Dalrymple Junior’s debut book delves into five partitions in Asia

Tuesday 29th December 2020 02:42 EST

Eminent British historian William Dalrymple’s son Sam will examine and chronicle the five partitions in Asia. Expected to publish in 2022, his book ‘Five Partitions: The Making of Modern Asia’ promises an important corrective to the history of Asia and the root causes of the tensions the region faces today. In a pre-emptive co-publication deal with HarperCollins India, the book offers a new assessment of Indian independence as Sam explores history the Partition of Burma, the Great Partition, the Partition of Princely India, the Partition of Arabia and the Partition of Pakistan.

The narrative weaves original testimonies from survivors, as it chronicles an era when India was the heart of Britain’s imperial project.

Explaining his interest in the South Asian history, Sam Dalrymple says, “Growing up in Delhi and studying South Asian languages at Oxford, the spectre of Partition has been present in much of my life. In my work with Project Dastaan, I gradually realized that Partition’s tragic legacy looms over a much wider region than is generally understood. It’s an extraordinary story that explains so much about what is still unraveling today, from the insurgencies in Kashmir to the Rohingya Crisis. Bizarrely it’s never before been told as a single tale. I am thrilled and honoured that Harper Collins has agreed to publish it.”

During the 1930s, ‘India’ stretched from the Red Sea off the coast of Africa to the borders of Thailand, unifying a quarter of the world’s population into a single colony governed from the Viceroy’s house in New Delhi. The history of how this vast territory fought for independence has been dominated by the partition of 1947, when millions of refugees were forced across hastily erected borders between Hindu-majority India and the newly created Muslim-majority Pakistan. In just six months, eleven million people had been driven from their homes and two million killed. Some eighty-three thousand women were abducted and raped. But, as this new book argues for the first time, this was just one of five partitions.

As British rule disintegrated, ‘the Raj’ was partitioned five times between 1937 and 1971. These breakups and the manner in which they occurred are crucial to understanding the modern world. Each left violent legacies, many of which plague Asia today – including civil wars in Burma and Sri Lanka, the ongoing insurgencies in Kashmir, Baluchistan and North East India, the Iranian Revolution, the rise of the Taliban and the Rohingya genocide.

Arabella Pike says, “From his pioneering work for the Dastaan project and many years spent living in India, Sam Dalrymple brings a fresh perspective to the legacy of Britain’s imperial past across Asia. His first book is an ambitious, brilliant conceived history and we couldn’t be prouder to be publishing him.” 

Sam Dalrymple has been published in The New York Times and Conde Nast Traveller, and worked with BBC Radio 4, The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Turquoise Mountain. He graduated as a Sanskrit and Persian scholar from the University of Oxford where he served as president and co-founder of the Oxford University Silk Road Society.

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