Bound ‘Together by the Golden Thread of a Common Tradition’? Decolonization, Identity, and the Legacies of EmpIre in British-South Asian Relations

Paul Tonks, L. M. Ratnapalan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

It is commonly argued that, between the late 1940s and the early 1960s, there was a shift from cooperation in the formerly ‘British’ Commonwealth to a set of national priorities determined by the more realist considerations of the Cold War. Accounts of South Asian decolonization and relations with Britain in this period understandably tend to highlight the political and cultural nationalism espoused by the leaders of India, Pakistan, and Ceylon. Whilst valuable, they do not adequately explain why espousal of ‘British’ values, customs, and traditions continued to be important to South Asian political leaders, at a time when it was widely believed that British power and influence were in global decline. Here we address the central question: how did perceptions of the legacies of empire shape British-South Asian relations during and after formal decolonization? South Asian elites deployed ideas about the legacies of imperialism and the post-independence Commonwealth that were refracted through the interpretive lens of a complex and multi-layered range of both shared and contested British and world historical experiences and identities in order to justify specific political goals. South Asian leaders’ overall intellectual commitment to constitutionalism, representative government, international cooperation, and a liberal world order was a genuine product of their deep historical reflection on the experience of empire and the ‘British World’. These ideas sometimes came into conflict with political realities at the local level, however.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational History Review
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

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