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All Things American
By Neha Dasgupta
| Category: Education

For a generation that spends its nights watching American sitcoms – I confess my day is incomplete without Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory -  and following Americans ranging from Obama to Oprah on Twitter, most of us are fairly clueless about the events and nuances that shaped America.  I am an exception only because I had an American History paper for a year in college.  And I loved it. So it was a minor heartbreak to see that American history isn’t on offer in Delhi University’s Masters Course.


A wonderful Professor was the catalyst for my interest in the subject but then that interest only grew because American history has it all: blood and tears, gore and glory, quotable quotes and unmentionable scandals. What more do you want in a best-seller?  And once the study and exams are over, it is a combination of the significant and the mundane, the highs and the lows that stays on in your mind: George Washington rejecting a third tenure, declaring that two tenures were enough for any president; the burning of the presidential palace during the War of 1812; Lincoln’s struggle to abolish slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment, Andrew Jackson’s Kitchen Cabinet, the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr... Reading about that last one always cracked me up because for some weird reason, I could only picture it as a Harry Potter-ish scene with robes and wands and wizards....though a scene from a Wild West movie would have been more geographically accurate .


Ok, so I’ve had this thrown at me often: “You only like studying American History because there is so little of it.”  I don't agree. Quite apart from the obvious fact that a paper in American history has as many lectures as one in Chinese history (admittedly the names in the former are easier to remember!), one only has to follow the dramatic changes that unfolded decade after decade since 1776 (or much earlier when Columbus landed there...or even earlier) to be faced with its complexity. 


Fascinating complexity. American history may not have the dynasties that pepper British, Indian, Chinese, Japanese  histories, but the everyday political soap opera of the United states  and its government in the past 237 years has had me riveted. I remember studying with complete fascination the role of Booker.T.Washington, Marcus Garvey , W.E.B Du Bois...their inspirations and their flaws. Talking of inspiring American figures, few of us go beyond Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.I  have other heroes and heroines too - the striking (in more ways than one!) women from the Lowell mills who created the first women’s labour unions; Wyatt Earp – gambler/bouncer/marshal/sheriff (What a story! What a life!); John Brown the abolitionist; pioneering birth control activist and sex educator Margaret Sanger; slave to slave rebellion leader Nat Turner...


So as I dive into my Masters, I will miss you, Am History. But, actually, whatever history you study, can American influence be far behind?


Neha Dasgupta, a Masters students of History at the University of Delhi, has a hobby for every mood. TV when she is bored. Painting (Madhubani) when she is bored of TV. Baking when she is bored of everyone else's cooking. The constants through them all are her dogs, her books, her BBMs and her Facebook updates. But maybe she is a little bored of them and so makes her blogging debut here....

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Vipin Kumar's picture

Nice blog

Well said and well put with an impressive style. keep blogging.