Home Fronts of the Empire-Commonwealth: Imperial Interconnections and Wartime Social Transformations during the Second World War

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Continuing Education

Abstract

The Second World War disrupted millions of people in the form of military recruitment, civil labour conscription, food shortages, savage fighting, propaganda, and political competition. Imperial power connected remote regions to global economic, political, and military currents. The incredible diversity of the war experience of the subjects of the Empire-Commonwealth, and the great importance of the empire in defining Britain's war, is only slowly coming to be properly understood. The trans-national effects of the war are often regarded simplistically as one-way relationships between metropole and periphery, that stress the role of non-Western combatants in Europe but do not go further to enrich our understanding of the vast dependency of Europe on imperial supplies, people and resources during wartime. This project aims to considerably broaden our understanding of the full impact of war in the widest sense by investigating imperial interconnections and social transformations during the Second World War in South Asia and the Middle East from 1939-45 by showing the lasting developmental changes that accompanied the war on some of the most important imperial 'home fronts.'

This project aims to examine the social history of the second world war from the perspective of South Asia and the Middle East, by concentrating on the perspective of war from these 'home fronts' and analysis of three major themes: firstly, the imperial and transnational connections which enabled the fighting of the war, such as shipping and supply networks, migrant labour and factory production. Secondly, the project seeks to go beyond conventional military history to analyze the experience of non-combatants and the links between civilians and wartime in these regions; for instance the role of South Asian and Middle Eastern labourers, nurses, transport workers and factory workers. We will ask whether there may have been closer quotidian interactions between the military and local imperial subjects than is usually depicted. Thirdly, the project hopes to highlight the social transformation wrought by wartime, for instance, the development generated by war through the investment of indigenous capital, the building of infrastructure and development of cities and factories. In short, the total and transforming nature of war during empire will be better stressed and illustrated in a way that goes beyond simply 'social' or 'military' history to present a more integrated and holisitic appraisal of how events on the ground in South Asia and the Middle East intersected with wartime transformations.

Planned Impact

1) Who will benefit from this research?
Potential institutions and organisations beyond universities identified as potential beneficiaries of this research are detailed in the pathways to impact. They include the following:
a) Museums. The Imperial War Museum. Alan Jeffries at the Imperial War Museum has previously collaborated with Jackson and KCL-Imperial War Museum hosted a one day conference on The Indian Army, 1939-1947 in 2009. There is further potential for use of the IWM's collections (archival and object), opportunities for academic collaboration, potential for public speaker series/lectures at IWM. Also the National Maritime Museum: potential for public lecture. Khan previously lectured on the subject of the Partition of India at NMM.
b) Public organisations, institutions, veterans' groups: Royal Society of Arts; Royal Commonwealth Society; Commonwealth Secretariat, British Commonwealth Ex-Services League, Overseas Pensioners Association, Imperial War Museum London and Manchester and British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, Bristol, National Army Museum.
Jackson is on the Development Group as well as the Academic Advisory Panel of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum Trust (building a new museum alongside the Oxforshire Museum) which is a potential site for related speaker events and engagement.
c) Local Schools and community groups: particularly in London, e.g. Lampton School Hounslow has established links to outreach work by RHUL during Black History Month. Khan has lectured at Mehfil-e-Ali, Harrow on previous research work.
d) General trade book readers/publishers: readers in English language of accessible, scholarly publications, both in the UK and overseas including India and USA.
2) How will they benefit?
The project will take forward a new wave of understanding about the Second World War which brings its wider global aspects into view and involves communicating a story of global transformation through the war's impact on societies beyond Europe. The Second World War is a profitable driver of heritage/museum/publishing industries in the UK but the historiography needs constant refreshing and development to avoid becoming simplistic and outdated and also to have relevance for international as well as British audiences. Direct impact is planned during the immediate 24 months of the project through direct involvement and participation of these groups and organisations. Individual specialists beyond academia will be invited from museums to participate in both workshops and therefore develop additional skills and knowledge base, for instance by presenting papers and engaging with roundtables. Time is also allocated for outreach lectures and talks by PIs to public institutions, organisations and veterans' groups. Ongoing impact, indirectly, after the end of the project, will be achieved through the publication of monographs intended for non-specialist readers, promoted in tandem with publishers and an accessible web resource of use to specialists and non-specialists.

