The Study of Man: What Western Colonialism Gave to Asia
In K. M. Panikkar’s own words, his book is “perhaps the first attempt by an Asian student to see and understand European activities in Asia for 450 years.” I would add that it is also the first attempt to see them as a whole, without polemical or apologetic intent. Not only has no other Asian writer ventured upon such a synthesis: no European one has either. There is indeed a steadily growing literature on colonial history and politics, an abundance of monographs and large standard works by men better trained in historical analysis and more familiar with the source materials than Panikkar. He, a historian, statesman, and diplomat, has a rather sketchy grounding in many fields and is not always reliable as to details, being more of a judge and critic than a chronicler. But his true originality and value lie elsewhere.
The history of Asian-European relations over recent centuries is complicated by resentments, by pangs of conscience, by realizations of failure, of troubles caused and injustices done. Hardly any historical work can avoid such things altogether; virtually no one so far has written colonial history without passion and with a clear conscience. With respect to colonialism, Mr. Panikkar’s book reveals an admirably open mind such as perhaps only an Indian is capable of at the present moment—and even an Indian would not have been capable of that a few years ago.
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