Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan, New Edition Paperback – August 29, 2017
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
"'This is a compassionate, scholarly but at times devastating book... for professional and amateur students of history, and for all those who wish to understand attitudes on the subcontinent today.' Judith Brown, Beit Professor of Commonwealth History, Oxford University" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Yasmin Khan is associate professor of history and Fellow of Kellogg College, University of Oxford, and author of The Raj at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
THE GREAT PARTITION contains the basic facts: In 1946 and 1947, Great Britain, worn out and broke after World War II, abandoned the Raj; it cut its losses and ran. On June 3, 1947, it announced that the Raj would be partitioned and the constituent parts would be given their independence ten weeks hence, on August 15, 1947. As matters developed the lines of partition were not released until August 17, two days after the independence (and simultaneous birth) of India and Pakistan. Before partition, there had been widespread violence, primarily Muslims against Hindus and vice versa, but some of it involved Sikhs. That violence intensified after August 15th, and ethnic cleansing was conducted in many areas. One of the largest migrations in history ensued -- Muslims within the territory of India fleeing to East or West Pakistan, and Hindus fleeing from the two areas of Pakistan to India. About twelve million people were displaced. Hundreds of thousands died, in some accounts as many as a million.
Britain's drawing of national boundaries, on both the east and west of what became India (a total of 3,800 miles of border determination), was hasty and arbitrary. The imperial mapmaker, Cyril Radcliffe, had never been to India before he arrived on July 8th, and in six weeks he and his assistants had finished the job. Their line drawing was done remotely, working with maps and dubious census figures. It seems farcical.
One might naturally wonder whether an alternative to Partition was ever explored. The answer, as I learned from the book, is yes. In May 1946, a high-level British "Cabinet Mission" presented a plan that would have devolved power to Muslims within a united India. There would have been a central government to handle matters of foreign affairs and defense, but otherwise individual provinces would have enjoyed considerable autonomy, including the ability to join together on certain matters, thereby allowing large Muslim blocs to act in concert within the Indian Union. But diehards and extremists on both sides of the Muslim/Hindi religious divide rejected the plan, after which the more moderate leaders didn't fight against partition. As Nehru later admitted: "The truth is that we were tired men and we were getting on in years . . . The plan for partition offered a way out and we took it."
The book covers all the above and considerably more factual territory. In a way, it packs quite a bit of history into its 210 pages of text. Supplementing that text are a glossary, a timeline, four maps, and about two dozen photographs.
Nonetheless, I am not enthusiastic about the book. First, there are problems with the written presentation. Khan's prose is very smooth, but the text seems to have been written in discrete paragraphs, almost as if each was envisioned to stand alone. As a result, there is a choppiness to the presentation and, worse, considerable repetition of many points.
Second, I would like to have been given some idea of how things might have been handled differently. Near the end of the book, Khan writes that "[t]here was nothing inevitable * * * about the way that Partition unfolded." But never in the course of the book does she discuss how the former Raj could have become self-governing without hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of people transplanted, and a continuing state of religiously-based tension and hostility between abutting nations.
Yasmin has done a good job of rendering this rather complex and heartbreaking time of political and sectarian violence -- renting the map left a large historical scar that still plays highly in international politics. This book is a good place to start to understand the difference in national identity when aspirations divide and become fault lines for violence.
Unfortunately I think that this study could have been a whole lot better if she had expanded the text about 1/3 its present size. Many aspects, although well described are dealt with in rather superficial terms... but keeping in mind that this is an introduction and geared for the general reader, it is an extremely well written piece.