A Transnational History of Twentieth-Century Territorial Separatism
Edited by Arie M. Dubnov and Laura Robson




Toward a Transnational History of Partitions

Arie M. Dubnov and Laura Robson


Partition is having a moment. In the past twenty years, the idea of physically dividing territories along ethno-religious lines as a solution to communal strife has suddenly reemerged, conveniently divorced from its disastrously violent history, as a fashionable technique of “conflict resolution.” From the former Yugoslavia to Syria, from Israel/Palestine to Sudan, varying forms of internationally organized, ethnically based re-divisions of territory have repeatedly been proposed—and in some cases implemented—as useful tools for solving intractable ethnic conflicts.1 Such contemporary discussions depict partition as a logical and even inevitable, if regrettable, answer to widely divergent but equally difficult problems of ethnic strife across the globe. But it was not always so. Far from representing a natural solution to ethnic discord, the concept is no more than a hundred years old.

The idea of partition as an answer to ethnic, national, and sectarian conflict emerged for the first time out of the new conversations surrounding ethnicity, nationhood, and citizenship during and immediately after the First World War, against a backdrop of European imperial politics. The wartime collapse of the old central European and Ottoman empires and the emergence of new notions of the nation-state highlighted an essential paradox: the rise of new anticolonial nationalisms and a formidable discourse of national sovereignty at precisely the same moment that the power, authority, and ambition of the British and French empires were reaching their zenith. Facing this difficulty, the political and diplomatic leadership of the old “Great Powers” began envisioning a new global order comprising self-consciously modern, sovereign, more-or-less ethnically homogenous states under the continued economic authority of the old imperial players.2 The multiple treaties of the immediate post–World War I era (encompassing Versailles, Sèvres, and Lausanne; the many minorities treaties with Eastern Europe; and the League of Nations “mandate” agreements under which much of the Middle East would be governed for the next three decades) collectively articulated a new “internationalist” vision that bore the imprint of both nationalist discourse and imperial ambition, with the unspoken intention of containing the former and extending the latter.3

These agreements promoted a new political language of ethnic separatism as a central aspect of national self-determination, while protecting and disguising continuities and even expansions of French and, especially, British imperial power.4 The partition of Ireland in the early 1920s thus emerged alongside discussions of mass population resettlement in Iraq and Syria; brutal population exchanges between Bulgaria and Greece and between Greece and Turkey; and new borders and categories of “minority” and “majority” in Poland, Romania, and other former Habsburg and Russian imperial territories. All these contributed to an imperially sponsored remaking of the global order that embraced a number of ways to align national populations with political borders (always under external supervision): population transfer, mass deportation, forcible denationalization, and partition, all legitimized by a political narrative of self-determination for national populations and protections for newly designated “minorities.”5

Partition, then, belonged firmly within the imperial realm; it was less a vehicle for national liberation than a novel, sophisticated dīvide et imperā tactic that sought to co-opt the new global tilt toward the ethnic nation-state. As such, the meaning of partition necessarily shifted after a second world war and the concomitant collapse of British imperial rule. Schemes originally conceived as part of a new type of imperial governance in the guise of internationalism seemed, after 1945, to offer quick and efficient exit strategies that also held out the tantalizing possibility of continued postcolonial influence for Britain. Following the Second World War, two further partitions were proposed and partially enacted in the decolonizing territories of India-Pakistan and Palestine-Israel, accompanied by a level of violence and dislocation unprecedented in either place (though perhaps matched by the brutality of the almost simultaneous mass population expulsions in Eastern Europe). By midcentury, the political “solution” of partition had arrived with a vengeance.

