South Asian Heritage Month 2022: Journeys of Empire

5 books mentioned in the text

South Asian Heritage Month 2022 coincides with the 75th anniversary of the independence of India, Partition, and the creation of Pakistan (later known as East and West Pakistan). A defining event in the history of South Asia, the Partition of British-ruled India into India and Pakistan led to the mass migration of millions of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, sparked violence and civil war across the region, and paved the way for the creation of Bangladesh. Its effects are felt to this day by people across the globe.

To mark the occasion, we’ve selected some books from our library that explore Partition and its legacies. The list includes non-fiction and novels, as well as some titles suitable for younger readers.

For more details of our programme of South Asian Heritage Month events, visit our Events page.


Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory by Aanchal Malhotra (HI.5.03/MAL)

Remnants of a Separation, by artist and oral historian Aanchal Malhotra, revisits the Partition by exploring the objects that accompanied her ancestors as they fled their homes to cross the newly created border. A string of pearls, a set of cooking utensils and a notebook of poems are among the objects through which Malhotra explores the pasts of their owners.

Partition Voices: Untold British Stories by Kavita Puri (HI.5.03/PUR)

Kavita Puri records the first-hand testimonies of some of millions of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims displaced by Partition, including her own father. The book covers seven decades of history and demonstrates that the lives of many South Asians in contemporary Britain continue to be touched by the traumatic events that surrounded the Partition.

Midnight’s Descendants: South Asia from Partition to the Present Day by John Keay (HI.5/KEA)

Midnight’s Descendants is the first comparative history of South Asia from the 1947 Partition of British India to the present day. It provides insights into the past, present and future of a region home to around 1.5 billion people, dispersed across India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Lost Heritage: The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan, by Amardeep Singh (HI.5.03/SIN)

In 2014 Singapore-based Amardeep Singh travelled to the home of his ancestors to explore the Sikh legacy in West Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan Administered Kashmir. This book chronicles in narrative and photography his journey to reclaim the lost heritage of his people, and bears witness to the cataclysmic impacts of the Partition.

Out of India: an Anglo-Indian Childhood, by Jamila Gavin (Junior, HI.7/GAV)

Suitable for younger readers, this is author Jamila Gavin’s account of her childhood growing up with an Inidan father and an English mother, during the period of Indian independence and Partition, and the Second World War.


The Shadow Lines, by Amitav Ghosh (FIC/GHO)

The Shadow Lines is set against the backdrop of historical events including the Swadeshi movement, the Partition of India, and the Second World War. Moving back and forth in time between 1939 and the mid-1970s, and between Calcutta and London, it shows how the lines drawn between countries have a ripple effect on the lives of those who live within them.

The Weary Generations, by Abdullah Hussein (FIC/HUS)

Originally published in Urdu in 1963 as Udas Naslein, Hussein’s classic novel places the love and marriage between Naim, the son of a peasant, and Azra, the daughter of a wealthy landowner, in parallel with the struggle of the Indian people against the British Raj and the upheaval that occurs in the wake of Independence as India is divided.

A Golden Age, by Tahmima Anam (FIC/ANA)

A Golden Age is the story of Rehana Haque, a young widow and mother of two children who lives in East Pakistan. The year is 1971, however, and the civil war that will eventually see the birth of Bangladesh as an independent nation, is on the horizon. Anam’s novel explores the impossible choices faced by a mother whose family is pulled apart by conflict.

The Wheel of Surya, The Eye of the Horse and The Track of the Wind, by Jamila Gavin (Junior, AR.2.06/GAV)

Jamila Gavin’s Surya trilogy begins in 1947, as brother and sister Jaspal and Marvinder flee the civil war raging in their home in the Punjab. Their epic journey takes them across India, to England, and back again. In the process, they find themselves torn between two worlds.