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A History of India

An award winning professor takes you on a breathtaking survey of South Asia from its earliest societies to the modern challenges.
A History of India is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 99.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from A HIstory of India I'm watching Professor Fisher's course "A History of India" and enjoying it tremendously! I've lived in India and studied some aspects of its history and cultures, but Professor Fisher is giving me a broader, yet more comprehensive understanding than I've ever had. He presents a scholarly view with engaging, accessible language and appealing delivery. A great resource.
Date published: 2021-10-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A History of India, superb! I purchased this DVD recently and have watched a couple episodes so far. The instructor seems to be very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the History of India. There are excellent visuals and maps that I find very helpful. I would recommend this course to others.
Date published: 2021-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Job by Professor Fisher! Just finished the course and it was very well done. The course started in Ancient India and moved forward to current times.The history became more detailed as it progressed to modern times. Professor Fisher is an excellent presenter. Great course if you want a good overview.
Date published: 2021-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course One of the best comprehensive and detailed history of India put together.
Date published: 2021-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Well presented wonders of India and the area. Very detailed as needed for the various political and religious entities that governed the behavior of the people. I now have some understanding how a religion, Hindu, other than Christianity can stifle development.
Date published: 2021-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Presentation Lecturer was excellent. I learned a lot about India and it's history.
Date published: 2021-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Fine Introduction to the History of India I bought this course because of my wife, who has travelled throughout India birding. Her comments about this country made me curious to see why she finds it so fascinating. The course is a very fine, basic introductory course to a country with a long, complex and rich history and culture. Prof. Fisher has done a superb job is preparing and organizing this course so that he can focus on the main trends and major developments over thousands of years and a vast territory without burying students in overwhelming details that are interesting to the scholar or person already well-versed in India’s history but not necessary for a general understanding of how modern India has evolved. His bibliography provides ample references for anyone who wants to go more deeply into the topics he presents. I found him to be a superb lecturer: clear, precise and even-handed in presenting the most controversial issues. He takes no positions as his purpose is to educate and help understanding of this extraordinary culture. Of the many Great Courses I have taken, he is one of the finest lecturers and the course is one of the most satisfying. I got exactly what I wanted- an introduction to this fascinating country.
Date published: 2021-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great detail with insight and analysis. I think people have to understand is that the GCP lectures are not youtibe videos, a quick digest of a topic. They will test your patience and essentially your will to learn the subject/topic in question. This course will do that and if you stay with it you will have a solid timeline of the Indian sub-continent's history with which to make your own assertions. The facts and figures are great as is the deep delve into certain topics like the 1857 mutiny etc. Many thanks to the professor for giving his time in this endevour.
Date published: 2021-03-30
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Over 5,000 years, India has been home to a rich tapestry of cultures, and the lands east of the Indus River have long been a hub for trade and cultural exchange. Today the subcontinent contains 20% of the world's population and is an economic powerhouse. Go inside this thrilling story with A History of India, a breathtaking survey of South Asia from its earliest societies through the challenges of the 21st century.


Michael H. Fisher
Michael H. Fisher

Understanding the long history of the people and cultures of the Indian subcontinent from their origins to the present, we can better appreciate all these developing patterns and the major reasons for them.


University of Chicago
Dr. Michael H. Fisher is the Robert S. Danforth Professor of History at Oberlin College, where he offers a range of courses on the history of South Asia, the environmental history of the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan, Mahatma Gandhi, and early travel narratives about India. He earned his M.A. and his Ph.D. in History with a concentration on South Asia from the University of Chicago. He also holds a B.A. in English from Trinity College. Professor Fisher has published 12 books and more than 50 articles on aspects of Indian history. His special interests include the interactions between Indians and Europeans, both in India and in Europe, from the 16th century onward. His books include biographies of Indian settlers and visitors to Britain and histories of the British Empire as it originated and developed in India. His most recent book is A Short History of the Mughal Empire. Since 1971, Professor Fisher has lived, researched, and taught for long periods in India, with briefer trips to Pakistan and Bangladesh. He has been a visiting faculty fellow at the University of Delhi, University of Hyderabad, University of Allahabad, Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, and the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. Professor Fisher has also served on the major committees of the American Historical Association and the American Institute of Indian Studies, among others.