This volume examines the three earliest and most prominent instances of partition—Ireland, India, and Palestine—in tandem. Our goal is to understand why and how this “moment of partition” occurred—that is, why partition emerged as a proposed solution for perceived or real communal and ethno-national conflict across these disparate geographical and political spaces at this particular historical moment. Making use of the transnational framework of the British Empire, the central originary space for the idea of partition, this volume seeks to go beyond side-by-side comparisons to find concrete connections among the three cases: the mutual influences, shared personnel, economic justifications, material interests, and political networks that propelled the idea of partition forward, resulted in the violent creation of (theoretically) ethnically specific postcolonial political spaces, and set the stage for subsequent partitions in other places like Germany, Korea, and Vietnam. Such a juxtaposition of cases allows us to understand partition as a transnational rather than a local phenomenon, a consequence of decolonization and the global upheavals of the interwar era, rather than as an expression of permanently incompatible ethnic or religious identities in benighted areas of the world.6 In other words, this volume seeks to move the scholarship beyond “area studies” as well as the nationalist frameworks that served in the first instance to promote partition as a natural phenomenon and have buttressed its political formulations ever since.


First, we must clarify our terms. Partition, in its modern sense, does not mean simply a redivision or new allocation of territory.7 Though a number of pre–twentieth-century instances of carving up territory—for instance, the oft-cited dissolution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth via its forcible division into three separate territories in the late eighteenth century—have been commonly designated as partitions, they did not constitute partition in our terms: that is, they did not devolve real political authority onto local populations newly defined as national. This is what differentiates the many earlier imperial divisions of territory for administrative purposes from the modern partitions of the twentieth century: Ireland, India, Korea, Vietnam, and Germany. As sociologist Robert Schaeffer has put it, “The simultaneous devolution and division of power is what distinguishes partition . . . from the division of other countries in previous times.”8 Political scientist Brendon O’Leary, in demarcating partition from other, related phenomena such as secession, decolonization, and political or military disengagement, offers a further specification of intent: “The ostensible purpose of a political partition, its formal justification, is that it will regulate, that is reduce or resolve a national, ethnic or communal conflict.”9 Indeed, one notable aspect of the rhetoric of partition is its frequent naturalization through a language of biology and science—for instance, the much-repeated medical metaphor depicting partition as a “surgery” intended to cure the “sickness” of ethnic violence.10

By this definition, post–World War I Ireland represented the first instance of partition in its modern sense. The Irish partition arose from both a local and an international context: the long-standing set of domestic demands for new forms of national representation and the immediate circumstances of war, both featuring a backdrop of increased violence. From the 1880s, a vast majority of Ireland’s electorate had favored some form of what had come to be called “Home Rule”—Irish self-government within the administrative framework of the United Kingdom and the British Empire. The quest for such autonomy, of course, was complicated not only by the reluctance of Whitehall to allow for Irish sovereignty but also by continued resistance from the long-standing Protestant settler community centered in Ulster and other parts of Northern Ireland and backed by English political and economic interests.11 After decades of negotiation, the Home Rule Bill—the third legislative attempt to secure Irish autonomy—passed in the House of Commons in 1914, only to be suspended as a consequence of war in Europe.

World War I created new conditions for Irish nationalism in the form of heightened demands from the British center for resources and men, alongside intensified international political rhetoric about the rights of small nations and the question of self-determination. Two years into the war, the Irish Republican Brotherhood staged a military takeover in Dublin—the “Easter Rising” of 1916—and declared the establishment of an Irish Republic, a move that brought a vigorous and violent response from the metropole.12 Two subsequent attempts to implement the 1914 act in a way that would exclude the Protestant-dominated Ulster counties failed. In the immediate aftermath of the war, the pro-independence Sinn Féin party won a majority in the 1918 general election and declared a separate parliament. The nationalists’ increased use of guerrilla tactics, met by increasingly brutal “counterinsurgency” methods, not only aroused controversy in Britain but also exposed internal divisions within Sinn Féin and among supporters of republicanism. In the words of one historian, this “declaration of war on behalf of the legitimate government of a ‘virtually established’ republic” entailed a new kind of struggle—not for some measure of Home Rule to which the British government might accede, but “a struggle for ‘freedom’ that would be total.”13

