Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India by Stanley Wolpert

(First published 2006)

This review is going to be shorter than usual. The central argument of the book is, as the name indicates, that British, when they decided to leave India, did not plan the transfer of power properly enough.

The consequences were catastrophic as, inter alia, there were unresolved border disputes between the newly independent states of India and Pakistan (the latter divided into East and West wings), princely states, including Kashmir, were left in constitutional limbo, and millions of people were uprooted from their ancestral homes in a tragedy which cost up to one million lives.

The British were desperately trying to chalk out a workable plan of Independence acceptable to both parties of the conflict (Muslims and Hindus) for at least a decade. Failing that, after World WarII, when British power waned considerably, they just decided to dump India and go home. The last post-WWII viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, brought forward the date of Independence by one year, against the time-frame set by the British Parliament in London. In later years Mountbatten reflected on his policies and conceded that he “fucked it up”.

From Sir Stafford Cripps’s mission after the Fall of Singapore in 1942 till the assassination of Gandhi in 1948 this books gives a detailed account of the events that led up to the Partition and Independence of the Indian Subcontinent. This is a detailed and rewarding work by an author who is arguably one of the most authoritative writers on the subject.

My rating 5/5. Find it on AMAZON

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