The Maratha Confederacy is a chapter in Indian history that guarantees great conversation if you are objective and very heated arguments if you are not. Being a Maharashtrian, my interest in the Maratha Confederacy in general and Maratha history in particular, is often considered to be a matter of blind regional pride. And while I have attempted several times to explain that my interest is curiously academic, I often fail to convince.
And my curious academic interest is why I have been slowly reading this book for a while and finally have a slightly better sense of the Confederacy. Prof. Kadam’s book, while a stellar research on the confederacy, fell short of making an impact in a better understanding of its “origin and the development.”
In recent times I have been seeking books of Indian origin about Indian history to better understand local and cultural perspectives, which may have been absent in the chronicles by foreign writers. Thankfully, many Indian writers, especially academic, have risen to the task and are now re-documenting Indian history. And perhaps there lies the problem: for one, the books read more like research papers than books. Almost every book is a derivative of a Ph.D. thesis, slightly enhanced.
Consider this book: it has in-depth research, micro-level facts (often irrelevant) across the various aspects that contributed to the rise and decline of the confederacy. Yet, because of its structure, it is unable to make a lucid explanation of the “history” of the confederacy. This is not to say that all the research is useless, on the contrary, it provides pointers into the makings of, the coming together and the breaking apart of the, Maratha power. The facts are all there, the analysis is irregular and often missing. It is left to the reader, to laboriously piece together all contributing issues and make sense of the “origin and the development (and the signifiers of the decline).”
It is not very clear whether this books was written as a reference book, a research paper or a history book. If it was the later, it fails, else, if you have an (objective) interest in the study of the Maratha Confederacy, this book is for you.