Bearing Witness: Partition, Independence, End of the Raj


414 pages
Contains Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55238-041-6
DDC 954.04




Reviewed by Terry A. Crowley

Terry A. Crowley is a professor of history at the University of Guelph,
and the former editor of the journal, Ontario History. He is the author
of Agnes Macphail and the Politics of Equality and Canadian History to
1967, and the co-author of The College o


The creation of the modern states of India and Pakistan through the
partition of British India in 1947 constituted one of the most momentous
events of the 20th century. Not only did it signal mammoth
decolonization around the world, but the division of the South Asian
subcontinent became even more internationally significant with the
threat of nuclear war there by the 1990s. Many people have long been
aware of the mass murders that accompanied these events, when hundreds
of thousands of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were killed during the
migratory movements accompanying partition, but generally the end of
British Raj has been recounted through the lives of its principal
antagonists: Lord and Lady Mountbatten, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and
Jawaharal Nehru.

Sukeshi Kamra, the associate dean of the Faculty of Arts at Okanagan
University College, aims at broadening our historical understanding of
these 1947 events through analyzing a series of writings left from the
past, including editorial cartoons, fiction and autobiography framed as
narratives of the immense pain suffered during violent upheavals,
chronicles and diaries, and the rhetoric of British journalism at the
time. Not untouched by the traumas of 1947 herself (her father was
Punjabi), Kamra is particularly engaging and poignant in the chapter
that examines narratives of pain as psycho-testimonies.

In each section of the book, Kamra brings an interdisciplinary and
cultural perspective to her readings of the diverse materials in a
manner that will interest a wide variety of academics. By treating each
element in her book as a separate reading, she renders Bearing Witness
less a new account of partition, independence, and the end of the
British Raj than a series of studies that fill in areas that future
scholars will need to take into account. The book will be immensely
useful to academics wanting to explain the South Asian events of 1947 in
terms larger than the activities of its principal politicians.


Kamra, Sukeshi., “Bearing Witness: Partition, Independence, End of the Raj,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024,