The Raj at War: A Peo­ple’s His­tory of In­dia’s Se­cond World War

By Yas­min Khan

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - THE GUIDE -

(Bod­ley Head, 432 pages, £25) Yas­min Khan, an As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor of His­tory at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford, has re­searched ex­ten­sively in ar­chives across In­dia, Europe and the United States to pro­duce this rich ac­count of the In­dian ex­pe­ri­ence of the Se­cond World War.

Claim­ing to be the first “com­pre­hen­sive ac­count of the events of the In­dian Home Front, and the nexus be­tween warfare and In­dian so­ci­ety”, The Raj at War pro­vides a good overview of the mil­i­tary, political and so­cial changes that af­fected In­dia’s di­verse pop­u­la­tion through­out the pe­riod. Khan presents lesser­known facts of In­dia’s war, such as the Cal­cutta air raids, the in­tern­ment of Ital­ian and Ger­man res­i­dents, and the pres­ence of tens of thou­sands of US, African and Chi­nese troops.

One neg­a­tive point is that de­spite us­ing a wealth of sources, the dearth of work­ing-class voices makes this less of a true peo­ple’s his­tory.

Over­all, though, Khan presents an in­tri­cately de­tailed in­sight into an un­der­ex­plored area of wartime his­tory.

The Raj at War should ap­peal to all those with a gen­eral in­ter­est in the Se­cond World War, as well as any­one whose an­ces­tors lived or served in In­dia be­tween 1939 and 1947.

Emma Jolly is a mem­ber of the

As­so­ci­a­tion of Ge­neal­o­gists

and Re­searchers in Ar­chives

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