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Liberty Or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division [Paperback]

Patrick French
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 May 1998

‘A remarkable achievement’ Philip Ziegler, Daily Telegraph ‘Brilliant…There can be no doubt that Patrick French is the most impressive Western historian of modern India currently at work’ Frank McLynn, Glasgow Herald

At midnight on 14 August 1947, Britain’s 350-year-old Indian Empire cracked into three pieces. The greatest mass migration in history began, as Muslims fled north and Hindus fled south, over a million being massacred on the way. Britain’s role as world power came to an end, and the course of Asia’s future was irrevocably set. Using a compelling mixture of scholarship, travel and personal narrative, Patrick French offers a radical reinterpretation of the events surrounding India’s independence and partition, including the disastrous mistakes made by politicians, and the bizarre reasoning behind many of their decisions. Exploring the interplay between characters such as Churchill, Mountbatten and Gandhi, it reveals a fascinating tale of idealism and manipulation, hope and tragedy. With sources ranging from newly declassified secret documents to the memories of refugees, Patrick French gives a riveting account of an epic debacle, the impact of which reverberates across Asia to this day.



Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; New Ed edition (5 May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006550452
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006550457
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 145,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

From the reviews of Liberty or Death:

‘A huge, crowded and kaleidoscopic canvas, which the author handles with remarkable authority. It is also enormous fun to read’
Philip Ziegler, Daily Telegraph

‘Well-researched, beautifully written and immensely scholarly’
Andrew Roberts, Sunday Times

‘Delightful… quite hilarious’
Swapan Dasgupta, India Today

From the Back Cover

At midnight on 14 August 1947, Britain’s 350-year- old Indian Empire was cracked into three pieces. The greatest mass migration in history began, as Muslims fled north and Hindus fled south, nearly a million being massacred on the other way. Britain’s role as a world power came to an end, and the course of Asia’s future was irrevocably set.

'Liberty or Death' offers a controversial reinterpretation of the last years of British rule in India, including the disastrous mistakes made by politicians, and the bizarre reasoning behind many of their decisions. Exploring the interplay between opposing characters such as Churchill, Wavell, Nehru, Patel, Jinnah, Mountbatten and Gandhi, it reveals a fascinating tale of idealism and manipulation, hope and tragedy. With sources extending from newly declassified intelligence documents to the memories of Bihari refugees, Patrick French gives a riveting account of an epic debacle, the impact of which reverberates across South Asia to this day.

“ Extraordinarily able and nuanced…This is a brilliant book on an important subject… There can surely now be no serious doubt French is the most impressive Western historian of modern India currently at work”
FRANK MCLYNN,' Glasgow Herald'

”French tackles a subject of extreme complexity, calling for scholarship, sobriety and considerable analytical powers. He has achieved almost complete success… It is a huge, crowded and kaleidescopic canvas, which the author handles with remarkable authority… It is also enormous fun to read”
PHILIP ZIEGLER, 'Daily Telegraph'

“Well-researched, beautifully written and immensly scholarly”
ANDREW ROBERTS, 'Sunday Times'

”French is a natural storyteller… a delightful tale of intrigue, ham-handedness and just plain blundering…quite hilarious”
SWAPAN DASGUPTA, 'India Today'


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Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Patrick French's book Liberty or Death is a refreshingly unbiased look at India's freedom movement and the subsequent partition of the sub-continent. The book examines events and prominent figures, Indian, Pakistani and British. Patrick French refrains from casting the main personalities in a black or white mould - all have grey areas and these are brought out in an interesting, and occassionally humorous manner. The book deserves to be read just for its portrayal of the men and women who played important roles in fashioning the destiny of a large chunk of humanity.
The book has other redeeming features as well. It presents a strong argument for why pre-independence India may be considered two separate nations inspite of the people having so much in common. For many Indians like me this is a completely new point of view - one that can lead to a better appreciation of the history of the sub-continent, and in many cases a more broad-minded understanding of the differences between people from the sub-continent's three major countries.
The content is exhaustively researched and presented in a most reader-friendly manner - never once did I find the book dry or uninteresting. I recommend it strongly, especially as it offers an unbiased look at events that have shaped the lives of millions.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By ASax
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Being an Indian born British citizen I became interested in learning about the history of my country and decided to buy this book to learn about one of the most historically important events of Indian history - its partition.

This book is well written and takes you through the events that caused the partition of the Indian sub-continent. French covers the accounts of all those involved, Indians, Pakistanis and the British, to provide an un-biased picture of what happened. Also he provides insights into the workings of the main characters such as Jinnah and Gandhi and the means they used to get their ideas across. Although in-depth and informative, this book does sometimes lack details of certain events. For example, French often mentions events in the history of India, which some may know very well, but others may not. He does not try to provide a description of the event but instead assumes the reader is aware of it. On these instances I often got lost within the book. Also he did on many occassions jumble up the years, jumping say from the early forties to the late forties very suddenly and in a confusing manner.

But apart from those minor criticisms this is a very informative book which lays out the events as they were instead of providing a biased view of them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading 14 Sep 2008
Format:Paperback
A masterfully written account of the partition. Patrick French combines a scholarly account of the travails that tore India into two with a travelogue where he gives us access to the lives and views of the ordinary people that were affected by the partition and its legacy. French also does some first rate historical research in unearthing government papers not released till his request. The book assumes no prior knowledge and doesn't fall into the trap so often made by outsiders of turning Ghandi into a saint. Instead here we see him as a sum of all his parts, both the good and the bad. Jinnah too is given a fair outing in this book, the only protagonist to escape severe criticism is Nehru despite his role in the Kashmir problem and the annexation of the Princely State of Hyderabad. The Bengali side of the question is not ignored here though it is given far less prominence than it deserves. Overall a wonderful telling of the partition, this should be the first starting point for anyone interested in learning the modern history of the sub-continent.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you read only one book 10 Oct 2000
Format:Paperback
concerning the exhausting road towards India's Independence and ulimate partition, then Liberty or Death is the one volume you should read. Patrick French's book takes us comprehensively through the complex journey with amazing clarity. His narrative is enriched by the vivid portraits he paints of all the key participants, always enlightening often refreshingly critical, which helps one's understanding of their motivations and actions which led to partition and consequent tragedy. Given the human misery caused by political petulance, intransigence, indecision, one feels a great sense of guilt in finding this book gripping throughout and difficult to put down
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