Thursday, March 13

Wavell and the Dying Days of the Raj: Britain's Penultimate Viceroy in India


We walked about in sunny old Delhi. The city where one set of imperialists and colonisers, the Mughals, were overthrown by the next lot, The British. 

And after the divide and rule policy, the British desperately tried to keep India together. And then whilst Gandhi spoke for all Indians, Jinnah and Ambedkar, ironically all liberal lawyers blessed with some of the greatest minds known to India in the recent years, along with Nehru, managed to bollox it all up. There's nothing that irritates people who claim to speak for narrow groups than to be faced with people who speak for all. So for example, if somebody bangs on about nationalism, if you wanted to wind them up, speak to them about children's rights. If somebody talks about religion, cut them off by talking women's rights. At end of the day, see the universal declaration of human rights. That's a good one to memorise and use as principles son. 

In the meantime, read about great men with feet of clay who ended up killing hundreds of thousands of people in the partition of India. You walked in those grounds son, yesterday, where millions were uprooted and in many cases killed for being in the wrong religion. Bah. 



H-Net Reviews

Mohammad Iqbal Chawla. Wavell and the Dying Days of the Raj: Britain's Penultimate Viceroy in India. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2011. xi + 293 pp. $25.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-906275-1.

Reviewed by Anirudh Deshpande (Department of History, University of Delhi)
Published on H-Asia (January, 2014)
Commissioned by Sumit Guha

Wavell and the Ironies of India’s Partition in 1947

Lord Wavell was destined to be the second-to-last viceroy of British India. A seasoned British imperialist soldier and an Old India hand, he was appointed to the post in 1943 and remained in office until March 1947 when his flamboyant successor Lord Mountbatten took over. Mountbatten succeeded Wavell in order to supervise the liquidation of the Raj. For various reasons, including his dashing personality and an interesting wife, Mountbatten has managed to attract more than his share of attention from scholars. In contrast, Wavell, who tried in vain to keep India united between 1943 and 1947, is almost a forgotten figure of history.

No doubt, history students know much more about the Mountbatten Plan than the Wavell Plan. The public, in general, has forgotten Wavell and the plans that he devised for India in the twilight of the Raj. In this book, Mohammad Iqbal Chawla highlights Wavell’s plans, which became increasingly impossible to execute in communally charged postwar India. By the time Wavell became the viceroy of Britain’s most important colony, the sun had set on the British Empire. The two world wars exhausted Britain and made it financially and politically subservient to the United States. In 1943, Britain did not have the political, military, and financial means to ensure a smooth and peaceful transfer of power to the Indians in the troubled and anxiety-ridden 1940s. The appointment of a veteran soldier as the viceroy of India, after the Quit India rebellion was quelled by the Raj in 1942, failed to produce a negotiated political settlement between the British and various Indian parties.

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