JAWAHARLAL NEHRU Glimpses of World History – Introduction






My father’s three books — Glimpses of World History, An Autobiography and The Discovery of India — have been my companions through life. It is difficult to be detached about them.

Indeed Glimpses was written for me. It remains the best introduction to the story of man for young and growing people in India and all over the world. The Autobiography has been acclaimed as not merely the quest of one individual for freedom, but as an insight into the making of the mind of new India. I had to correct the proofs of Discovery while my father was away, I think in Calcutta, and I was in Allahabad ill with mumps! The Discovery delves deep into the sources of India’s national personality. Together, these books have moulded a whole generation of Indians and inspired persons from many other countries.

Books fascinated Jawaharlal Nehru. He sought out ideas. He was extraordinarily sensitive to literary beauty. In his writings he aimed at describing his motives and appraisals as meticulously as possible. The purpose was not self-justification or rationalization, but to show the Tightness and inevitability of the actions and events in which he was a prime participant. He was a luminous man and his writings reflected the radiance of his spirit.

The decision of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund to bring out a uniform edition of these three classics will be widely welcomed.
Indira Gandhi New Delhi 4 November 1980


I DO not know when or where these letters will be published, or whether they will be published at all, for India is a strange land to-day and it is difficult to prophesy. But I am writing these lines while I have the chance to do so, before events forestall me.

An apology and an explanation are needed for this historical series of letters. Those readers who take the trouble to go through them will perhaps find the apology and the explanation. In particular, I would refer the reader to the last letter, and perhaps it would be as well, in this topsy-turvy world, to begin at the end.

The letters have grown. There was little of planning about them, and I never thought that they would grow to these dimensions. Nearly six years ago, when my daughter was ten years old, I wrote a number of letters to her containing a brief and simple account of the early days of the world. These early letters were subsequently published in book form and they had a generous reception. The idea of continuing them hovered in my mind, but a busy life full of political activity prevented it from taking shape. Prison gave me the chance I needed, and I seized it.

Prison-life has its advantages; it brings both leisure and a measure of detachment. But the disadvantages are obvious. There are no libraries or reference books at the command of the prisoner, and, under these conditions, to write on any subject, and especially history, is a
foolhardy undertaking. A number of books came to me, but they could not be kept. They came and went. Twelve years ago, however, when, in common with large numbers of my countrymen and countrywomen, I started my pilgrimages to prison, I developed the habit of making notes of the books I read. My note-books grew in number and they came to my rescue when I started writing. Other books of course helped me greatly, among them inevitably, H. G. Wells’s Outline of History. But the lack of good reference books was very real, and because of this the narrative had often to be slurred over, or particular periods skipped.

The letters are personal and there are many intimate touches in them which were meant for my daughter alone. I do not know what to do about them, for it is not easy to take them out without considerable effort. I am therefore leaving them untouched.
Physical inactivity leads to introspection and varying moods. I am afraid these changing moods are very apparent in the course of these letters, and the method of treatment is not the objective one of a historian. I do not claim to be a historian. There is an unfortunate mixture of elementary writing for the young and a discussion at times of the ideas of grown-ups. There are numerous repetitions. Indeed, of the faults that these letters contain there is no end. They are superficial
sketches joined together by a thin thread. I have borrowed my facts and ideas from odd books, and many errors may have crept in. It was my intention to have these letters revised by a competent historian, but during my brief period out of prison I have not had the time to make any such arrangement.
In the course of these letters I have often expressed my opinions rather aggressively. I hold to those opinions, but even as I was writing the letters my outlook on history changed gradually. To-day if I had to re-write them, I would write differently or with a different emphasis. But I
cannot tear up what I have written and start afresh.

January 1, 1934.


