Even though Indian civilization has interacted with other civilizations over the millennia, there is still a mystery and allure about its history, culture, and religions that still fascinates. The Wonder That Was India by A.L. Basham is a classic interpretation of Indian culture that for over 60 years has been an introduction to the unique culture that covered a subcontinent up until the arrival of the Muslims.
Basham ordered the book by discipline first with history—both pre-recorded and recorded—followed by government, society, everyday life, religion, the arts, and finally language and literature. This allowed for a generally reader friendly book as Basham covered the history of the subcontinent and then used that background to show the societal and cultural developments. Throughout the book are numerous illustrations, drawings, and maps that showed the richness of the civilization. However, being over 60 years old some of the information is out of date and that is not all of the imperfections that future readers should know about. Basham’s writing style is somewhat dry in places and reading becomes as slog. And the illustrations while being spread throughout the book are not easy to find when referenced in the text.
However, even with this downside The Wonder That Was India is still a great introduction into Indian history. A.L. Basham’s enthusiasm is very evident as well as his expertise on the subject. I definitely recommend this book for dedicated history readers, but issue a word of warning to general readers.