- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (March 11, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465021808
- ISBN-13: 978-0465021802
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,290,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Midnight's Descendants: A History of South Asia since Partition 1st Edition
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In 1947, exhausted by two world wars, Britain decided to relinquish its imperial control in South Asia, including the subcontinent of India. The successor states that emerged from partition and independence include India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. This is a huge geographic area, and its combined population will soon account for 25 percent of humanity. Keay, a historian specializing in Asia, has written an ambitious, wide-ranging study of these states since partition, which he clearly regards as a disaster for both South Asia and the world. According to him, it has resulted in two nuclear-armed states, India and Pakistan, chronically locked in a deadly embrace, while both Islamic and Hindu fundamentalists fan the fires of discord. In the wake of British withdrawal, other ethnic and linguistic tensions have emerged, particularly in Sri Lanka but also within the border regions of India. Still, all is not bleak, as an educated elite within each of these nations is leading the drive toward modernization. This is a well-done examination of a vibrant, dangerous, but promising region. --Jay Freeman
"[A] solid new history."―New York Times
"[Midnight's Descendants] provides fresh insight regarding a region that holds potential for immense economic growth and devastating conflict, with serious implications for U.S. interests."―Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
"[Midnight's Descendants] provides a useful examination of the past and a hopeful projection of the future."―Dallas Morning News
"A concise, competent account of the events leading up to and following the pivotal moment of partition"―Washington Times
"Keay is a skilful and objective guide through the subsequent maze of triumphs, disasters, misjudgments, failures and successes that have produced today's five precariously stable and currently democratic states....[A] knowledgeable, elegantly written and broadly dispassionate history."―Tablet (UK)
"[A] vivid, thoughtful and not terribly optimistic history.... An insightful, entirely engrossing account of a dysfunctional region that may or may not pull itself together."―Kirkus, starred review
"An ambitious, wide-ranging study of these states since partition....This is a well-done examination of a vibrant, dangerous, but promising region."―Booklist
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Midnight's Descendants, John Keay - 2014, 352 pg. text (Three Stars)
Midnight's Furies, Nisid Hijari - 2015, 262 pg. text (Four Stars)
While trying to choose a recent book on the history of the India-Pakistan partition these two came up frequently (along with Yasmin Khan's Great Partition written in 2007). It was difficult for me to determine the differences between them, so I decided to read and review both. I haven't had an opportunity to read the Khan book yet, which looks like a more scholarly alternative. Similarly, Indian historian Ramachandra Guha has written about "India after Gandhi". He is quoted extensively by Keay, and I wonder: why not just read Guha? I am unable to answer that question at this time, but I will provide an update later.
- British journalist and long-time popular historian of India, not an academic
- Didn't grow up in India, but has spent time in the region as a reporter, researcher and radio presenter
- Indian-American journalist and foreign affairs analyst, not an academic
- Didn't grow up in India, but has spent time in the region, and has won an award as a first-time author
- All English language, by British as well as Indian/Pakistani authors
- Almost all sources are secondary; little original research seems to be done
- All English language, by British as well as Indian/Pakistani authors
- Secondary and some primary sources: letters, diaries, speeches and reports
-Only the first hundred pages are about the Partition proper, the rest retells India's history to the present
-Covers events in Punjab, Kashmir and Bengal; afterwards India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka
-Includes history leading to and during the Partition only, with the exception of a brief chapter on the legacy
-Covers the Great Calcutta Killings, the riots in Bengal, and events in the Punjab, Kashmir and Hyderabad
- It was an oversimplified solution to divide Hindus and Muslims by area, arrived at by mutual distrust and in a rush to resolution
- There was no regional homogeneity of the various religious and ethnic groups; large minorities lived side by side with majorities
- Pakistan could have been organized as constituent states with Muslim majorities inside India; Calcutta-Bengal & Delhi-Punjab
- The Princely States were never fully integrated into the Raj and resisted ceding their hereditary rights to the new nation-states
- The responsibility for the Partition falls more or less equally to the founders Nehru and Jinnah who failed to foresee the results
- Gandhi was against it, and the main goal of Mountbatten was to leave as quickly as possible with the least trouble for Britain
- Aims to show how the violence that the Partition created defines the relationship between India and Pakistan until today
- Ongoing conflicts in Kashmir and elsewhere have renewed the relationship of antagonism between Muslims and Hindus
- Responsibility for events is placed on both Nehru and Jinnah for ineptitude, arrogance, prejudice and personal animosity
- Nehru is praised for his later performance as Prime Minister, while Jinnah's successors' after 1948 are criticized as weak leaders
- Internal conflicts and misadventures with India would lead to control of Pakistan by the military and the loss of Bengal in 1971
- The military junta would join with the mullahs to rally around religion, instead of to the secular society envisioned by Jinnah
Keay- If you want a general, mostly uncontroversial history of India from events leading into the Partition until recent years this book is a good choice. The writing may not have won any awards, but it is intelligent and entertaining. Keay takes a measured view without prescribing what should have been done in order to have averted the crisis of Partition. While his analysis of South Asia after the events of 1947 is somewhat superficial, it does show that the Partition should not be seen in a time capsule.
Hajari- If you are looking for an exciting account focused only on events shortly before and during the Partition you may prefer this book. It is written in an engaging way, and it almost reads like a dramatization at times. This can feel slightly sensational, depending on your personal preferences. Hajari argues that fear of Indian aggression has lead Pakistan towards authoritarian regimes and covert support of terrorism, and an easing of tensions is needed to avoid future conflicts.
Martin O. Heisler, Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics, University of Maryland