outreach is its film industry full of world famous actors and composers. While their folk tales talk about the rich culture, the various tourist attractions give an idea about the beauty of Chinese landscape and makes the book a good introductory guide for those planning their next trip to China. On the whole though Nelson seems to be giving more emphasis on successful Chinese foreign policies by sketching out China’s relations with various Western (first) world countries, Nelson chooses only to dwell on the best and positive aspects. Chinese societal or environmental issues do not find any mention. The information, thus, is rather basic and generalised which makes the book a tad bit lengthy but it definitely covers most things Chinese. The lack of illustrations can make it hard to keep focus throughout but it can be a good introductory guide for those interested in China, Asia or the far East.

Both the books in the bundle are good introductory guides to India and China. However, placing the two together in the bundle does not mean that they have any content corresponding to one another or in terms of the political, social, economic and interpersonal relations of the two nations. Pannell and Nelson have added to the appeal of the collection with their own unique insight.

Click the book cover to grab your copy. Happy Reading!


The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Title: The Art of War

Author: Sun Tzu

Translator: Thomas Cleary

Publisher: Fingerprint Classics

Date of Publication: First published in 5th Century

Genre: Classics

Rating: 4/5





Words of wisdom straight from the horse’s mouth.

Originally written with ink on bamboo in circa 500 B.C., The Art of War by Tzu is of vital importance in a world of insurmountable conflict. Also known as The Thirteen Chapters, the text is laid out in 13 chapters of almost equal length. Each chapter begins with a broader title which confines straight forward postulations presented in a discrete, point wise manner. The text remains so readily comprehensible that no background to military fiction is required. A linearity of reading may be dropped to grab random points at a single go. Each point presents highly speculative sub themes requiring closer analysis. Despite its title, the text presents strategy which will be applicable in public administration and planning of modern Althusserian State apparatuses. Most theories of battle advocate diplomacy and cultivation of good relationship with other nations and their leaders. The points cover a broad sphere of planning, execution, manoeuvring and strategic tactical dispositions. Calculative speculation is considered analogous to the larger motive at hand. The text is highly didactic, argumentative and logical. Chapters of special importance include strategies of dealing with tough geographical terrain and the use of spies. With ideas such as “divine manipulation of the threads” juxtaposing “forethought”, it totally negates the notion of a Machiavellian fate working with a negative oppositional force to human endeavours. Victory is to be achieved through persistence and proper planning. Applicable at interpersonal and international levels, the text utilises the basics of human psychology to reinforce the combined impact of inner mental strength and physical endurance as the very essence of combat. The larger impression is that managerial skills can only be mastered through discipline and calm in the face of disorder. In teaching self-possession, Tzu musters the idea that the ability to utilise strengths and weaknesses of the opponent in equal proportions makes an eminent leader. Control is to be earned by clever administration, direct communication and visionary leadership.

Epigrammatic and profound.