A Birthday Letter 1
1 A New Year’s Gift 3
2 The Lesson of History 6
3 Inqilab Zindabad 7
4 Asia and Europe 9
5 The Old Civilizations and Our Inheritance 11
6 The Hellenes 13
7 The Greek City-States 16
8 Empires in Western Asia 18
9 The Burden of Old Tradition 21
10 The Village Republics of Ancient India 23
11 A Thousand Years of China 26
12 The Call of the Past 29
13 Where Do Riches Go To ? 32
14 The Sixth Century Before Christ, and Religion 34
15 Persia and Greece 38
16 The Glory that was Hellas 43
17 A Famous Conqueror but a Conceited Young Man 46
18 Chandragupta Maurya and the Arthashastra 49
19 Three Months ! 53

20 The Arabian Sea 54
21 A Holiday and A Dream Journey 55
22 Man’s Struggle for a Living 57
23 A Survey 60
24 Ashoka, the Beloved of the Gods 61
25 The World of Ashoka’s Time 65
26 The Ch’ins and the Hans 68
27 Rome against Carthage 70
28 The Roman Republic becomes an Empire 73
29 South India Overshadows the North 78
30 The Borderland Empire of the Kushans 81
31 Jesus and Christianity 84
32 The Roman Empire 87
33 The Roman Empire splits up and finally becomes a Ghost 91
34 The Idea of the World State 94
35 Parthia and the Sassanids 97
36 South India Colonizes 98
37 Hindu Imperialism under the Guptas 103
38 The Huns come to India 106
39 India’s Control of Foreign Markets 108
40 The Ups and Downs of Countries and Civilizations 109

41 China Flourishes under the Tangs 113
42 Chosen and Dai Nippon 117
43 Harsha-Vardhana and Hiuen Tsang 121
44 South India Produces many Kings and Warriors and a Great Man 126
45 India in the Middle Ages 130
46 Angkor the Magnificent and Sri Vijaya 133
47 Rome Relapses into Darkness 136
48 The Coming of Islam 141
49 The Arabs Conquer from Spain to Mongolia 145
50 Baghdad and Harunal-Rashid 149
51 From Harsha to Mahmud in North India 153
52 The Countries of Europe Take Shape 157
53 The Feudal System . 162
54 China Pushes the Nomads to the West 165
55 The Shogun Rules in Japan 169
56 The Quest of Man 171
57 The End of the First Millennium after Christ 174
58 Another Look at Asia and Europe 179
59 The Maya Civilization of America 182
60 A Jump Back to Mohenjo-daro 186
61 Cordoba and Granada 188

62 The Crusades 192
63 Europe at the Time of the Crusades 196
64 The Rise of European Cities 202
65 The Afghans Invade India 207
66 The Slave Kings of Delhi 212
67 Chengiz Khan Shakes up Asia and Europe 215
68 The Mongols Dominate the World 221
69 Marco Polo, the Great Traveller 225
70 The Roman Church becomes Militant 228
71 The Fight against Authoritarianism 232
72 The Passing of the Middle Ages 234
73 The Discovery of the Sea Routes 239
74 The Break-up of the Mongol Empires 244
75 India Begins to Tackle a Difficult Problem 248
76 The Kingdoms of South India 253
77 Vijayanagar 257
78 The Malaysian Empires of Madjapahit and Malacca 259
79 Europe Begins to Grab in Eastern Asia 264
80 An Age of Peace and Prosperity in China 266
81 Japan Shuts Herself Up 271
82 Europe in Turmoil 274
83 The Renaissance 277
84 The Protestant Revolt and the Peasants’ War 281

85 Autocracy in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe 285
86 The Netherlands Fight for Freedom 290
87 England Cuts Off the Head of her King 295
88 Babar 301
89 Akbar 305
90 The Decline and Fall of the Moghal Empire in India 312
91 The Sikhs and the Marathas 317
92 The English Triumph over their Rivals in India 321
93 A Great Manchu Ruler in China 327
94 A Chinese Emperor Writes to an English King 331
95 The War of Ideas in Eighteenth-Century Europe 335
96 Europe on the Eve of Great Changes 340
97 The Coming of the Big Machine 345
98 The Industrial Revolution Begins in England 350
99 America Breaks Away from England 355
100 The Fall of the Bastille 361
101 The French Revolution 366
102 Revolution and Counter-Revolution 371
103 The Ways of Governments 377
104 Napoleon 380
105 More about Napoleon 387
106 A Survey of the World 393

107 The Hundred Years before the World War 397
108 The Nineteenth Century Continued 402
109 Wars and Revolt in India 408
110 The Indian Artisan Goes to the Wall 416
111 The Village, the Peasant, and the Landlord in India 421
112 How Britain Ruled India . 428
113 The Reawakening of India 435
114 Britain Forces Opium on China 443
115 China in Difficulties 449
116 Japan Rushes Ahead 453
117 Japan Defeats Russia 459
118 China becomes a Republic 464
119 Farther India and the East Indies 468
120 Another New Year’s Day 475
121 The Philippines and the United States of America 477
122 Where Three Continents Meet 481
123 A Look Back 485
124 The Persistence of Iran’s Old Traditions 490
125 Imperialism and Nationalism in Persia 495
126 About Revolutions Generally, and especially those of Eighteen Forty-eight in Europe 500
127 Italy becomes a United and Free Nation 507
128 The Rise of Germany 510
129 Some Famous Writers 517
130 Darwin and the Triumph of Science 521

131 The Advance of Democracy 527
132 The Coming of Socialism 532
133 Karl Marx and the Growth of Workers’ Organizations 537
134 Marxism 543
135 The Victorian Age in England 549
136 England becomes the World’s Money-lender 555
137 Civil War in America 560
138 The Invisible Empire of America 567
139 Seven Hundred Years of Conflict between Ireland and England 572
140 Home Rule and Sinn Fein in Ireland 578
141 Britain Seizes and Holds on to Egypt 583
142 Turkey becomes the  » Sick Man of Europe  » 590
143 The Russia of the Tsars 597
144 The Russian Revolution of 1905 that Failed 602
145 The End of an Epoch 607
146 The World War Begins 612
147 India on the Eve of the War 620
148 War 1914-1918 625
149 The Course of the War 631
150 The Passing Away of Tsardom in Russia 638
151 The Bolsheviks Seize Power 645

152 The Soviets Win Through 652
153 Japan Bullies China 661
154 India during War-Time 667
155 The New Map of Europe 674
156 The Post-War World 684
157 Ireland’s Fight for a Republic 690
158 A New Turkey Rises from the Ashes 696
159 Mustafa Kemal Breaks with the Past 705
160 India Follows Gandhi 711
161 India in the Nineteen-Twenties 719
162 Peaceful Rebellion in India 726
163 Egypt’s Fight for Freedom 735
164 What Independence under the British Means 742
165 Western Asia Re-enters World Politics 749
166 The Arab Countries—Syria 755
167 Palestine and Trans-Jordan 762
168 Arabia—A Jump from the Middle Ages 767
169 Iraq and the Virtues of Aerial Bombing 773
170 Afghanistan and Some Other Countries of Asia 779
171 The Revolution that Did Not Come Off 785
172 A New Way of Paying Old Debts 792
173 The Strange Behaviour of Money 797

174 Move and Counter-Move 804
175 Mussolini and Fascism in Italy 813
176 Democracy and Dictatorships 820
177 Revolution and Counter-Revolution in China 827
178 Japan Defies the World 834
179 The Union of Socialist Soviet Republics 843
180 The Piatiletka, or Russia’s Five Year Plan 851
181 The Soviet Union’s Difficulties, Failures and Successes 857
182 Science Goes Ahead 865
183 The Good and Bad Applications of Science 871
184 The Great Depression and World Crisis 875
185 What Caused the Crisis 881
186 The Struggle of America and England for Leadership 888
187 The Dollar, the Pound, and the Rupee 896
188 The Capitalist World Fails to Pull Together 904
189 Revolution in Spain 907
190 The Nazi Triumph in Germany 91]
191 Disarmament 922
192 President Roosevelt to the Rescue 926
193 The Failure of Parliaments 931
194 A Final Look Round the World 936
195 The Shadow of War 941
196 The Last Letter 949

