The Asia Society inaugurated its new Asian Arts & Ideas series this month with “The ‘Chindia’ Dialogues,” a three-day forum that examined the confluence of the world’s two most powerful developing economies.
The organizers chose an unusual point of departure for event — not a historical overview, but a conversation between Jonathan Spence, former Sterling Professor of History at Yale, and the Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh. Ghosh’s most recent book, “River of Smoke,” centers around the mid-19th century Opium Wars, and in their talk, Ghosh and Spence used the topic as a lens through which to view the early modern histories of India and China.
As Ghosh notes, historians tend to segment the past in terms of their own specialties (economics, politics, culture, etc.), but, “What a novelist can do is imagine the totality of the experience.”
Jonathan Spence on Amitav Ghosh: "The joy of reading Amitav’s work is the completely new way of reading about things I thought I knew — of