By This Professor

A History of India
A History of India


Earliest History of the Indian Subcontinent

01: Earliest History of the Indian Subcontinent

Begin your study millions of years ago, when plate tectonics shaped the subcontinent's mountains, plateaus, and river systems, which in turn have affected the region's weather, agriculture, and cultural diversity. Review South Asia's four macro-regions and see how geography has guided the course of life....

33 min
Migration and the Adivasi

02: Migration and the Adivasi

Three main cultures inhabited the ancient Indian subcontinent. In this lecture, you'll study the first group, the Adivasi, aboriginal forest dwellers who once comprised the entirety of South Asia's population. See how genetic and linguistic analysis informs us about the Adivasi of 30,000 years ago-and learn about their status in India today....

34 min
Indus Valley Civilization

03: Indus Valley Civilization

Turn to the second group of ancient Indian communities: the urban people of the Indus Valley. Many mysteries abound regarding this long-lost Bronze Age civilization, but Professor Fisher takes you through excavated cities, examines art and artifacts, and reveals what we know about this intriguing society-and what may have happened to them....

31 min
Indo-European Vedic Culture

04: Indo-European Vedic Culture

Explore the ancient foundations of Hinduism, which emerged from a diverse community of people who identified themselves with the Vedas. By studying these sacred poems and hymns, you'll discover much about this civilization's culture and cosmology. You'll also trace the origins and development of the Indo-European language in this fascinating lecture....

31 min
Caste: Varna and Jati

05: Caste: Varna and Jati

The Vedic caste system is one of the most well-known aspects of Hindu society-and also one of the most misunderstood. Find out about the ancient Vedic social order (or Varnas), how it structured society, and how numerous inherited social groups (or Jatis) relate to occupation, creating a diverse and complex society....

30 min
Epic Literature: Ramayana

06: Epic Literature: Ramayana

Delve into the first Indian epic: the Ramayana, which is a poem, a love story, a morality tale, and much more. Discover the story of Prince Rama, his faithful wife, Sita, and the gods that control their lives. It is also an important source for many of the historical details we have about the era....

31 min
Epic History: Mahabharata

07: Epic History: Mahabharata

Shift your attention to India's other major epic, the Mahabharata, which is the longest major text in human history (clocking in at a whopping 1.8 million words). After examining the sources and style of this epic, Professor Fisher surveys its plot and shows what it means from the "emic" perspective of Indians as well as the "etic" perspective of outsiders....

30 min
Dharma in the Bhagavad Gita

08: Dharma in the Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita is arguably one of the most famous texts in world history. Explore the origins and context for the story, delve into the complexities of philosophy and religion that the narrative contains, and understand why it has resonated throughout Indian history and around the world. See how its wisdom is still the basis for Hinduism today....

28 min
The Origins and Rise of Jainism

09: The Origins and Rise of Jainism

In 500 B.C.E., the old Vedic social order was changing as the merchant classes began to achieve upward mobility. Along with these radical cultural and economic changes, alternative religious models emerged to compete with the Vedic cosmology. Here, you'll survey Jainism's origins and philosophy, which require a life of total nonviolence....

30 min
The Origins and Rise of Buddhism

10: The Origins and Rise of Buddhism

Along with the rise of Jainism, 500 B.C.E. also saw the adoption of Buddhism as an alternative to the Vedic tradition. Delve into the life of Siddhartha Gautama and the tenets of his philosophy, including the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path to enlightenment. Then find out how these ideas developed and spread across Asia....

29 min
The Mauryan Empire

11: The Mauryan Empire

Because South Asia is such a large and diverse region, it has seldom been unified under one ruler. But around the time Jainism and Buddhism began challenging the old social order, Chandragupta was able to consolidate and form the subcontinent's first major empire. Uncover the trajectory of his life and the conditions that allowed him to build the Mauryan Empire....

