What makes India a nation? What has held its many disparate societies with their diverse, sometimes conflicting, narratives together for more than sixty years? What has allowed India to sustain its commitment to the democratic process, given its location in a region that is largely undemocratic? In this magisterial analysis of the last five hundred years of Indian history, Meghnad Desai looks at India's colonial past, its struggle for independence and its many contemporary conundrums, to discover answers to the questions that have confronted India-watchers for decades. Rejecting much received wisdom, including narratives fashioned by India's ruling establishment, Meghnad Desai goes back to the beginnings of the East–West encounter at the end of the fifteenth century and tracks its impact on the cultures and politics of the present day. Through a series of ‘Counterfactual Boxes' Meghnad Desai analyses the accepted defining moments of India's past and suggests alternative courses that history could so easily have taken. Meghnad Desai draws on a wealth of sources to illuminate India's journey to the twenty-first century. Whether it is an examination of British parliamentary debates on the question of India's independence, or the liberalization of the economy after decades of licence-permit raj, or the state's complicity in the Gujarat riots, Meghnad Desai's original, occasionally iconoclastic, approach to seemingly settled arguments makes The Rediscovery of India a path-breaking and comprehensive account of India's past and present.