Schools of Historiography

Historiography is the study of writing of history or written histories. The study and writing of history is a dynamic process which changes as time goes by, and over time there are many methods historians have developed to study history. Many historians come under a certain school of historiography but they all need not belong to the same time period, it is just the ideology of history that they share. In Indian history some of the Schools of Historiography would be –


This school of thought emerged during the 18th and 19th century. The history of India written by the Britishers is known as the Oriental history. After the colonization of India the British wanted to know about the India’s past and in order to do so they consulted the Brahmins, which led them to consider Brahmins as the top most class of the society and a generalization that India had a Brahminical set up. This later went on to form the basis of Indian history.


Group of Indian historians who had western education, during the early 1900s decided to weave large narratives of Indian History using sources like inscriptions. They focused mostly on empires which had large territories such as Maurya, Guptas etc. They started the concept of Golden age and mostly regarded Hindu ruler’s periods as golden ages. They stuck to the British division of the society but tried to prove that Indians are capable of their own administration and spread nationalist ideas.

This school of historiography was written by upper class educated Indians hence completely missed out accounts of lower classes, woman, marginalized tribes, dalits and Muslims. Some nationalist historians are R.C Majumdar and K.P Jaiswal.


It is a school of historiography influenced by Marxism and originated around 1920s – 1940s. Marxist historians focused more on the working class – laborers, peasants and other non-elite groups and their problems. It is considered as a credible school because of its grass root level research.

Some Indian Marxist historians are R.S Sharma, Romila Thapar, D.D Kosambi and Irfan Habib.


Cambridge school of historiography is a school of thought that studies the British Empire from the colonizers point of view. It depends heavily on the documentation of Britishers. In Indian history this school of thought also looks into regional history such as smaller princely states which the other school of thought failed to do. Even though these historians write history from the imperialist’s point of view they in no way defend or try to justify their actions.

Some Cambridge historians are Thomas Metcalfe, David washbrook and C.A Bayly.


This school of thought was an extension to the Marxist school of historiography. Subaltern historians mainly criticized Oriental and Nationalist historians for focusing only on the elite classes and ignoring the oppressed and marginalized groups. This school no longer exists as prominently as others because these works were complicated to understand and were written more for the western audience. It failed to bring any significant attention to the oppressed classes in Indian because people were not able to understand what these historians wrote.

Some subaltern historians are Gayatri Spivak, Gyan Pandey, Ranajit Guha etc.

Now in the 2000s historiography is emerging from dalits themselves. The educated dalits are telling their own stories and history.