Partition and locality: case studies of the impact of partition and its aftermath in the Punjab region 1947-61

  • Pritpal Virdee

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The partition of India in August 1947 remains a watershed in the subcontinent’s history, defining the post-independence relationship between the two countries. The event was marked by the greatest migration in the twentieth century and the death of an estimated one million persons. The causes of partition and reasons for the associated violence have been examined previously. However, existing accounts tend to focus in general terms or at best has a provincial angle with respect to patterns of violence, resettlement and rehabilitation. Research in the past has also tended to stop at August 1947 without looking beyond this period.

    While there has been move towards examining the “lived” experience of partition, there remains a tendency to avoid locality focused case studies. A comparative India-Pakistan dimension is also missing, even in the ‘new history’ of partition. This thesis seeks to adopt a comparative case study approach. In addition to providing new empirical data, it attempts to uncover the differential experiences of violence, migration and the resettlement of partition refugees within the Punjab region. The thesis argues, firstly that localized patterns of political authority and culture impacted on the differential experience of partition related violence; Secondly, that the experience of partition and dislocation was a process rather than an event confined to August 1947. Finally, the thesis considers the extent to which the input of refugee capital and labour were locally significant in the region’s post-partition urban economic development.

    The thesis adopts a comparative history methodology with the use of three case studies, namely Malerkotla, and Ludhiana in East Pubjab and Faisalabad, formerly Lyallpur in West Pubjab. The themes explored include the differential experience of partition violence through a comparison between the Muslim Princely State of Malerkotla and the neighbouring British administered districts of the Ludhiana district. Some comparative insights into the role of the state and communal violence are also drawn by means of a brief examination of the circumstances in the Sikh ruled Princely state of Patiala. Patterns of urban migration are also explored, shedding new light on the motives behind places of resettlement. Again, a comparative history methodology is used. Finally, the role of refugee capital and labour in post-independence Indian and Pakistan Pubjabs are examined through the study of Ludhiana and Lyallpur. This approach represents the most sustained comparative examination of partition and its aftermath to date based on locality case studies.
    Date of Award2004
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorRoy May (Supervisor) & Shinder Thandi (Supervisor)


    • partition
    • India
    • Pakistan
    • Punjab
    • case study

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