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The Making and Breaking of States: End Of Empire In India Revisited

Raleigh Lecture on History, delivered by Professor Judith M Brown, on 27 November 2012 (venue: The British Academy), the first in a series of three lectures on 'The Making and Breaking of States'.

Recent events in the Arab world have sharpened and widened public interest in the way states can be broken and made. Since the end of the Second World War the world has seen three great waves of state-breaking and state-making: the end of European empires; the collapse of the Soviet Union; and the contemporary 'Arab spring'. By revisiting an example from the first of these great waves, perhaps the greatest ‘imperial ending’ - the end of British imperial rule in India in 1947 - this lecture investigates issues which may prove instructive in probing the dynamics of other phases of turbulence in the structures and nature of states. It addresses four major questions which are relevant across the many different episodes of state breaking and making, with the help of evidence from the case of the South Asian subcontinent. What is the relationship between state and society and the patterns of relationship which help to determine the nature and vulnerability of the state? What makes a viable and destabilising opposition to the imperial state? What is the nature of the breaking or collapse of that state? How are states refashioned out of the inheritance of the previous regime and the breaking process?

About the speaker
The Revd Professor Judith Brown was born in India (1944) and educated in England. Between school and Cambridge she taught in a girls’ boarding school in India. As an academic specialising in South Asia and wider aspects of imperial history, she taught as a Fellow of Girton College, in Manchester University, and then in Oxford as Beit Professor of Commonwealth History and Professorial Fellow of Balliol College (1990-2011). She is a member of the Academia Europea. Most of her writing has been on modern Indian politics (with biographical studies of Gandhi and of Nehru) the South Asian diaspora, and more generally on the British empire. She trained for ordination (2009) at Cuddesdon and helps in a west Oxford parish and in Balliol chapel. She has served on governing bodies of several universities, on the Charles Wallace India Trust, and on the Scholars’ council of the Library of Congress.

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