The subsequent multilateral conflict among revolutionary republicans, Ulster Unionists, and the British Army was thus a consequence as much as a cause of the wartime violence.14 Events unfolded rapidly: in December 1920, the Government of Ireland Act created separate Northern and Southern Irelands by setting up two devolved parliaments: one in Belfast for the six northeastern counties and another in Dublin, linked by a “Council of Ireland.” Initially, nationalists ignored it, and the violence continued. Militarily, however, the conflict was notably asymmetrical, with little concrete achievement and broad demoralization on the Irish side, especially as it became clear that Ulster Unionists were succeeding in making a separate north a fact on the ground. At the same time, the British realized that it was unsustainable to permanently govern the southern counties as a Crown Colony under martial law.

As a possible solution to the deadlock, an increasing number of British policy advisors advocated for Dominion status that would grant Ireland some autonomy but keep it within the Commonwealth. The following autumn, after a truce between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the British Army, Éamon de Valera accepted David Lloyd George’s invitation to represent Ireland at a conference in London to determine “how the association of Ireland with the community of nations known as the British Empire may best be reconciled with Irish national aspirations.”15 The resulting Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 led to the establishment of a separate Irish Free State the following year. Comprising twenty-six of the thirty-two counties of Ireland, this “free” state was in fact a Dominion of the British Commonwealth of Nations and remained subordinate to the British Parliament until the eventual declaration of the Republic of Ireland in 1949.

Partition in Ireland, then, was a consequence both of decades of negotiation between Ireland, its Protestant settlers, and the British imperial state and of the violent context of the political, economic, and military pressures of global war; and debates about the partition settlement were often concerned with the limitations imposed on Irish nationalist aspirations and the precise meaning of Ireland’s allegiance to the Crown and the Commonwealth. Many of its nationalist defenders understood the agreement as a temporary measure, an unfortunate but necessary step toward a different final status. Even the unyielding republican Michael Collins, veteran of long years of military struggle against the British, accepted the principles of the treaty because it gave the Irish “freedom”—not, he explained, “the ultimate freedom that all nations desire and develop to, but the freedom to achieve it.”16 The thankless task of drawing a line on the map separating the two Irelands was left for later and would not be accomplished until after the ensuing civil war finally came to a halt in November 1925.17 These two peculiar features—seeing partition merely as an interim step on the road to a final settlement and leaving the determination of an actual border until the final stage—would be recurring aspects of twentieth-century partitions, making appearances in the subsequent British divisions of both Palestine and India. Partition, it appeared, led not to the stabilization of conflict but to landscapes of long-term geopolitical deferral.

Nevertheless, its appeal was growing. At the moment of Irish partition, the newly formed League of Nations was engaging in the process of drawing (theoretically) ethnically determined borders in eastern Europe; at the very same time civil war raged in Ireland, the League’s representatives at Lausanne were formalizing international support for a de facto ethnic cleansing as a mode of nation-state creation through a brutal forced population exchange between Greece and Turkey.18 In the interwar era, such large-scale transfers of entire communities came to serve as both a rhetorical legitimation and a practical mode of imperial and/or internationalist intervention; and partition now emerged as a parallel “solution” that was viable precisely because its proponents on all sides spoke the postwar language of self-government and ethnic nationalism.19 The apparent success of the Irish model—measured primarily by the cessation of war—allowed the abstract idea of partition to enter into the interwar toolbox of nation-building strategies alongside other, related approaches of the moment: population exchanges, mass deportation, forcible denationalization, minority rights treaties, and refugee resettlement.20

Thus it happened that following World War II, as Britain prepared to withdraw from Palestine and India under the most favorable circumstances it could manage, the devolution of power onto newly partitioned states emerged as a possible “solution” to the problem of assigning power in the context of disintegrating British authority and an international enthusiasm for ethnic nation-statehood. Subsequent British partitions of these colonial territories would combine the models of Ireland and Lausanne, with proposals for the “transfer” of inconvenient populations in addition to forcible territorial division into separate states—an approach that would exponentially magnify the violence of partition as the task of carving out physically separate political entities on the ground and making them ethnically homogenous devolved onto local actors with everything to lose.

