SUBJECT: 4/5 WRITING STYLE: 3.5/5 RESEARCH: 4/5 OVERALL: 4/5
The final act of Parliament, that gave India its freedom, was passed in six weeks. Historian Yasmin Khan states that it is “difficult to avoid the damning conclusion that, in the minds of British policy-makers, the duty to protect South Asian lives had already ended.”
– Gautam Madhav, A Short History of The Indian Partition
A couple of years ago, I read extensively on the subject of the partition of India. Books, articles, novels, and short stories – I read whatever I could get my hands on. This episode of voracious reading resulted in a blog post and a YouTube video on my channel bookGeeks India, which to this date remains one of the most popular contents on both platforms.
Now almost two years later, I have again picked up a book on the partition of India which I believe has something different and unique to offer. Read on to know more about my thoughts on Gautam Madhav’s A Short History of the Indian Partition.
Who can read?
The use of simple language and an uncomplicated format make this book an easy read for anyone looking to gain insights into the partition of India. This, combined with the brevity of the chapters and the overall length, makes this book an accessible read for two categories of readers – beginners and intermediate.
What is the book all about?
A Short History of the Indian Partition talks to us about the specific events, people, parties, strategies, and circumstances that led to the partition of the Indian subcontinent.
In vivid detail, it takes us through the factual details of the violence, the personalities and forces that enabled it, the people and their organizations who tried their best to avert it, the events that led to the genesis of Pakistan, and the important years in the timeline of the partition.
It also sheds light on some other perspectives like the Bengal equation, the Sind story, the theory of political Islam, the great game, etc. that need to be considered. It further familiarizes us with the aftermath of the event, and finally poses some difficult but rather important questions that need to be asked, and that the author has attempted to answer in his own way.
A thoroughly researched work
The book is the outcome of extensive and detailed research by the author. This is most evident from the long list of references and notes that the author has mentioned at the end. Just to give the reader an idea, some of the books consulted and quoted include – The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide by Gary J Bass, The Great Divide by William Dalrymple, Creating a New Medina by Venkat Dhulipala, The Holocaust of Indian Partition by Madhav Godbole, Muslims Against Partition of India by Shamsul Islam, The Great Partition by Yasmin Khan, From Arabization to Turkification: The Identity Crisis of Pakistan by Fraz Naqvi, The Shadow of the Great Game by Narendra Singh Sarila, Indian Summer by Alex Vonn Tunzelmann, etc.
The writing style
The author makes use of an objective writing style that focuses more on giving you data points as opposed to essay-length rhetoric. He also makes use of shorter chapters which are further divided into shorter subsections that make the book a fast-paced read. The broad variety of views and perspectives that he has incorporated into the narrative is obvious from the extensive reference list at the end of the book.
What I particularly liked? – Clarity of thought
I love it when an author talks about the objectives of his book in a clear manner. As is deducible from the section titled ‘Why I Wrote This Book?’, the book is meant as a read accessible to a wide variety of readers to learn about Partition and the events that ultimately led to its fruition. While one can find numerous books on the subject, the brevity of this one is what makes it special.
What did I like? – Unbiased opinion
To the best of my knowledge, the author has tried to objectively lay down all the facts and figures of the matter. Because of this, we get a balanced picture of the events as they were. The reader is also acquainted with multiple perspectives, and the author talks about his attempt at objectivity in a short section.
Some essential questions
At the very end of the book, the reader is presented with a set of important questions and their answers as per the author’s understanding. I think this was one of the most profound parts of the book where different alternatives are imagined and projected into the future. This helps one get a better understanding of the real consequences of the partition. These ever-important questions include – Was the violence avoidable? What if there was no partition? What were the benefits of the Partition? Who were the winners and the losers?
What I didn’t like?
The book has its share of grammatical and editing errors that manage to catch my eye. To a reader like me, it does bring down the overall quality of the work.
What could have been better?
I love it when history books come with a good dose of illustrations, fact charts, and maps. I found them missing in A Short History of the Indian Partition.
In the end
In the end, A Short History of the Indian Partition is a great book for anyone looking to gain quick insights into the political landscape and the events that ultimately culminated in the creation of the separate nation of Pakistan.
Pick the book if
- You love non-fiction.
- You like books on history.
- You are looking for short reads on Indian history.
- You want to learn about the partition of India in a concise and effortless manner.
Skip the book if
- You don’t enjoy history.
- You are looking for a detailed/academic read on the subject of Partition of India.
- You are a voracious reader who has previously read many books on the Partition of India.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of A Short History of the Indian Partition using the link below.
I have found the partition event always controversial, and this book sure does provide some perspective.