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Govind Sakharam Sardesai (17 May 1865 – 29 November 1959), popularly known as Riyasatkar Sardesai, was an eminent historian from Maharashtra, India.
Through his Riyasats written in Marathi, Sardesai presented an account of over 1,000 years of the Indian history until 1848. His three-volume New History of Marathas in English has been acclaimed as a reliable history of Maratha Empire.
Sardesai received for his literary work a Padmabhushan award from the Government of India in 1957.
Sardesai was born in a middle-class Karhade Brahmin family in the village of Gowil in Ratnagiri District. He received his high school education in Ratnagiri, and college education in Pune and Mumbai. Then he joined the service of the princely state of Baroda in 1889. Shortly thereafter, Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III appointed him as his personal secretary, and subsequently as a tutor of the princes.
With encouragement from the Maharaja and availing himself of access to the large collection of books and historical papers in the royal library, Sardesai compiled voluminous historical data and wrote several books.
He often accompanied the Maharaja during the latter’s trips to the UK, U.S., and Europe this helped Sardesai to broaden his outlook of history.
Sardesai wrote eight volumes of Marathi Riyasat, three volumes of Musalmani Riyasat, and two volumes of British Riyasat.
Historian Tryambak Shankar Shejwalkar had worked as his assistant in the above endeavor. Shejwalkar had written the preface to one of his volumes on Peshwas Sardesai asked him to write the preface because Shejwalkar held some contrary historical views.
After retiring from service at Baroda state in 1925, Sardesai settled in the village of Kamshet near Pune. In accord with a suggestion from Sir Jadunath Sarkar, the government of Bombay asked Sardesai to take up the work of editing and publishing Peshwa daftar. He then painstakingly examined almost 35,000 documents, comprising 27,332 in Modi Marathi 7,482 in English 129 in Gujarati and 29 in Persian. Subsequently, he published 45 volumes of Peshwa daftar consisting of 7,801 pages and covering 8,650 documents.
Later, jointly with Sarkar, Sardesai edited and published Poona Residency Correspondence consisting of 7,193 pages and covering 4,159 letters. With the help of some newly discovered sources, he wrote at his age 80, The New History of Marathas.
‘Govindrao-nana’, as he was called, led a disciplined life and could climb up Sinhagadh without having to stop even in his seventies.
Sardesai died at Kamshet on 29 November 1959 at the age of 94.
Sardasai wrote all of his works in Marathi except for the last three in the following list, which he had written in English.