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Illustrated Encyclopaedia & Who's Who Of Princely States In India
Edited, Compiled & Introduction by J.C.Dua
New Delhi: Kaveri Books, 2000
524 pages, plus index

Dr. J.C. Dua has done us all a wonderful service by compiling the first general Indian States reference in many years. This is a people-oriented volume, focused on biographical sketches of rulers and other leading individuals of princely India before Independence.

The princely states and estates numbered between 500 and 700 before Independence. Most books for the lay reader paint a negative picture of the rulers and state officials. They are often described as oppressive and incompetent, focusing more on personal wealth and sex than on the welfare of their people. Dr. Dua provides a refreshing perspective, emphasizing their dual role as conservators of tradition and leaders on the road to democracy. The majority of state rulers and officials were, according to Dua, intelligent, caring individuals who contributed in many positive ways.

Following an insightful introduction, the book is divided into four sections. Salute states, 102 in number, are covered in about 60 pages. Non-salute states, numbering 84, receive roughly 30 pages of attention. The state sections focus on rulers, with coverage varying from a few sentences to a few pages for each. The third and by far largest section, "Who's Who in India", presents a vast array of leading officials, non-officials, ministers, zamindars and so on in the course of about 400 pages. Finally, a small supplementary section presents a handful of states and individuals about whom information was procured just before publication.

One of the wonderful aspects of this volume is the abundance of photographs. Many hundreds of individuals are represented. The photographs are often of poor quality, due to the quality of the original source materials. However, I thank Dr. Dua for compiling so many images of people we might not otherwise have access to.

Dr. J.C. Dua (b. 1944) is currently a Reader in the Department of History at the University of Delhi. This volume was published to coincide with the golden jubilee year of Indian Independence. The book will be a welcome addition to the personal library of all Indian States historians and enthusiasts.

The "Illustrated Encyclopaedia & Who's Who Of Princely States In India" is available directly from the publisher for Rs.2750 in India and US$90 abroad, including post by sea-mail. Payment may be made to Kaveri Books, 4697/5 - 21A, Ansari Rd., New Delhi 110 002 (India). Their phone number is 328 8140, fax is 011 719 8902, and email is kaveribooks@vsnl.com.

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