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The University of Southampton

Sixtieth anniversary of the independence of India and Pakistan marked by exhibition of rare archive material

Published: 9 May 2007

This summer marks the sixtieth anniversary of the independence of India and Pakistan and the historic events of 1947 are the focus of a new exhibition at the University of Southampton's Hartley Library which is now open to the public.

'The Independence of India and Pakistan, 1947' features rare papers and photographs from the University's archive collections which chart the story of independence, from the arrival in India of the last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, through his meetings with leading protagonists such as Nehru and Jinnah in his search for a solution to the complex issue of independence, to the implementation of partition on 15 August 1947 and the period immediately afterwards.

Crucial documents for the transfer of power in the subcontinent are on display, including letters from Gandhi and a selection from Lord Mountbatten's interviews with Nehru and Jinnah. There is also a letter from Prime Minister Clement Atlee to Mountbatten written in March 1947 setting out the policy of the government in relation to the transfer of power to India, which effectively constitutes Mountbatten's instructions.

Dr Chris Woolgar, Head of Special Collections, comments: "This exhibition offers a fascinating perspective on the transfer of power from the British Raj to the newly-created states of India and Pakistan in 1947. The University is in a unique position to stage an exhibition on this subject as the papers of the late Louis, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the last Viceroy of India, form part of the University Library's archives. The accounts of his interviews with leading figures in the subcontinent, usually dictated minutes after the meeting, are particularly interesting, giving both an immediacy to the proceedings and a view of the complexity of the issues involved."

The University's archive holdings date back to the twelfth century and fill approximately five miles of shelving. The collection includes archives of international significance with a connection with the region, most notably in the Wellington, Palmerston and Mountbatten Papers.

'The Independence of India and Pakistan, 1947' is on show in the Special Collections Gallery in the Hartley Library on the University of Southampton's Highfield campus. The Gallery is open Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm until Friday 22 June. There is another opportunity to see the exhibition later this summer between 16 - 27 July 2007.

The exhibition is a prelude to a conference at the University on 17 - 20 July which will bring together sixtieth anniversary perspectives on the independence of India and Pakistan. Formal presentations of academic papers will be complemented by screenings of films, a visit to Broadlands, the home of Lord Mountbatten and a performance of Umraan Langian Pabaan Bhar: A Lifetime on Tiptoes by the Man Mela company. Keynote speakers include Professor Akbar S. Ahmed of the American University in Washington, who is a former Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK, and Professor Mushirul Hasan, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.

Related Staff Member

Notes for editors

  1. A digital version of the exhibition poster is available from Media Relations on request.
  2. The University of Southampton's Special Collections Gallery in the Hartley Library was created in 2004 with support from the heritage Lottery Fund and a major investment by the University in the remodelling and extension of the Library. There are three or four exhibitions each year based on the collections. Visit for more information.
  3. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. It is one of the UK's top 10 research universities, offering first-rate opportunities and facilities for study and research across a wide range of subjects in humanities, health, science and engineering. The University has around 20,000 students and over 5000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £310 million.
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