The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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HIST4400AS Topic Studies in Asian History:Introduction to the History of Modern South Asia

Semester 1 (2020-2021)

Lecture TimeWednesday 4:30pm-6:15pm

VenueERB 407


Lecturer Amrita SHODHAN (

Teaching Assistant HUANG Xinyu (

Course Description

Aim: To introduce the modern political history of South Asia in national and international contexts.  To be aware of the historiography of modern India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, as it is informed by nationalism, colonialism and partitions.  



The focus of the course will be the political history of twentieth century South Asia.  We will examine the intellectual and ideological trends as well as the associated administrative and political structures as they evolved from the imperial to the post-colonial period.  The course aims to provide the background necessary to follow contemporary issues and politics of modern south Asia.  


The course will proceed chronologically, first, examining the various strands of political and cultural developments to 1947.  Then it will look at partition and its impact on culture, politics and international relations.  The post-colonial period from independence to the 1970s will be examined by looking at the broad themes of inter-state relations and the growth of democratic and authoritarian challenges in each state.  The early challenges faced by both the new states will be examined in their internal ideological and cold-war international contexts.  


Expected Outcomes:

Students will have a good understanding of the complexities of the political history of south Asia – primarily India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.  They will be able to identify the complex themes in any discussion of South Asian politics, understand on-going issues in the global and local contexts.


In addition, students will acquire important transferrable skills of reading primary materials, locating them in a context of politics and power thus enhancing their critical faculties.  Having presented and written well-argued essays, they should be able to speak clearly and with confidence amongst their peers.


Week 1 – Introduction to the course – short film  – Dastaan episode 1 / Pyaasa

Representation of history/ historiography


Week 2 – Brief history of Empire – feudalism and orientalism

Exploitation and Development


Week 3 – The All India Muslim League

Nation or minority rights


Week 4 –The Indian National Congress and mass nationalism

Dominance and hegemony


Week 5 – The history of Communist and Socialist organisation

Labour and peasants


Week 6 – The Fragments of the nations

Emancipatory ideologies – women and lower castes


Week 7 – Partition and aftermath

Security concerns and closing minds


Week 8 – Trajectories of religious nationalism in south Asia

Hindu and Muslim 1920s to 1960s


Week 9 – Beginning a post-colonial relationship

Kashmir and River waters


Week 10 – Democracy and Authoritarianism – India to 1970

Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi


Week 11 – Democracy and Authoritarianism – Pakistan to 1970

Liaqat Ali to Ayyub


Week 12 – Democratic demands 1970-177 India, Bangladesh, Pakistan

Language, democratic demands, emergency


Week 13 – Consequences for the present

Assessment & Assignments

The course will meet once a week for two hours.  This time will be split between a lecture and a longer seminar with a short break in-between.  The seminar will consist of a discussion around the topic of the week, you are expected to participate actively and productively having read all essential assigned texts.


There will be four tutorials focusing on reading and analysing primary texts.  


In addition students will have to submit THREE pieces of work

A book review submitted digitally, in week 4 – 2000 words counting for 20% of the grade,

A presentation in the tutorial (to be confirmed individually) – counting for 20% of the grade (submit a power-point or word notes, and an oral presentation in class/ or zoom or other socially distanced presentation)

A final essay – submitted digitally, in week 13 – 5000 words counting for 60% of the total grade. This essay may be presented early to allow comments and feedback to improve the essay before final submission.


Please note Late essays and plagiarism will be handled strictly in line with University policy.


Tutorial 1. – The Idea of India and Pakistan – popular perceptions

In film and literature


Tutorial 2  – The Idea of India and Pakistan – Political statements

Nehru, Jinnah, Ambedkar


Tutorial 3 The Kashmir tangle

UN resolutions, Sheikh Abdullah, Amanullah Khan


Tutorial 4  Pakistan/Bangladesh/India at 1971 

Indira Gandhi, Mujibur Rahman, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto


General Reading for the Course:

Ian Talbot A History of Modern South Asia: Politics, States, Diasporas, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.

Jalal, Ayesha and Sugata Bose, Modern South Asia: history, culture, political economy, London: Routlege, 1998 or later – 2004, 2010 multiple eds available. Online versions are available on the blackboard.

Jalal, A. (1995). Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia: A Comparative and Historical Perspective (Contemporary South Asia). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511559372

Films like Mother India – 1957;  or tv drama Dastaan –2010 (both available on YouTube.

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at

With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of these policies, regulations, guidelines and procedures.

  • In the case of group projects, all members of the group should be asked to sign the declaration, each of whom is responsible and liable to disciplinary actions, irrespective of whether he/she has signed the declaration and whether he/she has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the problematic contents.
  • For assignments in the form of a computer-generated document that is principally text-based and submitted via VeriGuide, the statement, in the form of a receipt, will be issued by the system upon students’ uploading of the soft copy of the assignment.

Assignments without the properly signed declaration will not be graded by teachers.

Only the final version of the assignment should be submitted via VeriGuide.

The submission of a piece of work, or a part of a piece of work, for more than one purpose (e.g. to satisfy the requirements in two different courses) without declaration to this effect shall be regarded as having committed undeclared multiple submissions. It is common and acceptable to reuse a turn of phrase or a sentence or two from one’s own work; but wholesale reuse is problematic. In any case, agreement from the course teacher(s) concerned should be obtained prior to the submission of the piece of work.

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