Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India

Britain's precipitous and ill-planned disengagement from India in 1947--condemned as a "shameful flight" by Winston Churchill--had a truly catastrophic effect on South Asia, leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead in its wake and creating a legacy of chaos, hatred, and war that has lasted over half a century.
Ranging from the fall of Singapore in 1942 to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, Shameful Flight provides a vivid behind-the-scenes look at Britain's decision to divest itself from the crown jewel of its empire. Stanley Wolpert, a leading authority on Indian history, paints memorable portraits of all the key participants, including Gandhi, Churchill, Attlee, Nehru, and Jinnah, with special focus on British viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten. Wolpert places the blame for the catastrophe largely on Mountbatten, the flamboyant cousin of the king, who rushed the process of nationhood along at an absurd pace. The viceroy's worst blunder was the impetuous drawing of new border lines through the middle of Punjab and Bengal. Virtually everyone involved advised Mountbatten that to partition those provinces was a calamitous mistake that would unleash uncontrollable violence. Indeed, as Wolpert shows, civil unrest among Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs escalated as Independence Day approached, and when the new boundary lines were announced, arson, murder, and mayhem erupted. Partition uprooted over ten million people, 500,000 to a million of whom died in the ensuing inferno.
Here then is the dramatic story of a truly pivotal moment in the history of India, Pakistan, and Britain, an event that ignited fires of continuing political unrest that still burn in South Asia.

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By Matt (The United States) · ★★★★☆ · December 17, 2011
Shameful Flight is a concise but thorough account of one of the most important events of the 20th century: the end of British rule and partition of India. The creation of a "moth-eaten Pakistan" (to quote M.A. Jinnah) resulted in the death of approximately 1 million Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs and... ...more
By Raghu (New Delhi, 07, India) · ★★★★★ · February 28, 2012
This is a revelation, after the "politically correct" version of the events leading to India's independence as documented in "Freedom at Midnight" (Lapierre & Collins). Only after going through this does one understand the complete short-sightedness and selfishness that drove the whole partit... ...more
By Jenni (Fayetteville, AR) · ★★★★★ · April 10, 2014
Shameful Flight – None are Without Sin

“All my sense of history rebels against this unnatural state of affairs that has been created in India and Pakistan… There is no settling down to it and conflicts continue.”1 – Pandit Nehru

Shameful Flight is Stanley Wolpurt’s account of the final days of the... ...more
By Jibran (Pakistan) · ★★★★☆ · December 29, 2014
The central argument of the book is, as the name indicates, that British, when they decided to leave India, did not plan the transfer of power properly enough.

The consequences of their lack of preparation were catastrophic as, inter alia, there were unresolved border disputes between the newly i... ...more
By Aaron (Chicago, IL) · ★★★★☆ · January 04, 2009
Very detailed non-fiction coverage of the British departure from India. Covers 1942-1948. Wolpert lays considerable blame with Jinnah (stubbornly insistent on separatism, though he acknowledges that Jinnah's belief was shaped by unfair regional treatment of Muslims by Hindu majorities following B... ...more
By Margaret (Moorhead, MN) · ★★★☆☆ · July 23, 2011
From a scholar who has spent his career mastering the minutiae of the Indian Civil Service Bureaucracy, a reconstruction of the astonishing coalescence of prejudice, personal animosity, bad judgment and poor planning which led to the Partition of India and Pakistan and its horrific aftermath. ...more
By Hasan (Sherman Oaks, CA) · ★★★★☆ · January 10, 2013
Makes it crystal clear who all are ultimately responsible for the disaster that was the death of 1-5 million people and the 10-20 million refugees following the partition of India.

Makes a compelling argument for why the partition of Punjab and Bengal was suicidal. ...more
By M (Thiruvananthapuram, IL, India) · September 19, 2009
Now reading better insight into transfer of power in India ...more