History Faculty Publications



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Encyclopedia Entry

Publication Date


Publication Source

Oxford Bibliographies in Hinduism


The Partition of India in 1947 is one of the most significant events in South Asian history. It refers to the political division of the Indian subcontinent that marked the end of British colonial rule in the region. There were three partitions in 1947—of British India and of the provinces of Bengal and Punjab—that created the new nation-states of India and a spatially fragmented West and East Pakistan. While the end of the Second World War, political outcomes of the provincial elections in 1946 and contingency were factors, long-term organizing efforts of communal organizations, both Hindu and Muslim, were also critical in influencing the events course and impact on these groups.

Partition also evokes the horrific mass communal violence among Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs and resulted in the largest forced migrations in the history of the 20th century and resulted in horrific mass violence. While numbers vary, most estimates note the death toll around one million. Between 1946 and 1965, nearly nine million Hindus and Sikhs moved into India and approximately five million Muslims moved to both parts of Pakistan, resulting in massive displacement and making refugee rehabilitation one of the primary agendas in post-1947 restructuring in India and Pakistan. Partition as the twin facet of freedom remains a momentous event within the South Asian popular imagination, reinforced by family and personal memories of violence, exile, movement, and resettlement.



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Oxford University Press

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Oxford, England, United Kingdom

Peer Reviewed