1947 Independence and Partition

15 Aug 1947

On 14 August 1947, Pakistan was made an independent country, and on 15 August 1947 India was made independent as the British transferred their power over at midnight. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who had trained as a barrister in London and lived in London again in the 1930s, was sworn in as Governor-General of Pakistan. Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India who had overseen this transfer of power, became Governor-General of India for the interim. Jawaharlal Nehru, who had studied at Harrow School, Cambridge, and as a barrister in London, took up the position of Prime Minister of India.

Independence was celebrated in Britain by South Asians. At 11am on 15 August 1947, Indians gathered at India House in Aldwych to salute the flag. Pakistanis gathered in celebration at Lancaster House. In the afternoon, the Indian Conciliation Group held a celebration at Friends House in London where High Commissioners for India and Pakistan were present. They were both new in that position from 15 August: Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoolah for Pakistan, and V. K. Krishna Menon for India. A celebration was also held at the International Club in Croydon for students where the Dean of Canterbury blessed the Indian and Pakistani flags.

Despite the celebrations in London, the partition of the Indian sub-continent was not a peaceful process. With the migration of millions of refugees across the borders in Bengal and Punjab, rioting continued in India and Pakistan for many months with cases of horrific violence. The estimates of people killed vary, but there were probably over a million killed.

Secondary works: 

Chatterji, Joya, Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932-1947 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)

Chopra, P. N. (ed.), Towards Freedom: Documents on the Movement for Independence in India, 1937 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1986)

Gupta, P. S. (ed.), Towards Freedom: Documents on the Movement for Independence in India, 1942-1944 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997)

Hasan, Mushirul (ed.), India’s Partition: Process, Strategy and Mobilization (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993)

Jalal, Ayesha, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985)

Khan, Yasmin, The Great Partition. The Making of India and Pakistan (London: Yale University Press, 2007)

Mansergh, N., Lumby, E. W. R., and Moon, Penderel (eds.), India: The Transfer of Power 1942-1947. 12 vols. (London: H.M.S.O., 1970-1983)

Menon, V. P., The Transfer of Power in India (Bombay: Orient Longman, 1957)

Moore, R. J., Escape from Empire: The Atlee Government and the Indian Problem (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982)

The Partition of Punjab: A Compilation of Official Documents (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel, 1993)

Philips, C. H. and Wainwright, M. D. (eds), The Partition of India: Policies and Perspectives 1935-47 (London: Allen & Unwin, 1970)

Talbot, Ian, Freedom’s Cry: The Popular Dimension in the Pakistan Movement and Partition Experience in Northwest India (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1996)

Tinker, Hugh, Experiment with Freedom, India and Pakistan 1947 (London: Oxford University Press, 1967)


The Times, 15 August 1947


Indian Independence Day

The High Commissioner for India cordially invites all Indian nationals in the United Kingdom to India House to-day, at 11am, to participate in the celebration of Indian independence.

The High Commissioner regrets that it has not been possible to send individual invitations to all Indians in this country, as there is no record of their addresses at India House, but hopes that those who see this announcement will take it as an invitation.

Archive source: 

National Archives of India, Delhi

Nehru Memorial Library, Delhi

India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras. [See http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpregion/asia/india/indianindependence/index.html]

Mountbatten Papers, University of Southampton, Southampton

Various political and personal papers, Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge

date test: 
15 Aug 2016