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This seminar seeks to frame the Partition of India of 1947 as a wartime event and to situate it within the context of wartime transformations in India of the 1940s. India was greatly changed by the war, and became a receiving country for the first time of thousands of refugees of numerous nationalities from Eastern Europe, Russia and South East Asia. In particular, the arrival of British and Indian refugees from Burma after the Japanese invasion of 1942 had a significant impact on Indian opinions about refugees and their rights. The ‘civil society’ responses of political parties – particularly the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League – to wartime refugees paved the way for responses in 1947 as refugee rehabilitation was already established as a political tool for consolidating vote-banks in the context of decolonisation. British India’s responses to wartime refugees helped to establish structures that would be revitalised in response to the massive Partition crisis, when India and Pakistan were created in 1947. 

about the speaker

Dr Yasmin Khan is a British historian and writer, and University Lecturer in British History (18th to early 20th century) based in the Department for Continuing Education, and a member of the History Faculty. Her research focuses on the history of the British in India, the British Empire, South Asian decolonisation, refugees and the aftermath of empire. She has also written about the Second World War and the imperial dimensions of the conflict.

She was educated at Oxford (St. Peter’s and St. Antony’s colleges) and was previously a Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh and a Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has held research grants from the British Academy (Postdoctoral Fellowship), the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Leverhulme Trust.

Publications include The Great Partition: the Making of India and Pakistan (Yale University Press/Penguin India, 2007) which won the Gladstone Prize from the Royal Historical Society. She has also published in journals including History Workshop Journal, Modern Asian Studies and The Round Table: the Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs.

Dr Khan has given public lectures and talks in the UK, Nepal, India, Pakistan and the USA. She is a trustee of the Charles Wallace India Trust which welcomes applications from Indian research students. She is an editor of History Workshop Journal, a journal committed to debating the role of history in public life, and exploring the dialogue between past and present. She has contributed to media including the Guardian, BBC Radio and Channel 4 News.

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