The publication of this volume is a culmination of an attempt to collect evidence from those still alive who had taken an active hand in the partition and who had thus far not set down their share of the record. From this it grew into a regular series of meetings spread over three years between "participants" and historians, young and old, of the three countries. A valuable body of evidence and comment was thus brought together in London, and much of it is presented in this book.
The papers included here fall into two categories, corresponding broadly with two main groups of contributors: on the one hand academic students of the partition and on the other hand actors in, or interested observers of, the events themselves. Thus the papers in the section Policies and Parties, relating first to British policy and then to the policies of the major Indian parties, are largely based on the study of the documentary record, while those in the section Perspectives and Reflections derive from personal experience and observations of Pakistani, Indian, and British contributors.
As the papers show, the interpretation of events tends to vary with the preconceptions and present-day outlook of the contributors to the debate. A view widely held in India, for example, is that partition was a tragedy—a vivisection—and discussion in that country therefore tends to be concerned with discovering the reasons and apportioning the blame for this failure to maintain the unity of the subcontinent. In Pakistan, on the other hand, where naturally it cannot be accepted that partition should have been avoided, there is a tendency to project the growth of Muslim nationalism into the depths of history in order to justify the seeming inevitability of the establishment of a Muslim state. Among British writers there is of course some difference in outlook between generations, and within the generations between historians and those who actually served in India. Those brought up in the age of empire and concerned with the administration of that empire tend to differ from those of their contemporaries who were more influenced by the political climate of the thirties at home in England.
The range of contributors includes, among others, B. Shiva Rao, C. S. Venkatachar, K. N. Chaudhuri, S. R. Mehrotra, B. R. Nanda, Mumtaz Hasan, Raja of Mahmudabad, Abdul Qaiyum Khan, Sir Francis Wylie, Lord Sorensen, and Percival Spear.