What was the relationship between British rule in India and the partition of 1947?
First Edition. August 2013.
2014 Franklin Buchanan Prize Winner.

The partition of 1947, which led to the creation of India and Pakistan, was one of the most volatile events of the twentieth century. Partition coincided with the end of British colonial rule over the subcontinent, and Indian independence was overshadowed by violence, mass displacement, and uncertainty. Indian Independence and the Question of Partition examines the history leading up to 1947 and the legacies of partition that remain today. Students explore the era of British colonialism, Indian campaigns for independence, and the political debates between Indian groups and the British. Students learn about the experience of one province, Bengal, to gain an in-depth understanding of what was at stake for different groups at the time.


Three readings explore the history of Indians’ struggle for independence and the debate surrounding partition. Part I of the reading traces the transformation of the British East India Company from a trading company operating in the Mughal Empire to a colonial power. In Part II, students read about British colonial rule on the subcontinent and the Indian resistance movements that grew in response. Students then examine the negotiations following World War II that led to partition and independence. The readings conclude with an overview of the aftermath of 1947 and the continuing challenges from partition.

Preview this unit. Preview includes the Table of Contents for the Student Text and the Teacher Resource Book as well as a student reading excerpt and one lesson plan.


The Great Revolt of 1857: Source Analysis

Students examine excerpts from history books, photographs, and literature from Indian and British authors to see the different ways the Great Revolt of 1857 has been portrayed.

Mapping Religion in Bengal

Students analyze data from the 1931 All-India Census. Using a map of Bengal, students calculate and mark the major religious groups in the province.

Satyagraha: Gandhi, King, and Mandela

Students explore primary sources from Mohandas Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela to learn about satyagraha and consider its international impact.

Role-Playing the Four Options

Students simulate the debate in Bengal in 1947 between local political groups and the British over the fate of the province: unity or partition.

Remembering Partition

Students examine the human toll of partition through oral histories and diary entries.

Looking at Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan Today

Students analyze photographs from the present to learn about life and society on the subcontinent and weigh the benefits and limitations of using photos to learn about the subcontinent.

Assessment Using Documents

Students read eight documents pertaining to India's post–1947 foreign policy strategy and answer a series of documents-based questions.

Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support.


Bose, Sugata and Ayesha Jalal. Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy (London: Routledge, 2011). 270 pages.

Chatterji, Joya. Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932-1947 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). 324 pages.

Gilmartin, David. Empire and Islam: Punjab and the Making of Pakistan (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989). 258 pages.

Khan, Yasmin. The Great Partition: the Making of India and Pakistan (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008). 272 pages.

Metcalf, Barbara Daly, and Thomas R. Metcalf. A Concise History of Modern India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). 360 pages.

Talbot, Ian and Gurharpal Singh. The Partition of India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). 224 pages.

Zamindar, Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali. The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007). 304 pages.

Source Analysis-unedited versions of Story 1.
Source Analysis-unedited versions of Story 2.
Provides a multimedia presentation of Pakistan’s history and future political and economic prospects.
A six-part series that traces the history of the subcontinent from 60,000 BCE to the present. Each episode of the series is paired with a timeline, photographs, a map, and lesson plans.
Features over forty primary sources from the time period leading up to partition including memos, political cartoons, and speeches.
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