Social Scientist. v 27, no. 314-315 (July-Aug 1999) p. 1.


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The Second World War and South Asia: An Introduction

The far-reaching impact of the Second World War on South Asian economics, politics and society is undeniable, yet, the historiography dealing with British India in the 1940s has, inexplicably, shied away from examining the nature, and the changes wrought by this conflict on the country's polity.

Instead, one can discern a continuing tendency in the existing historical literature to concentrate on particular episodes. Significant topics in this regard are the complexities of official policy and especially the Cripps' Mission, the various aspects of Congress and Muslim League strategies, the 'Quit India' movement of August 1942,1 the Bengal Famine,2 the battles fought against the Japanese forces in North-Eastern India;3 the Indian National Army and Subhas Chandra Bose,4and not least, the events leading to, and accompanying, the partition of the Indian empire into two independent nations in 1947.5 While an examination of these topics remains undeniably significant, all the studies in question shift our focus away from attempts to study the war as an event that fundamentally re-ordered societal, economic and political patterns. Even a recent edition of South Asia on North India: Partition and Independence provides little information on war as a catalyst of changes. Tan Tai Yong's valuable contribution traced the roots of military rule in Pakistan to the militarisation of Punjab in the late colonial era with the war playing a crucial role. Vinita Damodaran also fleetingly mentions the effect of war in her significant analysis of riots and the state but the centrality of War in brutalising society and contributing to the erosion of the Raj's ability to maintain political stability in the empire has not been highlighted. The inevitable link between war, decolonization and partition sadly enough has not been explored systematically. This collection attempts to explore decolonization as a political- administrative process in the context of



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