Not available in 2020/21
Independent India: Myths of Freedom and Development

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Taylor C. Sherman, SAR M.10


This course is available on the BA in History, BSc in Government and History, BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics and History. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

Focusing on the early decades after India gained independence in 1947, this course raises questions about the nature of freedom and the tasks of development and modernisation faced by postcolonial nations. The course begins with a brief study of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister. Students will survey his philosophy and his style of leadership while exploring the myth of the strong male leader. The course will then cover India’s foreign policy, asking students to probe the meaning of Nonalignment, and inspect the character of India’s relations with Indians Overseas and with its neighbours, including China and Pakistan. Students will then turn to the nature of secularism in India by examining the treatment of Muslims who remained in India after the creation of Pakistan. This section also probes official attempts to reform Hinduism and improve the lives of Dalits (former untouchables) in India. Students then are asked to query how socialist India was by reading political theory from Communists, Socialists, Gandhians and others. Next, students interrogate the nature and extent of economic development achieved in this period by studying the strengths and weaknesses of international aid supplied to the country, as well as India’s own development programmes. Students will then explore how Indians expressed their visions of modernity in the realms of science, art & architecture and the emancipation of women. Finally, the course concludes by scrutinising the Constitution and the conduct of India’s first democratic elections. Using a variety of primary source materials, with a strong element of film and visual arts, this course asks students to see India and Indians in new ways.


Learning engagement includes seminars, recorded content, small group meetings and asynchronous Moodle posts. There will be a reading week in the Michaelmas and the Lent terms.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay (2000 words) in the MT, and 1 gobbet exercise (600 words) in the MT. 

Indicative reading

  • Guha, R. (2007). India after Gandhi: the History of the World's Largest Democracy. London, Macmillan.
  • Khilnani, S. (1997). The Idea of India. London, Penguin.
  • Chatterji, J. (2007). The Spoils of Partition: Bengal and India, 1947-1967. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).
  • Zamindar, V. F.-Y. (2007). The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories. New York, Columbia UP.
  • Gopal, J. N. (2013). Citizenship and its Discontents: An Indian History. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.
  • Sherman, T.C. (2015) Muslim Belonging in Secular India: Negotiating Citizenship in Postcolonial Hyderabad. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Kavuri-Bauer, S. (2011) Monumental Matters: The Power, Subjectivity and Space of India’s Mughal Architecture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Granville, Austin (1999) Working a Democratic Constitution. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Chatterjee, P. (1993). The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories. Princeton, Princeton University Press.
  • Chatterjee, P. (ed). (1998). Wages of Freedom: Fifty Years of the Indian Nation-State. Delhi, OUP.
  • Gould, W. (2011). Bureaucracy, Community and Influence in India: Society and the State, 1930s - 1960s Abingdon, Routledge.
  • Abraham, I. (2014). How India Became Territorial: Foreign Policy, Diaspora, Geopolitics. Palo Alto, Stanford UP.
  • Bhagavan, M. (2012). The Peacemakers: India and the Quest for One World. New Delhi, Harper Collins Publishers India.
  • McGarr, P. (2013). The Cold War in South Asia: Britain, the United States and the Indian Subcontinent 1945-65. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Phalkey, J (2013). Atomic State: Big Science in Twentieth Century India. Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan.
  • Tyabji, N. (2015). Forging Capitalism in Nehru's India: Neocolonialism and the State, c.1940-1970. New Delhi, OUP.
  • Chibber, V. (2003) Locked in Place: State-Building and Late Industrialization in India.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Kale, S. S. (2014). Electrifying India: Regional Political Economies of Development. Palo Alto, Stanford UP.


Essay (30%, 3000 words) and document analysis (20%) in the LT.
Essay (35%, 3000 words) in the ST.
Class participation (15%) in the MT and LT.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2019/20: 13

Average class size 2019/20: 13

Capped 2019/20: Yes (15)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills