HST3158/3159: Untangling Two Nations: Violence, Memory, and Democracy after the Partition of India and Pakistan

40 credits (semesters 1 and 2)

Module Leader: Dr Oliver Godsmark



A pass in at least two history modules at level two.


Module Summary

This special subject charts the catastrophic division of the South Asian subcontinent into India and Pakistan at the conclusion of British rule in 1947 as an authoritarian colonial state gave way todemocratic swarm ('self-rule'). It focuses on the ‘high politics’ of India’s decolonization process, as well as the anticipation of independence and partition amongst ordinary Indian 'subject-citizens', in a period of extraordinary anxiety, uncertainty and change. Class sessions will be organised around debates relating to the political machinations between key actors over independence and the partition plan, as well as popular representations, memories, and 'everyday' experiences of partition. Over the course of the year, you will learn about a traumatic process that left as many as 2m dead, spurred one of the greatest mass migrations in human history, and set the stage for the
fraught relations between the contemporary world’s two most antagonistic nuclear powers.


The module will engage with an exciting array of new historiographical scholarship which has emerged during the last two decades or so, and which concentrates upon what actually happened in 1947, rather than considering solely why the British colonial government ultimately decided to 'divide and quit'. In doing so, it has developed new insights into the significance of widespread violence, displacement and mass migration during partition for ordinary citizens, and its continuing implications for 'everyday' understandings of belonging and democracy in South Asia. You will contend with a range of original primary materials – more conventional government records, but also innovative oral histories and creative literatures. You should thus be provided with a good understanding of the events, historiography, and implications of decolonization, independence and partition upon the South Asian subcontinent, as well as further training in the use and application of various historical methodologies. Generic conceptual, communication and literary skills will also be fostered through class discussion during seminars, written assignments and presentations. 

Teaching and Assessment

Information on assessment can be found at: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level3


Selected Reading

  • To follow.


Intended Learning Outcomes
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