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Unit information: Partition (Level H Special Subject) in 2016/17

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Unit name Partition (Level H Special Subject)
Unit code HIST30038
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Daniel Haines
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The death throes of the British Raj in India gave birth to two new countries in 1947, India and Pakistan. With Pakistan intended as a homeland for India’s sizeable Muslim minority, separating the two was a violent and highly contested process. Foreshadowing more recent histories of ethnic cleansing, religious communities fought bloody battles to kill or drive each other away. This unit examines Partition in its local and wider contexts. It examines the local roots and consequences of violence as well as the ‘high politics’ played out by British, Indian, and future Pakistani leaders in New Delhi and London. The unit also introduces the longer history of Partition, both the events of colonial rule that led up to it, and its consequences for Indian and Pakistani people during the following years. Topics range from the roots of militant nationalism in the Bengal terrorist movement of the early 1900s and the widespread targeting of women during the 1947 riots, to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination by a Hindu extremist in 1948 and the experiences of refugees who fled conflict. Alongside secondary readings, the unit uses extensive primary sources including oral histories, polemical writings, maps, photographs, film, and the wealth of Partition fiction that South Asian writers have produced since the events of 1947.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have developed: (1) a broad understanding of the history of Partition in the Indian subcontinent and its historical roots; (2) the ability to analyse and generalise about how and why partition occurred in the way that it did; (3) the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general issues and arguments; (4) the ability to derive benefit from, and contribute effectively to, small group discussion; (5) the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically, and form an individual viewpoint.

Teaching details

Seminars - 3 hours per week

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 3500 words (50%) and one unseen examination of two hours (50%). Both elements will assess ILOs 1-3, and 5.

Reading and References

Joya Chatterji, The Spoils of Partition: Bengal and India, 1947-1967 (2007) Lucy Chester, Borders and Conflict in South Asia: The Radcliffe Boundary Commission and the Partition of Punjab (2009) Yasmin Khan, The Great Partition: The making of India and Pakistan (2007) Sadat Hasan Manto, Mottled Dawn: Fifty sketches and stories of Partition (2011) Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin, Borders & Boundaries: Women in India’s Partition (1998) Khushwant Singh, Train to Pakistan (1956)