India in the Second World War
An Emotional History
From poetry to memoirs to photographs, Gupta explores the feelings documented by Indians as a global conflict coincided with the battle for their country’s future.
In 1940s India, revolutionary and nationalistic feeling surged against colonial subjecthood and imperial war. Two-and-a-half million men from undivided India served the British during the Second World War, while 3 million civilians were killed by the war-induced Bengal Famine, and Indian National Army soldiers fought against the British for Indian independence. This captivating new history shines a spotlight on emotions as a way of unearthing these troubled and contested experiences, exposing the personal as political.
Diya Gupta draws upon photographs, letters, memoirs, novels, poetry and philosophical essays, in both English and Bengali languages, to weave a compelling tapestry of emotions felt by Indians in service and at home during the war. She brings to life an unknown sepoy in the Middle East yearning for home, and anti-fascist activist Tara Ali Baig; a disillusioned doctor on the Burma frontline, and Sukanta Bhattacharya’s modernist poetry of hunger; Mulk Raj Anand’s revolutionary home front, and Rabindranath Tagore’s critique of civilisation.
This vivid book recovers a truly global history of the Second World War, revealing the crucial importance of cultural approaches in challenging a traditional focus on the wartime experiences of European populations. Seen through Indian eyes, this conflict is no longer the ‘good’ war.
‘A significant book for anyone interested in the Second World War, the history of the subcontinent, or Indian literature, drawing on extensive, multilingual archival research and conveyed in lively, smart prose.’ — Daniel Ryan Morse, author of Radio Empire, and Director of Core Humanities and Associate Professor of English, University of Nevada
‘Bringing an emotional history lens to the subject while seamlessly integrating Indian combatant and civilian experiences of the war, India in the Second World War is an engaging, persuasive and innovative read.’ — Jonathan Saha, Associate Professor of South Asian History, Durham University
Diya Gupta is a literary and cultural historian, and Lecturer in Public History at City, University of London. Formerly a 'Past and Present' fellow at the Royal Historical Society and Institute of Historical Research, she takes multilingual approaches to life-writing, visual culture and literature, in relation to war. See https://www.diyagupta.co.uk.