Through War and Famine: Bengal, 1939–45
140 x 216 mm
Year of Publishing
Territorial Rights
Orient BlackSwan

‘Through War and Famine: Bengal, 1939-45’: World War II and the Famine of 1943 in Bengal are the two windows through which this book explores the history of Bengal between 1939 and 1945. The social base of the different sections of the people in Bengal during this period determined the impact of both the War and the famine on them. Drawing upon this multidimensional reality, the book presents a holistic history of Bengal during this period. The author delves into questions of how the War transformed the relationship between the imperial state and it subjects, and their political representatives. She focuses on the fears and hopes, and the political ambitions and frustrations of different political groups and individuals as the state used propaganda and force to command their loyalty. The work shows how the War provided an opportunity to challenge the validity of the colonial classification of martial and non-martial races as it was applied in Bengal. It highlights the tense relations between the military and civil society and how war and deprivation drew religious and lower-caste groups into sectarian politics. Bringing to the fore the alterations in the economic landscape of Bengal, the author highlights the realities of wage cuts, longer working hours, absence of insurance against injury and non-payment of compensation. The book draws attention to the economic distress of the peasants and the curious case of the famine unfolding in the rural interiors and the government’s debt collection drive in 1943, that made a mockery of the latter’s famine relief activities. It was not just a coincidence or a war-time casualty, the author argues, that a substantial section of destitute women were driven by circumstances into the network of prostitution in the war-years. This book will be useful to students and scholars interested in studies on partition, communalism, gender, and famine studies.

Srimanjari has been a faculty member of the Department of History, Miranda House, University of Delhi, since 1990. She has also been teaching post-graduate students as a visiting faculty member of the Department of History, University of Delhi. Her area of specialization is World War II with special reference to developments in Bengal during that momentous period. Her research work has taken her to Britain in 2000 and Bangladesh in 2003. She has written articles for journals and has contributed chapters to books on Indian history.
List of figures and tables viii Acknowledgements ix List of Abbreviations xi Prologue 1 1. Gathering of War Clouds: Fears and Hopes 16 2. Civil Society in the Shadow of War 46 3. Political Economy of War: Industry, State and Labour 78 4. Denial, Dissent and Politics of Hunger 95 5. Making of the Famine 147 6. Social Aspects of Destitution 191 Epilogue 218 Appendix – Tabulated Statement of Civil-Military 230 Clashes 1942–45 Glossary 234 Bibliography 238 Index 257
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