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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3235 Dividing India: The Road to Democracy in South Asia, 1939-1952

40 creditsClass Size: 10

Module manager: Prof. William Gould

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Module replaces


This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Indian independence brought about the end of one of world history's most ambitious colonial projects and the beginning of the world's largest democracy. Behind the speaker's podium and beyond the assemblies, the rhetoric and power of the newly independent states that were carved out of colonial India, there was considerable confusion about what freedom from colonial rule would really mean. And there was equally great uncertainty about the chances that unitary states could be maintained against, on the one hand, a holocaust of violence and, on the other, a stand-off between two national rivals based in diametrically opposing political ideologies.Rooted in new, cutting edge research, this module examines how subjects of British India experienced the transition from colonial power to independence and democracy, via one of the most bloody and controversial partitions of modern times. In examining the world's largest and most participatory democratic experiment using primary sources, some of which (including oral interviews) are unique to the module leader we will explore what happens when a state and a society moves from authoritarian colonial system, to universal suffrage.With the outbreak of war in 1939, Britain sought to exploit Indian resources to the full and this had a dramatic effect on both the negotiations leading up to India's independence, and on the relationship between Indian society and the emerging post-colonial state. This was also an era of extreme violence: The module explores the controversial theme of ethnic and communal conflict in India, by examining how and why partition in 1947 was accompanied by so much violence, and its longer-term implications. - How did the final years of colonialism in India affect the nature of Indian and Pakistani independence? - What were the actual experiences of freedom for ordinary Indian and Pakistani subject-citizens? - How and why were India’s first democratic elections in 1952 so successful and why did Pakistan move more towards an authoritarian system? Based in new comparisons between India and Pakistan, this module will also explore the long-term significance of independence and partition in 1947 for the post-colonial societies of South Asia. Finally, it will equip students with historical knowledge and theoretical expertise, relevant to the problems of development and grassroots democracy in South Asia.


On completion of this module, students should be able:

1. To comment critically on the primary sources they have studied.
2. To compare different kinds of historical sources and to discuss how historians have used them.
3. To develop a more profound understanding of political ideologies and processes, social organisation and religious ideas in South Asia.
4. To build a broad knowledge and understanding of the interaction between colonial power and Indian resistance in the era of decolonisation.
5. To critique existing historical approaches to the phase of decolonisation in India.
6. To engage with new research on the history of the post colonial state and democracy in India and Pakistan.
7. To explore the theoretical literature dealing with the development of democracy and state power in South Asia.
8. To comment on the historiography surrounding India’s independence and partition, and its significance for Indian political culture.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students will have acquired knowledge in the following areas:

1. The political and social history of India during the period of the Second World War, independence and partition, and (alongside Pakistan) in the immediate post-colonial period.
2. The latest research on the violence of India’s partition and its aftermath.
3. The application of theories about the state, democracy, corruption and ethnic mobilisation to South Asia in the period of post-colonial transition.
4. The nature of Indian and Pakistani citizenship.
5. Challenges to the integrity of the state, and regionalism in India and Pakistan since 1947.
6. The working of democracy in post-1947 India.
7. The nature of communal and ethnic conflict in India and Pakistan.
8. The changing politics of caste reservations in India.


Semester 1 British India

1. Introduction
2. Colonialism and Congress power in India, 1935-9
3. Indian society and politics at the outbreak of war
4. India during the war I: Rebellion and repression
5. India during the war II: Rationing, corruption and the state
6. The politics of community in the 1940s: militarism and the religious right
7. The Mahatma meets Quaid-i-Azam: The Gandhi-Jinnah correspondence
8. The Congress-Muslim League-Raj negotiations, 1942-1946
9. Dissertations
10. Mountbatten and the end of Empire, March - August 1947
11. Summary of the semester

Semester 2 Independent India and Pakistan

1. Partition and the anatomy of violence
2. The immediate aftermath of independence: refugees, rationing and state corruption
3. Partition, violence and Indian/Pakistani womanhood.
4. Building the state and citizenship in India and Pakistan: Constitutions and their absence
5. 1948-9 - Kashmir, Hyderabad and the problems of national integrity in South Asia
6. The working of politics in India and Pakistan: Congress power and bureaucratic authority
7. Experiments in democracy: India’s first General Elections, 1951-2
8. Indian and Pakistani society: poverty, land reform and the developmental state
9. The politics of caste, religion and ethnicity in India and Pakistan
10. Dissertations
11. India and Pakistan: international conflict and political divergence

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours356.00
Total Contact hours44.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)400.00

Private study

- Most of the independent learning will be taken up in preparing for the weekly classes (which in the case of 2 classes falling in weeks 5 and 10 of semester 1 will involve assessed 500 word VLE posts), for the group presentation in semester 2, and most importantly for the assessed essay and examination.
- Students will be expected to read all the set primary sources for each week and to be familiar, where necessary, with the key historical debates.
- The VLE posts will be based around the primary source readings, and will provide training for the gobbet questions in the exam.
- As the module progresses, students will be expected to take initiative in supplementing their reading with items beyond the reading list, particularly where this corresponds to an associated dissertation topic.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Student progress will be monitored in semester 1 using the two VLE gobbet exercises.
- Gobbet and source analysis practice will continue at an unassessed level in semester 2.
- Student progress will also be monitored half way through the module with the assessed essay, and three quarters of the way through in the group presentations near the beginning of semester 2.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Oral PresentationFormat to be determined by tutor Can be resat with 'an equivalent written exercise' 5.00
Presentation2 'gobbet' style VLE posts, of up to 500 words each5.00
Essay1 x 4,000 word written exercise or equivalent to be submitted in the second week of the January examination period.40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 00 mins50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 14/06/2022


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