Publications

10 25 50

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
AH/J000019/1 01/05/2012 31/12/2012 £151,716
AH/J000019/2 Transfer AH/J000019/1 01/01/2013 31/08/2014 £130,073
 
Title A Passage to Britain 
Description 3 part series for BBC 2 called A Passage to Britain (Specialist factual) produced by Wall to Wall television, broadcast by BBC 2 in August and September 2018. Some of the research generated through this AHRC project was included in the background research to these films and informed the content of episode 2. Khan was presenter and consultant on the series. The first episode was seen by more than 1 million viewers. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Wide audience reach and greater understanding of the role played by South Asians in British homefront experiences of the second world war 
 
Description We have attempted to develop new methodological and archival approaches to considering the intersection between the Second World War and the British Empire and to highlight the historical scale and scope of this at the level of the 'Home front'. This has been very timely research (with others in the field working on related topics in parallel) and is evidenced in, for instance, the orientation of the development of the new Second World galleries at the Imperial War Museum, which are likely to place more emphasis on Britain's imperial role, and the impact of the war on imperial home fronts and our role on the Academic Advisory Committee at the IWM.
Exploitation Route Doctoral researchers -- development of new research areas for historical research
I have been contacted by two creative writers/novelists who are including aspects of imperial war history in their work
Museum, collection and display
Creative media
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://britishempireatwar.org/conference/
 
Description Yasmin Khan has been invited to sit on the Imperial War Museum Academic Advisory Committee for the redevelopment of the Second World War Galleries. These galleries are being developed with greater attention to the global and imperial aspects of the Second World War, including India and Khan's contribution has added to the shaping of the narrative for parts of these new galleries. Khan also gave the Raphael Samuel Memorial Lecture in London in 2019 on this subject. There is greater public awareness in general of the Imperial and Commonwealth Contribution to the Second World War since this project started and this project has played a part in this historiographical development - for instance public discussions over the role of Indians in Dunkirk at the time of the film 'Dunkirk' (Khan wrote in the New York Times on this) and also the featuring of Asian soldiers in television and film productions of wartime, such as the documentary 'Forgotten Allies' (Grammar Productions, 2019) There is also inclusion now in the GCSE history curriculum of the role of Asian soldiers and Khan has been working on a pilot with schools in Oxfordshire (Cheney School)with Dr Jason Todd to develop materials for inclusion in school lessons. She will also speak to history teachers at the Historical Association on the subject of the second world war in 2019.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Academic Advisory Committee, Imperial War Museum
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Collaborative work on curriculum pilot with Cheney School
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Empire at War research group 
Organisation King's College London
Department Department of War studies
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Professor Jackson (Co-PI) has established an online research group, through which events, information and bibliographies about the general subject area can be shared. This has 85+ individual researchers at present, from a wide range of national and international universities.
Collaborator Contribution This has resulted in exchange of information and bibliographies, one-day workshops and events and is becoming a large collaborative network
Impact Workshop at Kellogg College, 2013 Series of smaller workshops and events in Oxford, 2012-2016
Start Year 2013
 
Description JNU Collaboration 
Organisation Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
Country India 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Guest speaker came from JNU to a conference that we held. Subsequently I gave a class by Skype to students in India. Now have received invitation to spend time as guest of Faculty at JNU in New Delhi, with subsidy towards housing and local research costs.
Collaborator Contribution See above
Impact History and Social Science collaboration Collaborative teaching initiative Potential for future research collaboration
Start Year 2013
 
Description Short collaboration with museum 
Organisation Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Our team (PI and Co-PI) collaborated with the museum to develop a small permanent exhibition space which relates local military history to the empire-commonwealth. We also assessed the collection for artefacts related to empire.
Collaborator Contribution The small permanent display acknowledges our contribution. Professor Jackson also gave a public lecture at the Museum; 'The British Empire and the First World War', Friends of the Oxfordshire Museum, March 2014
Impact Small permanent exhibition space still on display at the museum 'The British Empire and the First World War', Friends of the Oxfordshire Museum, March 2014 - public lecture by Ashley Jackson
Start Year 2014
 
