Books: 1942: Critical year in the collapse of the British Empire

Book jacket of 1942: When British Rule in India was Threatened. Author: Krishna Kumar. PHOTO: courtesy Krishna Kumar

What caused the collapse of the British Empire? Did it start from India? Why were the British forced to leave India in 1947?

The answers to all these questions are in the events of 1942, according to author Krishna Kumar, who explains his premise in his debut book, “1942: When the British Rule in India was Threatened.”

It is a short 170-page book with extensive citations, covering the significant events of this year in a ‘Rapid Read ‘ book.  Rapid Read books intend to focus on a specific period or set of events.

Kumar starts from the premise that throughout history, any Empire has survived only as long as it could project its power. The power could be real or imagined, but it must be believable by its subjects.

The year 1942 was when the British lost a large part of this power projection, he contends. Another event followed this- the formation of the Indian National Army under the leadership of Subhash Chandra Bose, formed with the express purpose of dismantling the Empire on which the sun never set, as the saying went.

As more and more parts of India went under British rule, so did the squeezing of the Indian economy by the Raj. Kumar says an estimate for this period is that between one-fourth to one-third of the annual revenue of the Government of India was sent to England as home charges, besides sky-high salaries for British serving in India, high rates of returns from money invested in projects like Railways, and so on.

The first dent in the British aura of invincibility, of how few Britishers could control a vast and spread-out population, came under when Britain struggled to maintain but lost Singapore, Malaya, Hongkong, and Burma in Asia.

“The debacle of Singapore and Malaya in 1942 was a decisive loss to the British and demonstrated a poor strategy and inadequate fighting ability. When Singapore was lost to the British, 143,000 soldiers surrendered to the Japanese, almost all Indian, with British and Australian officers,” Kumar notes.

The book is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle format and in Kobo, Google Play, and Apple Store.



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