Postscript 954
Index 972

Civilizations of Western Asia and South-Eastern Europe 15
The Beginning of Chinese Civilization 27
The Greeks and the Persians 41
Alexander’s Empire 47
Ashoka 268-226 B.C. 66
Rome Becomes an Empire 75
India at the Time of the Kushan Empire 82
India Colonizes 100
The Tang Empire 114
The Arabs Conquer 147
Europe in the 9th Century 159
Asia and Europe about 1000 A.D. 175
The Maya Civilization 184
Europe in the 13th Century 198
Chengiz—  » The Scourge of God  » 217
The Discoveries 241
The Revolt against Rome 282
Akbar’s Empire 307

The English and French Fight for India 323
The Empire of Chien Lung 333
America Breaks Away 357
Napoleon over Europe 382
India at the Time of the Great Revolt, 1857 410
Britain and China 444
The Growth of Japan 455
Farther India and the East Indies 470
The Ottoman Empire in the 16th-17th Centuries 483
Russia and Persia 497
Italy in 1815 508
The Growth of Germany 513
The Expansion of the U.S.A. 562
Britain Seizes Egypt 585
The Turk’s Last Foothold in Europe 592
Europe 1914-15 614
Europe 1918 627
Soviet Russia 1918-19 654
The Succession States 675
New Countries of Europe 678
Mustafa Kemal Saves Turkey 698
Western Asia Re-awakened 751

The Arab Countries 757
Ibn Saud’s Arabia 768
Afghanistan 781
France over Europe 806
Italy and the Mediterranean 815
The Chinese Revolution 829
Japan’s War on China 838
The U.S.S.R. Opens Up Central Asia 845
The War in Spain 909
The Berlin-Rome Axis 969
Chronological Charts xvi

xviii xix
Dates are not very attractive things. And yet they help in putting things in their right place, so
that we may have an ordered sequence in our minds. A long list of dates is a most depressing
affair. I have arranged some important dates in a different form, as you will see. Various parts of
the world are represented by different columns so that you can have a very rough idea at a glance
of what the world was like at a particular stage or date. Of course the idea will be very very
rough. This chronology is meant to be used for reference purposes. Having finished with it I now
feel that I could have made a better one! But this will have to do for the present. It represents a
few days’ hard work.
Dehra Dun Jail
August 22, 1933i


For the very early periods of human history dates are sometimes pure guesswork. Sometimes
they are so uncertain that experts differ about them by a thousand years. The earliest remains of
human culture so far discovered take us back to beyond 5000 B.C. , that is to about 7000 years
ago. Egyptian history is supposed to begin then. It was the end of the age of stone. Egypt was
then split up into many small states. Archaeologists have also discovered the early remains of a
civilization, dating from about 5000 B.C, in Chaldea or Elam (Mesopotamia). The capital city of
this was Susa. Most of the archaeological discoveries have been made in Egypt and in
Mesopotamia because most of the digging has taken place there. Probably similar discoveries, of
a like date, will be made in other countries also. This idea is strengthened by the next batch of
archaeological finds which dates from about 3500 B.C. These discoveries take us right across
Asia: from Egypt-Chaldea—Eastern Persia—Indus Valley in India—Western Turkestan—to the
Yellow River or Hoang-Ho in China. In all these places a common stage of development is
found. It is the end of the age of polished stone and copper is beginning to be used. There is
agriculture, and domestic animals; and trade, and tools of the same type, and beautiful jewellery
of gold and silver, and painted pottery with many similar designs. Writing had already appeared.
It appears that a common civilization existed at this period, about 5500 years ago, from Egypt to
North India and China. Because of the common pottery this has been called the 'Painted Pottery
Civilization.' This civilization is already so advanced, its culture and fine arts are so developed,
that it has thousands of years of cultural growth behind it. This is the period of Mohenjo Daro in
India with its fine houses and streets and artistic development. In Egypt the separate states now
join together to form one state under the Pharoahs-the god-kings. In Chaldea two powerful states
appear about this time-Sumer and Akkad-with a high degree of culture; and on the banks of the
Euphrates stands the famous city of Ur—'Ur of the Chaldees' it is called in the Bible. From this
common 'Painted Pottery Civilization' the four great eastern civilizations-Egyptian,
Mesopotamian (including Persian orIranian), Indian, and Chinese-diverge and develop separately. Thus we have

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