31 min
Ashoka's Imperial Buddhism

12: Ashoka's Imperial Buddhism

Continue your study of the Mauryan Empire with Chandragupta's grandson, Emperor Ashoka, who even today is likely the most famous individual from ancient India. After consolidating his territory in a vicious war, Ashoka became a Buddhist and a model benevolent ruler....

30 min
Deccani and Southern States

13: Deccani and Southern States

Brahmin culture was never as strong in southern India as it was in the north, which meant a diverse range of societies were able to flourish on the Deccan plateau. After explaining some of the region's historical trends, Professor Fisher highlights the distinctive features and interactions of a few prominent southern kingdoms....

31 min
Northwest and North India

14: Northwest and North India

In the wake of the Mauryan Empire's collapse, many regional dynasties emerged across the north and northwest. Unpack the fascinating history of these two macro-regions. Learn about several of the major ethnic groups and the Silk Road trade routes, and then round out the lecture with a study of the famous Gupta dynasty....

31 min
Brahmanic Synthesis

15: Brahmanic Synthesis

While the regional governments remained fragmented at the turn of the Common Era, the Brahmins worked to rebuild their cultural prominence. They formally developed what is today Hinduism, thanks to a series of written manuals, or shastras, which lay out the principles of an ideal life-including notions of dharma, kama, artha, and moksha....

30 min
Indian Parsis, Jews, and Christians

16: Indian Parsis, Jews, and Christians

South Asia has always been a distinctly diverse region, incorporating numerous communities of outsiders who came to the subcontinent via the coasts or across the mountains. Explore the worlds of Parsis, Jews, and Christians in India, and see how they interacted with Hindu society....

30 min
Islam Comes to India

17: Islam Comes to India

Islam has had a profound impact on South Asia, and today the region has the largest Muslim population in the world. After surveying the history and pillars of Islam and its origins in the Middle East, Professor Fisher examines how many people of South Asia became Muslim via trade, invasion, devotion, or personal motivation....

30 min
Indian Sultans

18: Indian Sultans

The binary opposition between Hindus and Muslims oversimplifies what has always been a complex relationship. Here, you'll study that relationship as you meet some of the most prominent Muslim rulers, or Sultans, from the 9th to the 16th centuries. Explore their kingdoms throughout India and their legacies....

31 min
The Early Mughal Empire

19: The Early Mughal Empire

In this first of several lectures on the great Mughal Empire, you'll meet a Central Asian adventurer named Babur, who rode into South Asia from Kabul and conquered the Delhi sultanate. Then witness the checkered career of his son, who almost lost the empire before it could really get started....

33 min
The Reign of Emperor Akbar

20: The Reign of Emperor Akbar

Continue your study of the Mughal Empire by tracing the rule of Emperor Akbar. During his dramatic five-decade reign, he truly established the empire for the long term thanks to several key initiatives: drawing regional rulers into his army, encouraging interreligious marriage, transforming the administrative system, and creating an imperial ideology based on various mystical ideas and practices....

35 min
Later Mughal Emperors

21: Later Mughal Emperors

Succession is a key challenge for any empire. As Emperor Akbar aged, follow the rise of his son, Jahangir, who, once emperor, ruled with aplomb and introduced many new innovations to the subcontinent. His own son, Shah Jahan, then constructed the Peacock Throne, the Taj Mahal, and other glorious architectural triumphs....

33 min
The Mughals and the Marathas

22: The Mughals and the Marathas

The 17th century saw the slow decline of the Mughal Empire during the reign of Emperor Alamgir (also called Aurangzeb). As he aged, he drew the empire into war with the Deccan-based Marathas, who were led by the skillful warrior Shivaji. Watch as the Marathas humiliate the Mughals and establish their own powerful regional identity....

32 min
Competing European Empires

23: Competing European Empires

Now turn from the subcontinent inlands to the sea, where European traders began arriving on the Indian coast to establish global companies, including several East India companies. After surveying Portugal's 200-year dominance of trade, Professor Fisher shows how the English eventually established their own foothold in the market....