The case of Palestine, where partition was first proposed in 1937 and partially implemented in 1947/1948, echoed Ireland and foreshadowed India. Like Ireland, Palestine’s partition involved an important settler colonial element; like India, it involved a longer history of British colonial imposition of communal legal and political distinctions. As in both other instances, partition was proposed at a time of anxiety and violence both locally and globally; the strikes that inaugurated the 1936–1939 revolt provided the initial pretext for the exploration of partition, and fears about an approaching war in Europe had much to do with the urgency of the British desire to put an end to the uprising in Palestine. Once again, partition emerged as a “solution” to ethno-communal divisions in the context of an emerging and unstable international/imperial system built around the rhetorical principle of ethnic nation-statehood.

Palestine began to see Zionist immigration from Europe in the late nineteenth century, around the same time that the British government began to explore the possibility of incorporating Palestine into the empire on the grounds of its strategic location vis-à-vis Egypt and India. The First World War offered the relevant imperial opportunity, and the Zionist movement seemed a potential ally. In November 1917, a month before the British Army entered the gates of Jerusalem, British foreign secretary Arthur J. Balfour penned a letter (with the approval of the British War Cabinet) to the London-based Zionist leader Walter Rothschild committing the British government to the cause of large-scale Jewish immigration into Palestine with a view to creating a “Jewish national home.” The use of such vague, open-ended terms provided both British and Zionist politicians with considerable room for political maneuvering; Balfour himself, defending what came to be known as the Balfour Declaration to the House of Lords, described it as an exciting “experiment and adventure,” an exercise in imperial imagination and territorial expansion.21 In July 1922, the Balfour Declaration’s commitment to mass European Jewish settlement in Palestine was ratified by the League of Nations document that incorporated the wording of the declaration into the legal instrument that gave Britain “mandatory” authority over Palestine. A few months later, the League endorsed an additional British memorandum separating Palestine, now defined as the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, from a newly created Transjordan and exempting the latter from the strictures of the Balfour promise.

The text of the Palestine mandate maintained some older Ottoman practices of communally conscious political organization, making provisions for individual communities to maintain schools and religious institutions such as waqfs and guaranteeing government recognition of religious holidays. More radically, it provided a framework of ethno-national sovereignty for the settler population (but not indigenous citizens, unless they happened to be Jewish) and explicitly tied political rights to communal affiliation. Acknowledging and incorporating the Balfour Declaration, the League declared, “The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion” (emphasis added). In this context, state- and empire-building were not mutually exclusive projects; and Zionists set to work immediately, with British encouragement, to develop new proto-state institutions of self-government made possible by the new British military occupation of Palestine and supported by the League. In the view of the Palestinian political elite, of course, the Balfour declaration was fundamentally illegitimate from the beginning—as, indeed, was the division of Palestine from Syria, the carving out of Transjordan, the British military occupation, and the mandate itself. For the next three decades, Palestinian activists would find themselves fighting a rearguard action against these founding documents of the Palestine mandate, which legally enshrined the principle that Jewish identity conferred particular political rights not shared by Muslim and Christian Arabs.

As the mandatory state was established, its British architects further formalized and institutionalized this legal and political distinction between the Jewish settler community (the Yishuv) and the indigenous Arab community. Under mandate rule, the Yishuv enjoyed a number of collective rights and privileges not extended to Arabs: a recognized internal legislative assembly, explicitly nationalist schools and language policies, a flag, and a military wing. The attempts made by the first British high commissioner, the pro-Zionist Herbert Samuel, to establish a pro forma legislative assembly immediately became a site of resistance as it became clear that the envisioned government would give the small Jewish minority, representing about 10 percent of the population in 1920, the same number of legislative seats as the Arab majority and would have no right even to discuss the framing of the mandate (i.e., the core issues of Zionist immigration and land sales).22 The stated commitment of Labor Zionism, the most important political faction in the Yishuv after 1920, not to employ Arabs in any capacity on Jewish-held settlements and land (though often not successfully enacted) further divided the communities and resulted in a segregated and highly inequitable labor market.23 Land sales to Zionists dispossessed large numbers of Arab peasants, whose migration to cities in search of work created rings of slums around many of Palestine’s major urban centers.24 In 1929, these tensions led to violence, with the outbreak of Arab-Jewish riots at the Western Wall that killed nearly 250 people and injured hundreds more.

