CFP: India and Pakistan: The Formative Phase, 1947-c.1960, 21-22 May 2019, Senate House, University of London



Conference Scope and Aims

The end of the British Indian Empire in 1947 and the creation of India and Pakistan as independent dominions marked the beginning of the post-colonial era in the world. Not only did 14/15 August 1947 signal the dusk of British imperial might which had been the mainstay of the world for nearly two centuries, India soon became the world’s largest democracy, while Pakistan became not just the world’s largest Muslim majority country but also the first modern Islamic state. Over three hundred million people, one fifth of the world’s population, gained independence at that fateful midnight hour.

In the study of India and Pakistan the first decade after independence—to use the phrase of political scientist Khalid Bin Sayeed, its ‘Formative Phase’—has not been given adequate academic attention. The manner in which both states grappled with their new situation both internally and externally, especially in the context of the Cold War, the task of formulating a republican constitution, the holding of elections at the state/provincial and national level, and the initiation of the long and arduous task of transforming millions from ‘subjects’ to ‘citizens’ are issues which still merit closer examination. Just as the partition was not a moment but a ‘long partition’, as Vazira Zamindar working at the intersection of history and anthropology has shown, the task of nation and state building was a lengthy and complicated task. Even though this process was by no means complete by the end of the first decade or so—in fact in some ways it still continues—the first decade brought forth certain themes and issues which then became central in the developing discourse of both new states. Hence, underscoring the importance of the first decade in Pakistan’s trajectory, historian Ayesha Jalal has noted that it was during this period, that the ‘state structure was cast into an enduring, even rigid, mould’. The importance of both India and Pakistan in the wider international context is also crucial in this period when India was held as the success story of decolonisation and was admired by other African and Asian leaders, and Pakistan was the exemplary modern Muslim country. Thus, the impact of the initial few years of these states was felt beyond their borders, even in distant parts of Africa, South America and Oceania, let alone the former imperial metropole, Britain.

This conference, by focusing on developments taking place during the first decade following independence, will bring together scholars from history, politics, international relations, law, sociology, gender, cultural studies, and other related disciples. Its objective is to encourage a better grasp of the gains to be made by exploring the region through a comparative, interdisciplinary, lens, an approach that has rarely appeared within scholarly discourse in relation to this period thanks to the difficult political legacies of Partition. In doing so it seeks to interrogate and complicate long-held notions about the differences between India and Pakistan, their relations and evolution, and so to forge new paradigms for the examination of these countries more generally and this period in particular.

Professor Ian Talbot, Professor of Modern History, Southampton University

Application process

The conference encourages interdisciplinary papers and conversations and especially welcomes submission from early career scholars and advanced PhD students. In addition to the topics outlined above, submissions covering any aspect of the development of India and Pakistan during the period 1947-c.1960 are welcome.  It is expected that the final papers of the conference will be peer reviewed for a special edition of an international journal, followed by an edited volume.

To apply to present a paper, please send a 200-word abstract together with a short cv/bio to: with the title of the conference in the subject line, by 10 April 2019. The conference committee will assess the abstracts and reply within a week.

Registration for the conference is free but essential and can be done at: