Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Idea of India

The Idea of India

20th Anniversary Edition

Sunil Khilnani

Farrar, Straus and Giroux


Trade Paperback

A classic since it was first published in 1997, The Idea of India is a magisterial historical study that addresses the paradoxes and ironies of the world’s largest democracy. When, in 1947, the British divided and departed their most prized imperial possession, they handed a huge, diverse, and poor society to a small nationalist elite. For decades this elite would uphold a political construct, an idea of India grounded in democracy, religious tolerance, economic development, and cultural pluralism. Sunil Khilnani investigates the fate of this idea, offering incisive portraits of Gandhi, Nehru, and other Indian founders and assessing the lively debates among them and their successors over who is an Indian, the meaning of modernity, and India’s place in the world.

In a new introduction written for this edition, Khilnani reflects on the book’s striking relevance to the country’s recent developments—from the rise of a new billionaire class to the election of a government with a more exclusivist conception of Indian identity. Throughout, he provokes readers and illuminates a fundamental question as urgent now as ever: Can the original idea of India survive its own successes?


Praise for The Idea of India

"A splendid—and timely—book . . . Spirited, combative and insight-filled . . . Khilnani has woven a rich analysis of contemporary India and its evolution since independence." —Amartya Sen, The Times Literary Supplement

"A masterful rebuttal to all cultural romantics and religious chauvinists . . . [A] splendid book about definitions of the Indian nation." —Ian Buruma, The New York Review of Books

"Khilnani writes with illuminating dexterity, wit and compassion, and India springs to life through his words." —Judith M. Brown, The New York Times Book Review

"[A] short and brilliant book . . . [which] is difficult to praise too highly . . . [It] manages in the space of 200 pages to identify, unravel and explain many of the complexities of modern India." —David Gilmour, The Independent on Sunday

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Sunil Khilnani

Sunil Khilnani is the author of Incarnations: A History of India in Fifty Lives and Arguing Revolution: The Intellectual Left in Postwar France. He is the Avantha Professor and Director of the India Institute at King’s College London and a visiting professor at Princeton University. He is married to the writer Katherine Boo.

Sunil Khilnani

Sheetal Mallar

Sunil Khilnani

From the Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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