Spaces before Partition: An Introduction

This introduction frames a selection of papers that encourage a richer spatial understanding of the years before the Partition of India. The papers respond to two types of questions. One type is spatial (at what scale do we approach Partition? Through which spaces should we attempt to understand both micro and macro processes? Movements across what distances constituted Partition?). The second type is temporal (what timescales do we invoke when approaching Partition? Of what was it the endpoint? What sort of memories were invoked and made during India’s multiple partitions?). This introduction establishes the main trends in Partition historiography, tracked through the last two decennial anniversaries. It sketches out spatial analyses of Partition to date, regarding territory and displacement especially, but shows that much of this geographical interpretation has been implicit rather than explicit, and that most have begun with Partition. Whilst framing many of their arguments in twentieth-century colonial practice, and occasionally straying into the post-colonial, the papers in this special issue mostly focus on the 1930s–1940s at a range of scales (from the international, through the nation-state, to cities, mohallas and courtrooms). Collectively they make the argument that if Partition has a history, then it also has an historical geography. We hope these papers will help people read these histories and geographies with a finer spatial eye.

William Gould
Taylor and Francis Online