Ian Talbot
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The Mountbatten Viceroyalty reconsidered
Personality, prestige and strategic vision in the partition of India
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Scholars have debated whether the contemporaneous partition policy in Palestine and India indicates that partition was a British policy agenda at the end of empire. This chapter argues for a more nuanced view. Mountbatten is blamed by some for imposing partition with its ensuing human tragedies. However, when he arrived in India on 22 March 1947 as the last Viceroy, he still hoped to resurrect the Cabinet Mission proposal of the previous year which envisaged a post-imperial order of a united India, albeit one with a weak centre. Documentary evidence overwhelmingly suggests an official reluctance to divide and quit India. Strategic connections between partition in India and Palestine were far less clear cut than scholars have asserted. Partition in both instances could, however, be seen as a means to extricate Britain from conflicts that threatened national prestige and aspirations to retain defence and economic interests after decolonisation. Expectations of ‘neocolonial’ power foundered both on the unanticipated aftermaths of partition in India/Pakistan and Palestine and on Britain’s diminished postwar economic and military power.

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The breakup of India and Palestine

The causes and legacies of partition

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