I have been looking for a book about Indian history. Recently I came across this answer, which suggested reading India: A History by John Keay. I wanted to know whether it is historical and accurate. Or is there any thesis put forth and all Indian history is viewed from that angle?
I decided to read the book anyway, after waiting for someone to answer the question. I understand this is not a place to review books, but here are my two cents.
The narrative is, in my opinion, as unbiased as it can get. While talking about unclear parts of Indian history like Aryan invasion / migration / indigenous Aryans, he explains pros and cons of each theory before explaining the generally accepted theory. Also, the narration of post-independence politics (intra-national or international) politics seems objective. As I hoped it to be, it doesn't discredit India from its achievements, nor does it over-glorify them. A must-read for anyone who is interested in Indian history.
This is a partial answer relating to the book's unbiased status.
No. The book is not unbiased. The book's biases may be historiographically justifiable, but, necessarily, the book is not unbiased. Bias is as unremovable from texts as it is from woven fabric: the fabric of texts produces a bias.
Sources: historiographical theory of bias in texts, and the nature of texts as bias.
Your question is the rare one that no one even bothers to ask. From the beginning of the creation of Indian history, bias has played an important role. The funny thing is, the history of India being taught in schools are created by the western people of British East India Company. The purpose of creating biased Indian history is to strengthen their rule over then India. That's how the "Aryan Invasion Theory" born. Another thing was the Christianity that influenced those historians. They set the chronology of Indian historical events according to the bible. According to bible, the creation began 4004 BC. Hence whatever historical events occurred were pushed around 2000 BC - 1500 BC and so on. You take Max Muller, H. M. Elliot, Vincent Smith, W. W. Hunter or any other, you will find the same biased view.
After the independence, Indian history department was completely filled with communists who hated everything that belonged to ancient India. As a result, they followed the earlier western historians and added more biased version while creating history books for schools, colleges and universities. Romila Thapar, Sathish Chandra, Ram Sharan Sharma are such kind of Indian historians. However, there were some historians who tried to discover the truth but were either ignored or silenced. If you want to know how they twisted Indian history, read Edi Charitra or visit this link