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Dethroned : Patel, Menon And The Integration Of Princely India

Dethroned : Patel, Menon And The Integration Of Princely India

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On 25 July 1947, India’s last viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, stood before the Chamber of Princes to deliver his career’s most important speech.He had just three weeks to convince over 550 princely states – some the size of Britain, some so small that cartographers had trouble locating them – to become part of a free India. The alternative was unthinkable – the fragmentation of the subcontinent into dozens of autocratic fiefdoms. This is the beginning of John Zubrzycki’s marvellous retelling of the story of how the princely states were coaxed, coerced or bludgeoned into joining India.

Zubrzycki expertly juggles a fascinating cast of characters: Mountbatten, who grasped the complexity of the states problem far too late; Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the pragmatic, toughminded politician and patriot, who employed both fury and charm to get his way; his deputy, V.P. Menon, the cigarsmoking civil servant and tireless master strategist, regarded by some as ‘the real architect’ of integration; Jawaharlal Nehru, who made no secret of his contempt for the princely order; Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who assiduously wooed wavering princes to his side; and finally, an array of bejewelled rulers, grappling with the challenge of a lifetime.

What Patel and Menon described as a ‘bloodless revolution’ was anything but. Zubrzycki also looks at how Pakistan dealt with the princely states that fell to its lot and takes the Indian story into the 1970s when an imperious Indira Gandhi delivered the final blow to the princely order.


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history / indian / John Zubrzycki / nonfiction /