The making and breaking of states: the end of empire in India revisited

by Judith M. Brown

14 Apr 2016
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Full text of article by Judith M. Brown posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 1, pp. 133-149.

Abstract: 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?

Keywords: British Raj, civil resistance, decolonisation, Gandhi, imperialism, India, nationalism, non-violence, Pakistan, World War.

Raleigh Lecture on History, read 27 November 2012 (audio recording)

Text printed 2014 in British Academy Lectures 2012-13

Version of article available in British Academy Scholarship Online (HTML)

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