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“Ancient-medievalmodern" UPSC NOTE

 Limitations of the "ancient-medievalmodern"

  • The all-too-familiar triad of historical periodisation — ancient, medieval, modern — now universal, has rather specific provincial and temporal origins. 

  • All societies evolved their own modes of dividing their history into periods.

  • Dynastic and regnal was the one prevalent in India, Iran, the Turko-Mongol regions, besides Europe. 

  • The creation of eras, such as Vikrami, Shaka, and Ilahi or the era of piety in Islam coinciding with the Prophet.

  • The first four caliphs and the steady decline afterwards were among many other modes.

  • The triad took birth in Europe around the 16th-17th centuries.

  • First in the history of theology and steadily in society’s history, finding its largely evolved form in 1688 at the hands of Cellarius, a German

  • This was the era when over the past few centuries, Europe had been creating its new self-image of rationality, science and progress, in short, modernity; to reinforce it, the inverse image of its immediate past, the medieval, was also created as one of irrationality, regression, and superstition.

  • With the expansion of Europe to the rest of the world during the 18th-20th centuries, besides its trade, arms and politics, its intellectual concepts also found entry into what were becoming its colonies. 

  • The indigenous notions of historical time and space were replaced by the European triad through what Jack Goody calls “The Theft of History” in an unequal power relationship

  • The Dark Age of Europe was transferred to the rest of the world from which Europe must rescue it by bringing to it Enlightenment through colonialism. 

  • Being a human construct, rather than a ground reality, it is, by its nature, transient

  • Some signs of its transience have already appeared with several qualifications getting attached to it.

  • Late Antiquity, Early Medieval, Late Medieval, and Early Modern. 

  • What shape the transience is going to take in the near or distant future is hard to predict

  • One wonders if our modern period will still be considered modern in the 22nd or the 23rd century. 

Alternative Perspectives

  • At the heart of periodisation lies the notion of modernity, for the triad originated from the “modern” and travelled back to the medieval and the ancient.

  • It thus created the image of history of a travel back from the present to the past instead of the other way round. 

  • It vested modernity with the attributes of what it saw as developments in Europe from the 17th-18th centuries onward, ones we have recounted above and much else besides, from where the rest of the world was obliged to emulate them mostly by force

  • The modern world that we inhabit was thus essentially the West’s creation

  • This perception has held unquestioned sway for over a couple of centuries everywhere. 

  • It is only in the past three or four decades that the view has come under sharp scrutiny in the West as elsewhere

  • Implied in this transformation is the premise that the modern world that we inhabit and its “modernity” are not the gift of any one region of the globe and any single segment of humanity nor confined to a given time bracket but rather the cumulative outcome of contributions of all societies and civilisations throughout the period of history known to us. 

  • Whether in terms of material objects such as crops, metals or technologies or ideas and concepts such as philosophies, sciences, religions, the fine arts, literature, economic systems, and state systems, all civilisations have at different times added to humanity’s multi-faceted capital to give us the world we live in.

  • This calls for the treatment of history as a universal entity of which regions form constituents, a call made several times by historians in the past

  • It also implies history to be a continual process rather than an aggregate of disparate tranches.


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: “Ancient-medievalmodern" UPSC NOTE
“Ancient-medievalmodern" UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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