Geography used to be considered destiny, but this once-popular notion that terrain and climate drove history has gone out of fashion. Now a new generation of environmental historians are bringing hard, physical materiality back into mainstream history with a more nuanced approach, looking at the historically situated interaction between people and their physical environments.

The number of books incorporating “the Idea of India” into their title in recent times is indicative that this idea has been in a crisis for a while. Siddhartha Sarma’s Carpenters and Kings is one more response to this crisis of India, dealing with an oft-ignored population group. In an environment where the Hindu Right suggests that Christianity and Islam are foreign to India, this book seeks to “set the record straight” and demonstrate that the history of Christianity in India is a nearly two-millennia-long story of great complexity.

That use of first-person plurals in the title of Early Indians: The Story Of Our Ancestors And Where We Came From should not put non-Indians off. Tony Joseph has, based on and catalyzed by the most recent genetic research, written a clear, readable and, for those unfamiliar with the subject, fascinating history of Indians as a people. It will also serve both as a primer to the way the ability to read the human genome is revolutionizing archaeology as well as a salutary alternative to the eurocentric perspective of many if not most treatments of early human history.