Imperial Violence and the Path to Independence

Book Review

Richard Brown, last updated: 24th February 2017

India, Ireland and the Crisis of Empire

Imperial Violence and the Path to Independence: India, Ireland and the Crisis of Empire by Shereen Ilahi (I.B. Tauris, 2016) 258pp., £ 59, ISBN 978-1-78453-130-0

In the aftermath of World War I, the British Empire was hit by two different crises on opposite sides of the world: the Jallianwala Bagh or Amritsar Massacre in the Punjab in April 1919 where 379 Indians were killed and the Croke Park Massacre, the first Bloody Sunday, in Ireland in November 1920 when at least 40 were killed. This book provides a study at the cutting edge of British imperial historiography, concentrating on British imperial violence and the concept of collective punishment. This was the crisis of empire following the political and ideological watershed of World War I. The British Empire had reached its greatest geographical extent, appeared powerful, liberal, humane and broadly sympathetic to gradual progress to responsible self-government. Yet it was faced with existential threats to its survival with demands for decolonisation, especially in India and Ireland, growing anti-imperialism at home, virtual bankruptcy and domestic social and economic unrest.  Providing an original and closely-researched analysis of imperial violence in the aftermath of World War I, this book will be essential reading for historians of empire, South Asia and Ireland.