Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India

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9780195151985: Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India
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Britain's precipitous and ill-planned disengagement from India in 1947―condemned as a "shameful flight" by Winston Churchill―had a truly catastrophic effect on South Asia, leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead in its wake and creating a legacy of chaos, hatred, and war that has lasted over half a century.
Ranging from the fall of Singapore in 1942 to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, Shameful Flight provides a vivid behind-the-scenes look at Britain's decision to divest itself from the crown jewel of its empire. Stanley Wolpert, a leading authority on Indian history, paints memorable portraits of all the key participants, including Gandhi, Churchill, Attlee, Nehru, and Jinnah, with special focus on British viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten. Wolpert places the blame for the catastrophe largely on Mountbatten, the flamboyant cousin of the king, who rushed the process of nationhood along at an absurd pace. The viceroy's worst blunder was the impetuous drawing of new border lines through the middle of Punjab and Bengal. Virtually everyone involved advised Mountbatten that to partition those provinces was a calamitous mistake that would unleash uncontrollable violence. Indeed, as Wolpert shows, civil unrest among Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs escalated as Independence Day approached, and when the new boundary lines were announced, arson, murder, and mayhem erupted. Partition uprooted over ten million people, 500,000 to a million of whom died in the ensuing inferno.
Here then is the dramatic story of a truly pivotal moment in the history of India, Pakistan, and Britain, an event that ignited fires of continuing political unrest that still burn in South Asia.

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Review:

The independence of India and Pakistan in 1947 was a historical watershed that marked the end of the colonial era and the beginning of the liberation of the rest of Asia and of Africa. In his admirable account of this seminal event, Wolpert makes the compelling case that whereas independence and partition were inevitable, the horrible cost in the destruction of lives was not. He attributes the latter to a failure of political leadership, especially the British through its representative Viceroy Mountbatten, whose compulsive and egotistical conduct constituted a major contribution to the massive human disaster. This is a clinically powerful study of triumph and tragedy by a distinguished historian who is also a great humanitarian. (Jamsheed Marker, Former Ambassador of Pakistan and former Special Adviser to the Secretary General, United Nations)

In this engrossing, but very controversial, book, Wolpert considers the responsibility of the leaders, both British and Indian, for the immediate consequences of the partition in 1947 of British India into India and Pakistan when hundreds of thousands were killed in riots and millions became homeless refugees. Shameful Flight is sobering reading for anyone interested in the rise and fall of Western imperialism. (Ainslee Embree, Columbia University)

Wolpert's book is a delightful read and will shine for its stellar quality of scholarship among the growing body of partition literature that has surfaced in the last two decades. It will be of great interest to anyone curious about whatever happened to the great British Empire and those who often wonder why Indians and Pakistanis endlessly fight with each other. (Dilip Basu, University of California, Santa Cruz)

An entertaining and highly controversial account of the British transfer of power in India. (The International History Review)

A lively...account of the end of the British Raj...The text is well crafted. (H-Net)

Synopsis:

The last years of the British Raj and the partition of India and Pakistan were defining events in twentieth century world history, the ethnic, religious, political, and military consequences of which have continued to shape today's newspaper headlines. Standard historical interpretations have, on one hand, been shaped by interviews with Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy, and the British who were involved in the events; on the other hand, there has been a rise in new scholarship by Indians and Pakistanis that has largely corrected the "great man" interpretations that have looked exclusively at Gandhi, Nehru, and Jinnah. In this work, Stanley Wolpert narrates the last half century of the British in India, framed by the surrender of Singapore in February 1942, the partition of South Asia in 1947, and the assassination of Gandhi in January 1948. Great Britain's mid-August transfer of power to new-born Dominions of India and Pakistan was immediately followed by the withdrawal of all British forces from India.As the shield of Imperial British troops collapsed, more than ten million terrified Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, fled from one side to the other of two new borders, ineptly drawn through the heartlands of multi-cultural Punjab and Bengal.

Some one million refugees never reached their destinations. The most bitterly hard-fought legacy of Partition has been the Indo-Pak conflict over Kashmir, which has triggered at least three South Asian wars over the last half century. Wolpert's thesis is apparent from his title, drawn from Winston Churchill's judgment on Indian partition. While Wolpert does not believe the British could have ruled India indefinitely he argues that the disaster of partition was largely due to Lord Mountbatten's misguided decision to get Britain out of India as quickly as possible. This popular account of the last years of the Raj is accessible and features all the leading figures, including Winston Churchill, PM Clement Atlee, Lord Mountbatten and other viceroys, Gandhi, Nehru, Franklin Roosevelt, members of the Congress and Muslim League, as well as Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims.This account of events will be controversial, especially among those who respect Mountbatten's actions, and among Indians and Pakistanis.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780195393941: Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India

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ISBN 10:  0195393945 ISBN 13:  9780195393941
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9780199066063: Shameful Flight

Oxford..., 2014
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9780195474381: Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2006. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Britain's precipitous and ill-planned disengagement from India in 1947-condemned as a "shameful flight" by Winston Churchill-had a truly catastrophic effect on South Asia, leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead in its wake and creating a legacy of chaos, hatred, and war that has lasted over half a century. Ranging from the fall of Singapore in 1942 to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, Shameful Flight provides a vivid behind-the-scenes look at Britain's decision to divest itself from the crown jewel of its empire. Stanley Wolpert, a leading authority on Indian history, paints memorable portraits of all the key participants, including Gandhi, Churchill, Attlee, Nehru, and Jinnah, with special focus on British viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten. Wolpert places the blame for thecatastrophe largely on Mountbatten, the flamboyant cousin of the king, who rushed the process of nationhood along at an absurd pace. The viceroy's worst blunder was the impetuous drawing of new border lines through the middle of Punjab and Bengal. Virtually everyone involved advised Mountbatten that topartition those provinces was a calamitous mistake that would unleash uncontrollable violence. Indeed, as Wolpert shows, civil unrest among Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs escalated as Independence Day approached, and when the new boundary lines were announced, arson, murder, and mayhem erupted. Partition uprooted over ten million people, 500,000 to a million of whom died in the ensuing inferno. Here then is the dramatic story of a truly pivotal moment in the history of India, Pakistan, and Britain, an event that ignited fires of continuing political unrest that still burn in South Asia. Seller Inventory # LHB9780195151985

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