Previous Page [Digital South Asia Library] Next Page

Schwartzberg Atlas, v. , p. xvii.

Switch to image view


This atlas seeks to provide a comprehensive cartographic record of the history of South Asia from the Old Stone Age to the present day. South Asia we normally take to include the present areas of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Burma is included for the period from the mid-18th century until the granting of its independence in 1948. A more cursory view of the history of Southeast Asia is presented for the more than one and a half millennia during which it could be viewed largely as a cultural exten- sion of India, ending with the period of large-scale European intervention in the 16th century. Other regions, particularly Central Asia and, to a lesser degree, Southwest Asia and China, are also considered from time to time insofar as their internal history and interactions with South Asia are relevant to an understanding of the course of events in that area. Finally, for several topics coverage extends to all of Eurasia or to the world as a whole.

History we take in its broadest sense to include not merely the recounting, analysis, and interpretation of political events, but also the consideration of cul- tural, social, demographic, and economic developments. For our purposes it be- gins not with the advent of the written word or even of myth, but with the coming of man on the South Asian stage, hundreds of thousands of years ago. Although we do not deal extensively with physiographic history, we do touch upon some of the changes in landforms and climate likely to have shaped man's occupance of and movement within the region of our concern. Naturally, the depth of our cov- erage varies in inverse relationship to the depth of our ignorance about times past. More than half the atlas, for example, relates to historical events and processes at work during the period since 1857 and to the patterns of human geography by which those events and processes are spatially expressed. By contrast, the whole of the Stone Age, several hundred thousand years in all, is covered on a single plate.

Although for many purposes this atlas may be used as a reference and a research tool in and of itself, it is intended to supplement existing histories of South Asia, many of which we hold in high esteem, not to be used in place of them. And if it is not to replace general histories, a fortiori it could not reasonably replace more specialized works, whether regional or topical in coverage. It is, however, a la- mentable fact that many otherwise admirable historical texts are either totally lacking or grossly deficient in representing cartographically the places, events, and spatial distributions of the phenomena they strive to make comprehensible to their readers. It is also to be regretted that readers commonly fail to read history with a good atlas at hand, whereby they might make up on their own initiative for some of the omissions of the historian. For the history of South Asia no single atlas can be good enough. This one aspires, however, to serve more adequately than any previous volume.

One way this atlas may better serve as an adjunct to the reading of history is through its emphasis on mapping meaningful periods rather than points in time (e.g., "India in 1526") or even very short time spans. By portraying the major events and historical processes of up to several centuries on a single map, we feel we can come to terms with the dynamics of history more effectively than through a sequence of static views. Our method, further, frequently entails overlapping in time from one map to the next and should thereby give a greater sense of historical continuity than do more conventional mapping techniques. Yet there are numer- ous instances, especially in the modern period, when we do show political bound- aries or other types of information as of particular dates. For social and economic data in particular we have selected four years—1872, when the first Indian census was taken, and the census years 1901, 1931, and 1961—as convenient, evenly spaced benchmark dates for mapping in detail a series of distribution patterns. A study of those evolving patterns may provide considerable insight into the historical processes that shaped them.

This atlas comprises five principal parts: the maps in the body of the work, the text, the bibliography, the index, and the inserts (two overlay maps and three chronological charts) in the end cover pocket. We defer for the moment a discus- sion of the bibliography, index, and end cover inserts and consider below the or- ganization of the maps and the text, each of which is divided into fourteen principal sections. The text seeks primarily to elucidate the maps and is keyed closely to them; its several sections vary greatly in length, depending on the complexity of the subject matter and the different degrees to which the maps speak for them- selves. Each section begins with an introductory statement indicating the scope and organization of the map plates with which it deals; discussing the nature, utility, and limitations of the source materials; and outlining, for the neophyte, the major characteristics of the period or broad subject being discussed, particularly from the spatial, or geographic, perspective.

Section I of both the maps and the text presents an outline of the physical stage on which South Asian history has been enacted. Section II, based almost entirely on archaeological evidence, deals with prehistory, including what is sometimes referred to as "protohistory," that is, a period during which writing was used, but for which—as in the case of the Indus script—the written record has not yet been deciphered. The coverage of the section extends from the Paleolithic through the period of the Indus, or Harappan, Culture, marked by South Asia's first urban civilization, and into the Iron Age, beginning, it appears, early in the 1st millen- nium B.C. Sections III through IX deal with South Asian "history," conceived here as being based, at least in part, on written records—even if, as in the case of cer- tain early texts, the earliest datable versions follow by centuries the initial oral traditions from which they sprang. We begin with the evidence of the Vedas— the oldest of which, the &Rtod;g Veda, seems to have attained its final form not much later than 1000 B.C. These sacred texts cast a dim light on the migration of Aryan tribes into South Asia in the latter half of the 2nd millennium B.C. and on their subsequent movements across northern India and toward the south over a period of nearly a thousand years. It is only with the advent of the scriptures of Buddhism and Jainism in the 6th century B.C. that distinct historical personages appear on the scene, and only with the Greek chronicles of the exploits of Alexander that a record of specific datable events, explicitly written as history, begins. Within sec- tions III through IX the emphasis is on political history, but considerable attention is also devoted to social and cultural processes. Economic and demographic his- tory generally get rather short shrift because of the paucity and poor quality of relevant source materials. For the past century, however, the data improve dra- matically, enabling us to devote two lengthy sections of the atlas, X and XI, to social and cultural evolution and to economic and demographic evolution. Sec- tion XII elucidates the rural and urban settlement pattern of India, which, through treated in the light of numerous concrete modern examples, has roots far back in time. The purposes of section XIII are to make using other parts of the atlas easier and to help the reader study South Asia and its component regions in and through other works. The final major section of this work, XIV, "A Geopolitical Synopsis," provides an overview of more than two and a half millennia of South Asian po- litical history, which it seeks to explain in part by a probabilistic analysis of sta- tistical data on the evolving power configurations in the Indian subcontinent. The text attempts to interpret the patterns revealed by that analysis in the light of changing sets of environmental constraints and opportunities in different histori- cal periods.

In dividing South Asian history into periods in sections III through IX, we do not seek to establish sharp borderlines or to create watertight compartments. A number of our periods overlap and, as already noted, so do many pairs of conse- cutive maps or map groups. We reject such simple, though formerly fashionable, schemata as "Hindu," "Mohammedan," and "British" periods; or the transplanted European categories "Ancient," "Medieval," and "Modern"; or the patently in- applicable Marxist stages of "Slavery," "Feudalism," "Capitalism," and "Com- munism." Among the various periodization schemes put forward to date, our own most closely resembles that of the ten-volume History and Culture of the Indian People, now nearing completion under the general editorship of R. C. Majumdar. But while our approach is methodologically similar to that of the HCIP, our chronological breakdown and our period designations differ considerably.

The time span we characterize under the title "From the Vedic through the Classical Age" (section III) covers more than one and a half millennia from about 1000 B.C. (as noted above) to the 7th century A.D. During this time Brahmanical Hinduism and Buddhism were diffused throughout the Indian subcontinent; the first pan-Indian state, the Mauryan Empire, arose, flourished, and died; enduring

Previous Page To Table of Contents Next Page

Back to Schwartzberg Atlas | Back to the DSAL Page

Warning: include(/Volumes/data/www/dsal/updateinfo.php) [function.include]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /Library/WebServer/Documents/dsal/reference/schwartzberg/footer on line 27

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening '/Volumes/data/www/dsal/updateinfo.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:') in /Library/WebServer/Documents/dsal/reference/schwartzberg/footer on line 27