Lucy P. Chester
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‘Standing on the edge of a volcano’
The historical context of partition
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With conflict between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs reaching unprecedented levels in the mid-1940s, British leaders felt compelled to move towards decolonization. Punjab had played an outsized role in Indian affairs since the nineteenth century, even though it was one of the British raj's last acquisitions. The Muslim League exerted relatively little influence in the province until the 1940s. The history of the demand for a separate Muslim state is too complex to address fully here, but it is important to note that Muslim League statements never specified where Pakistan's boundaries would fall. British efforts to map South Asia were limited by British perceptions of the land under their control. The Survey's maps did not capture the diversity of relationships, within and across these boundaries that would be disrupted by partition. As a result, Survey maps were useful only up to a point.

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Borders and conflict in South Asia

The Radcliffe boundary commission and the partition of Punjab


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