British Empire
The end of the British empire - India
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A British newsreel from 1947 commenting on the end of British rule in India
(British Pathe: 1193.16, India Takes Over)
  • This is a British newsreel, which would have been shown to British audiences in cinemas in 1947, soon after Indian independence. It describes the setting up of two new states - India and Pakistan.
  • The majority of Indians were Hindus, but a very large number of Indians were Muslims. As the campaign for Indian independence grew it was largely headed by Hindus like Gandhi. Muslims became concerned that they would be a minority in India and campaigned for their own Muslim state of Pakistan.
  • Tension between Hindus and Muslims erupted into violence as Indian independence got closer. There were terrible atrocities by both sides and thousands were killed. Around 2 million people fled from their homes to areas of Pakistan or India where they would not be a minority.
  • In 1947 the final partition of India created the two states, although violence continued for some time. Partition left 18 million Hindus in Pakistan and 40 million Muslims in India. There were serious disputes over territories, particularly Kashmir. Even today, relations between India and Pakistan remain tense and there have been many outbreaks of violence and open war in the 1960s.
  • The news clip provides a very positive view of Britain's rule of India. It also sets out the massive challenges that faced the new leaders of India and Pakistan in 1947.
  • Sources like this one can be interpreted several ways. Admirers of British rule would point out the achievements and contribution of the British. They might even say that India’s terrible problems of hunger and famine could have been less serious if British rule had carried on.
  • Critics of British rule might point out that if British rule was so beneficial, why were there terrible famines after 100 years of British rule and why did the standard of living of ordinary people need to be raised? They would probably see this clip as extremely patronising.
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