The Raj at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War
By Yasmin Khan
(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