Summary of The Great Partition

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The Great Partition book summary

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The 1947 Partition of India seemed like a win-win situation, offering freedom from colonial rule and a separate state for Muslims. In the end, however, the birth of modern-day India and Pakistan came at a heavy cost. In this book, historian Yasmin Khan offers a succinct, well-balanced analysis of the social and political background for, execution of, and fallout from the Partition – which, she argues, occurred with a reckless degree of haste. In the chaos which followed Britain’s exit from India, at least half a million people perished and over 10 million became refugees. 

About the Author

Yasmin Khan is associate professor of history and fellow of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.


World War II had a significant effect on India’s economy and society.

India played a significant role in World War II, providing over 2.5 million troops, along with other resources, for the British Empire. During the war years, Indian citizens dealt with the ever-present threat of Japanese attack, as well as severe economic hardships and famine.

The war also weakened the British colonial administration in India and caused the Indian people to question its authority. At the end of the war, many people expected that the British would grant India independence. What a “free India” would look like remained an open question, however – particularly given the growing discord within Indian society between different religious groups. Britain itself played a notable role in helping create these divisions. Its approach to governance and administration fixated, in many ways, on categorizing people based on their religion. They, thus, encouraged Indians to think of “community” in terms of religion rather than geography.

Britain agreed to grant India its independence, but the form the new state would...

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