This research, a three-year collaboration between the History departments at Royal Holloway and the University of Leeds, explores the shift from colonial rule to independence in three sites on the subcontinent – Uttar Pradesh (formerly the United Provinces), Sindh, and the Princely State of Hyderabad (Deccan) – with the aim of unravelling the explicit meanings and relevance of ‘independence’ for the new citizens of India and Pakistan in the two decades immediately following 1947.
The year 1947 has traditionally been viewed as a fundamental watershed, yet little work has hitherto looked at the development of popular, public cultures surrounding the state in South Asia at this time, and almost none has been comparative. There were powerful continuities as well as short-term and unanticipated developments operating at this time, which together set the terms for the foundation of both major states in their first generation after independence.
While the histories of India and Pakistan have come to be conceived separately and assumed to develop along divergent paths, they in fact both developed out of much the same set of historical experiences. In addition, the focus on the ‘high’ levels of politics and government in much historical writing on both countries both has arguably distracted attention away from the functioning of the state at the level of ‘everyday’ life – a level experienced by ordinary as well as extraordinary people.
This project thus sets out to correct these imbalances by contributing a (timely) empirical analysis of political developments in a part of the world in relation to which considerable debate is currently taking place both on the nature of the state in general, and on that of so called ‘failed states’ in particular.