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Dividing Histories into Periods or Time - Frames

So, we have come to the conclusion that dates and time frames are essential to record history. Let us see how historian divided history into periods or time –frames.

Historians divided history according to their ideas of the past.
To understand this statement let us look at one particular history book - ‘The History of British India’.

A History of British India

This book was written by James Mill. James Mill was born in 1773. He was a Scottish historian, economist, political theorist, and philosopher. His greatest literary monument was the History of British India.

James Mill

In this book, James Mill has divided Indian history into three periods…

  • Hindu
  • Muslim
  • British

Let us see the reasons for this division by James Mill

  • According to Mill before the British came to India, Hindu and Muslim dictators ruled the country.

  • There was religious intolerance, caste discrimination and superstitious practices in the Indian society.

  • Mill felt that only the British could bring enlightenment and happiness to the Indians by refining them.

  • He felt that European culture, arts and law were necessary to uplift the downtrodden Indians.

  • So, James Mill divided his book into 3 periods; namely the Hindu, Muslim and British; to establish his view that the period before British rule was one of darkness and British rule represented all the forces of progress and civilisation.

Many cannot accept James Mill’s division of Indian history into the Hindu, Muslim and British period. Nor can they accept the reasons he had for that division.

Let us see why James Mill’s division was not acceptable.
  • When we talk about ‘Hindu Period’, we have to accept that Muslims were also present during that time- frame.
  • When we talk about ‘Muslim Period’ we have to accept that Hindus were also present during that time-frame.
  • Rulers in ancient India belonged to many faiths so it is wrong to divide history as Hindu period and Muslim period.
  • A period in history cannot be characterized only through the religion of the rulers.
  • The lives and practices of all the people during a time –frame has to be considered while history is being recorded.


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