"Liberty or Death" is Patrick French's vivid and surprising account of the chaotic final years of colonial rule in India, acclaimed as the definitive book on this subject. At midnight on 14 August 1947, Great Britain's 350-year-old Indian Empire was broken into three pieces. The greatest mass migration in history began, as Muslims fled north and ...
"Liberty or Death" is Patrick French's vivid and surprising account of the chaotic final years of colonial rule in India, acclaimed as the definitive book on this subject. At midnight on 14 August 1947, Great Britain's 350-year-old Indian Empire was broken into three pieces. The greatest mass migration in history began, as Muslims fled north and Hindus fled south, and Britain's role as an imperial power came to an end. Journeying across India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, Patrick French brings to life a cast of characters including spies, idealists, freedom fighters and politicians from Winston Churchill to Mahatma Gandhi. The result is a compelling story of deal-making, missed opportunities, hope and tragedy. "A fine, lucid book...vividly drawn with novel-like touches". ("Hanif Kureshi"). "Extraordinarily able and nuanced...a brilliant book on an important subject...French is the most impressive Western historian of modern India currently at work". ("Herald"). "Beautifully written". ("Sunday Times"). "French is a natural storyteller...a delightful tale of intrigue, ham-handedness and just plain blundering". ("India Today"). Patrick French is the author of "India: A Portrait", "Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer", which won the Somerset Maugham Award and the Royal Society of Literature W. H. Heinemann Prize, "Tibet", "Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land", "The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul", which was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Hawthornden Prize.
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Publishers Weekly, 1999-01-04 Without a sharp focus, authors tackle the history of modern India at their peril. French, whose first book, Younghusband, won the 1995 Somerset Maugham Award, tries to do a bit too much. It's difficult to uncover new ground in the well-spaded turf of Indian independence. French is not the first to see Gandhi as a crank obsessed with bowel functions, Winston Churchill as a racist and the 1947 British exit strategy as a case of muddling through. He does, however, succeed at filling in some gaps, especially about British intelligence operations. French (who ran for Britain's parliament as a Green candidate and is currently director of the Free Tibet Campaign) nagged the Foreign Office to declassify 92 "bottle-green boxes" of files, and his analysis reveals a dying Raj under severe financial stress held together by undercover operations. Although his criticisms of Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre's Freedom at Midnight are unlikely to dethrone that classic, he argues persuasively that the authors swallowed an elderly Lord Mountbatten's egocentric recollections and inaccurately made the creation of Pakistan a cliff-hanger dependent on the health of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Noteworthy also are glimpses of various British viceroys, perspectives on the amalgamation of the princely states into the nation and an update on the increasing adulation in India of Axis ally Subhas Chandra Bose. French's travel notes and wit leaven the narrative somewhat, but many readers will find that this demanding journey covers too much territory too quickly. (Feb.)
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