29 min
The British East India Company

24: The British East India Company

Witness the rise of the British East India Company and find out how it coincided with the rise of British imperialism. Company leaders often sought glory and expansion, which led to greater British influence and control of South Asia via joint-stock corporations. Take an inside look at these radical developments in the 18th and 19th centuries....

32 min
The Issues and Events of 1857

25: The Issues and Events of 1857

Tension between the British and the South Asians came to a boil in 1857, when a group of Indian soldiers rose up against the British army-to disastrous consequences. Consider the context and historical impact of this pivotal year, which forever changed the nature of British rule in India....

29 min
The British Raj and Early Nationalism

26: The British Raj and Early Nationalism

Continue your study of Indian and British relations with a detailed look at the British Raj, a 90-year period of colonialism that stretched from the 1857 uprising to the region's independence in 1947. Gain insight into Britain's racist policies, and view the beginnings of the subcontinent's struggle for political autonomy....

31 min
India and Indians in the World

27: India and Indians in the World

Whether as students, soldiers, or servants, South Asians who left the subcontinent contributed significantly to the cultural exchange among China, continental Europe, and Great Britain. And whereas the British Raj relied on segregation for political control, Indian immigrants in Britain found greater freedom. Reflect on the impact of South Asians throughout the world....

31 min
Mahatma Gandhi

28: Mahatma Gandhi

Learn about the life of Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi, who is perhaps the 20th century's most well-regarded political activist. You'll trace his life from his young manhood in India to his education in Britain to his activism in South Africa and India. In this lecture, an admirable-but complex-figure emerges....

29 min
Nationalists Ambedkar, Bose, and Jinnah

29: Nationalists Ambedkar, Bose, and Jinnah

While Gandhi advocated one path for reform, many of his contemporaries offered other ways to promote the rights of lower classes and Muslims. Meet Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, three influential social and political leaders, and review their approaches toward national independence and people's rights....

30 min
The Partition of 1947

30: The Partition of 1947

After World War II, a tense series of events led the subcontinent's brutal partition into India and Pakistan-majority Hindu and Muslim nations, respectively. Find out how the British, battered by the war, ceded their empire and hastily created two nation-states whose borders and contested identities left a troubled legacy felt even today....

30 min
West and East Pakistan

31: West and East Pakistan

Between 1947 and 1971, Pakistan was a divided state: separated into East and West, and strained along ethnic lines. The early years of the nation saw numerous coups and uprisings, as well as border wars with India, particularly in Kashmir. Consider the role geography and ethnicity played in the distribution of power....

28 min
The New Pakistan

32: The New Pakistan

Review the story of Pakistan from 1971 to the present. As you survey one shift of power after another, you will meet leaders such as General Zia, Benazir Bhutto, General Musharraf, and Nawaz Sharif. At the end of this lecture, you will have a complete sense of Pakistani history through today....

30 min
Independent Bangladesh

33: Independent Bangladesh

Bangladesh-formerly East Pakistan and the Bengal region of India-was partitioned three times in the 20th century: first by the British in 1905, and then during independence in 1947, and finally from Pakistan in 1971. Professor Fisher reveals this relatively young nation's turbulent history and explores some of its contemporary challenges....

29 min
India under Nehru

34: India under Nehru

Unlike Pakistan and Bangladesh, India became a secular state after its 1947 independence, and it is now the world's largest democracy. This examination of the nation's early years examines Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's vision to transform the nation and some of his successful economic programs....

31 min
Modernizing India

35: Modernizing India

Follow the careers of Indira Gandhi and her children, who led India through many changes in the late 20th century, including the State of Emergency, the rise of ethnic political organizations such as the Sikhs and the Tamils, the nuclear arms race with Pakistan, and numerous transitions of leadership....

29 min
South Asia into the 21st Century

36: South Asia into the 21st Century

Today, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh make up 20 percent of the world's population, and the subcontinent is a rising global economic powerhouse. Professor Fisher concludes this course by recapping some of the major themes and looking at the condition of the region in the 21st century-and some of the developments on the horizon....

34 min