“The Republic of India is the most reckless political experiment in human history.”

That is the first line of a TNR review of new books by C. A. Bayly and André Béteille.

Never before was a single nation constructed out of so many diverse and disparate parts. Partitioned at birth on the basis of religion, India now has almost as many Muslims as the Muslim homeland of Pakistan. It has more Christians than Australia, more Buddhists than Tibet, more Sikhs, Jains, and Parsis than any country in the world. The Hindus, nominally the religious “majority,” are divided into tens of thousands of endogamous castes and sects.

…This is an unnatural nation, as well as an unlikely democracy. Never before was a population so poor and so illiterate asked to vote freely to choose who would govern it. Unlike in the West, where the franchise was granted in stages, the Indian constitution immediately gave the vote to every adult regardless of caste, class, education, or gender.

The books and the review take too much of an uncritical Great Man view of history for my taste, in spite of the fact I take the view more seriously than many social scientists. The review is incoherent at times, but nonetheless an interesting read. I would like to hear what Acemoglu and Robinson would say about the books and India in general.