Description AHRC anniversary publication 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Our research was featured in an interview/2 page account included as a case-study in the AHRC 10th anniversary brochure showcasing the history of the council
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Article about research published on BBC News website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I wrote a piece for BBC online about the project's research which was published in June 2015, and generated quite a lot of traffic on Twitter, social media and personal emails
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-33105898
 
Description Ashley Jackson at Being Human 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 'Whose Remembrance? Race, Belonging, and the First World War', film screening and round table discussion, King's Arts & Humanities Festival 2013: Being Human', Anatomy Lecture Theatre, King's College, Strand, London, 24 October 2013
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Ashley Jackson at Yale 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 'War and Political Change' conference, Yale University, October 2012, invited speaker
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Ashley Jackson in Singapore 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 'Western Military Power in South and South-east Asia', round table, Department of History, National University of Singapore, 8-9 January 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Ashley Jackson in South Africa 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 'War, Violence, and the British Empire', keynote lecture, University of the Free State, South Africa, November 2013
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Gajendra Singh interviewed in Indian press 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interviewee for various stories in the Indian Press. (Eg., 'Were Army Pay and Perks Better Under the British'; Times of India, 6th July 2015; 'Book Busts War Myth: Rules Out Ghadar Connection in Singapore Mutiny, The Indian Express, 7th August 2014, etc.).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015
 
Description Gajendra Singh interviewed on ABC Australia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Contributor to 'Other Voices, Other Battles', ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), June 2014
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Gajendra Singh interviewed on BBC radio 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interviewee for 'Soldiers of the Empire', BBC Radio 4, 15th and 22nd October 2014.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04m9rxg
 
Description Imperial World at War Conference, Kellogg College Oxford September 2103 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 2 Day conference with international invited speakers (including from India, Japan, New York) on the subject of the Imperial World at War. Has resulted in edited publication (listed under publications)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://britishempireatwar.org/conference/
 
Description Khan addressing History Teachers at the Historical Association Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact History teachers attending the annual Historical Association Conference requested a presentation from Khan on the history of South Asia during the Second World War
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Yasmin Khan Bedford Lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was invited to give the Bedford Lecture which is an annual lecture at Royal Holloway, University of London on an aspect of Women's history in March 2016. This is free and open to the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/history/research/researchcentres/bedfordcentre/bedford-centre-lectur...
 
Description Yasmin Khan at BBC History Weekend, Malmesbury 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I spoke at the BBC History Festival weekend at Malmesbury in October 2015; this generated discussion and debate with a large public audience. The event was covered by the BBC History Magazine online site and also created further invitations to write for the magazine.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.historyweekend.com/malmesbury/article/history-weekend-qa-5-minutes-with-yasmin-khan
 
Description Yasmin Khan at Henley Literature Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Lecture at Henley Literature Festival, generated discussion and debate and also some media coverage in the Female Arts Magazine (see below)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.femalearts.com/node/2049
 
Description Yasmin Khan at Jaipur Literature Festival, India 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Panel on war and history at the Jaipur Literature Festival, India. This is the largest free literature festival in the world, in total attended by 300,000 people over 5 days. The event was livestreamed, is available on the internet and was heavily covered in the Indian press. High level of interest which has resulted in invitation to speak at Jaipur Festival Southbank Centre, London in May 2016.
https://jaipurliteraturefestival.org/farthest-fields/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://jaipurliteraturefestival.org/farthest-fields/
 
Description Yasmin Khan at Literature Festival, Ilkley, Yorkshire 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Yasmin Khan gave a public talk at the Ilkley Literature festival, resulting from her book publication, The Raj at War, which generated debate and discussions afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ILF-2015-programme-digital.pdf
 
Description Yasmin Khan live television appearance on BBC1 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was part of an invited panel of historians commenting during the live coverage of the VJ Day broadcast from central London in June 2015, presented by Kirsty Young
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06723px