Midnight's Descendants: A History of South Asia since Partition

Midnight's Descendants: A History of South Asia since Partition

by John Keay
     
 

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Dispersed across India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, Midnight’s Descendants—the generations born since the 1947 “midnight hour partition” of British India—are the world’s fastest growing population. This vast region and its peoples wield an enormous influence over global economics and geopolitics, yet their impact…  See more details below

Overview


Dispersed across India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, Midnight’s Descendants—the generations born since the 1947 “midnight hour partition” of British India—are the world’s fastest growing population. This vast region and its peoples wield an enormous influence over global economics and geopolitics, yet their impact is too often simplified by accounts that focus solely on one nation and ignore the intricate web of affiliations that shape relations among British India’s successor states. Now, in Midnight Descendants, celebrated historian John Keay presents the first comprehensive history of this complex and interconnected region, delving deep into the events that have shaped its past and continue to guide its future.

The 1947 partition was devastating to the larger of the newly created states, and it continues to haunt them to this day. Joined by their common origin and the fear of further partition, the five key nations of South Asia have progressed in tandem to a large degree. These countries have been forced to grapple with common challenges, from undeveloped economies and fractured societies to foreign interventions and the fraught legacy of imperialism, leaving them irrevocably intertwined. Combining authoritative historical analysis with vivid reportage, Keay masterfully charts South Asia’s winding path toward modernization and democratization over the past sixty years. Along the way, he unravels the volatile India-Pakistan relationship; the rise of religious fundamentalism; the wars that raged in Kashmir and Sri Lanka; and the fortunes of millions of South Asia migrants dispersed throughout the world, creating a full and nuanced understanding of this dynamic region.

Expansive and dramatic, Midnight’s Descendants is a sweeping narrative of South Asia’s recent history, from the aftermath of the 1947 partition to the region’s present-day efforts to transcend its turbulent past and assume its rightful role in global politics.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/06/2014
South Asia specialist Keay (India: A History) tackles a subject too often swept under the rug in the interest of fashioning coherent national narratives. The partition of India and Pakistan, haphazardly implemented in a matter of weeks with no contingency planning and little thought of the future, deeply scarred the region in ways that few political actors, even today, are willing to admit. The amount of human suffering the event caused was almost unprecedented outside of wartime. “War,” Keay writes, “even civil war, might have been more manageable than the internecine strife that engulfed large parts of both India and Pakistan.” In engaging if occasionally cloying prose, he sketches the conflicting paths traveled by these two nations since their tumultuous birth. One recurring theme is the insufficiency of territorial sovereignty to provide order in so complicated a region; in the borderlands, it is often difficult for a visitor to discern whether a particular village belongs to Pakistan, India, or Bangladesh, and cross-border ties are often stronger and more meaningful than those connecting disparate areas of the same country. Lines on a map came to shape the destiny of entire populations, as “reas, not individuals, became the currency of Partition, districts rather than households the unit of exchange.” (Mar.)
From the Publisher

New York Times
"[A] solid new history."

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
“[Midnight's Descendants] provides fresh insight regarding a region that holds potential for immense economic growth and devastating conflict, with serious implications for U.S. interests.”

Dallas Morning News
“[Midnight's Descendants] provides a useful examination of the past and a hopeful projection of the future.”

Washington Times
“A concise, competent account of the events leading up to and following the pivotal moment of partition….”

Tablet, UK
“Keay is a skilful and objective guide through the subsequent maze of triumphs, disasters, misjudgements, failures and successes that have produced today’s five precariously stable and currently ¬democratic states…[A] knowledgeable, elegantly written and broadly dispassionate history…”

Kirkus, starred review
“[A] vivid, thoughtful and not terribly optimistic history....An insightful, entirely engrossing account of a dysfunctional region that may or may not pull itself together.”

Booklist
“An ambitious, wide-ranging study of these states since partition....This is a well-done examination of a vibrant, dangerous, but promising region.”

Publishers Weekly
“In engaging…prose, [Keay] sketches the conflicting paths traveled by these two nations since their tumultuous birth.”

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-12-22
Five independent nations emerged from the 1947 partition of British India, but they have yet to escape its dismal influence, writes prolific British journalist Keay (India: A History, 2008, etc.) in this vivid, thoughtful and not terribly optimistic history. India is secular, democratic and regarded as an economic success--the only one of the five to be considered so. Pakistan and Bangladesh are determinedly Islamic, susceptible to military rule and stubbornly impoverished, and Nepal and Sri Lanka remain traumatized by recent civil wars. Historians still wonder at how everyone got it so wrong. Planning for Indian independence, British negotiators proposed a single realm with elaborate democratic safeguards. Muslim leaders, as British-educated, elite and nonreligious as their Hindu counterparts, viewed an autonomous Pakistan as a political ploy rather than a practicality. Only in the final months did increasing disorder, political missteps and British haste to leave make partition inevitable. Despite several pre-independence atrocities, everyone was flabbergasted at the mass slaughter that followed. Almost immediately, India's occupation of Hindu-ruled but Muslim-majority Kashmir enraged Pakistan, a rage that still obsesses that nation, leading to several wars, innumerable skirmishes, standoffs, terrorist attacks and weak Pakistani governments that defer to the army. To the south, Sri Lanka, independent since 1948, remained peaceful for a few decades but is only now emerging from more than 30 years of murderous ethnic warfare. Keay's only ray of hope shines on the region's largest nation. India's clunky, corrupt democracy enjoys an expanding economy and middle class despite ongoing massive poverty, bloody ethnic, language and religious quarrels, and guerrilla insurgencies. "Over the last half century the shadows of Partition's brutal dislocation have grown ever longer," writes the author. "They slant across the whole course of events in post-independence South Asia." An insightful, entirely engrossing account of a dysfunctional region that may or may not pull itself together.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465021802
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
03/11/2014
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
502,355
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author


John Keay is the author of several acclaimed books, including China: A History, The Great Arc: The Dramatic Tale of How India Was Mapped and Everest Was Named, and the bestselling India: A History. He was formerly a special correspondent for the Economist, and contributes regularly to the Sunday Telegraph, Times Higher Educational Supplement, and the Literary Review.

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