In the spring of 1936, an Arab general strike brought the country to a standstill and quickly turned into huge anti-Zionist and anti-British demonstrations, leading the colonial government significantly to expand its military presence in Palestine.25 To crush the demonstrators, the British began to deploy some of the “counterinsurgency” methods they had developed in prepartition Ireland, including recruiting former members of the notoriously brutal “Black and Tans” to join the Palestine Police Force.26 Facing widespread and organized Arab resistance, the British government appointed a royal commission to investigate the causes of the unrest and make a recommendation about future British policy for Palestine. The Conservative politician and former secretary of state for India Robert Peel headed the commission, which arrived in Palestine in November and spent several months traveling around the country and interviewing prominent members of the Zionist and Arab political elites, as well as discussing the situation with local British government officials. In 1937 the commission published its findings, with a nearly four-hundred-page report detailing the increasingly violent and hostile conditions on the ground and proposing a “solution”: partitioning Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states. This particular scheme combined the principles of partition and transfer: it was to be made possible not only by the Zionist acquisition of huge amounts of Arab territory, but also by the forcible expulsion of somewhere on the order of 300,000 Arabs (versus about 1,250 Jews) to create a Jewish majority in the proposed Jewish state (see map 2a).

The idea of some kind of division of territory was not new; it had been mooted before by both Zionist and British officials, as detailed in several chapters of this book, and was predicated on earlier “cantonization” proposals. Broadly speaking, though the delegates of that year’s Zionist congress were unwilling to accept the territorial specifics of the Peel Commission plan, believing the land provided for the Jewish state to be insufficient, they accepted the principle of partition and empowered the leadership to continue negotiations with the intention of eventually achieving a more favorable deal. But there were opponents of partition within the Zionist camp, including Revisionist leader Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, whose objections rested equally on his commitment to Zionist claims over the whole of historic Palestine, including Transjordan, and his anxiety about the implications of internationally sanctioned “transfer” for eastern and Central Europe’s vulnerable Jewish communities. “From a Jewish point of view,” he explained, “[transfer] is nothing short of a crime. While the Royal Commission babbles about the ‘instructive precedent’ (that is, the expulsion of more than a million Greeks from Turkey) we witness yet another case in which it toys with concepts that none of its members have any idea about.”27

And, of course, the partition and transfer proposal aroused immediate and implacable opposition among Palestinian Arabs, who viewed it as little more than outright theft. As Palestinian anger and the revolt both intensified, the British administration began to reconsider its position and sent in yet another commission of inquiry (the Woodhead Commission, sometimes mockingly dubbed the “re-Peel” Commission), which eventually abandoned the idea. It was only a decade later, in a very different international and local context, that the almost forgotten scheme was reintroduced. In 1947, the strapped and exhausted British government—facing down right-wing Zionist militias engaged in terrorist attacks against both Arab and British targets in Palestine, and just off its recent imperial experiment in partitioning India—announced its intention to withdraw. The question of Palestine’s disposition was turned over to the newly formed United Nations (UN), as the natural successor to the League that had engineered the original mandate. Partition had transcended its original context and transformed from a British imperial tactic into an organizing principle of post–World War II world diplomacy.

The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP)—made up of representatives of eleven states, including Australia, Iran, Yugoslavia, Sweden, and Guatemala—found itself feted by Zionist leaders making every effort to influence the committee to support the principle of partition and dismissing the many alternative binational and federalist proposals put forward by the Marxist-Zionist movement Hashomer Ha’tzair and intellectuals such as Judah L. Magnes, Martin Buber, and others affiliated with the Ihud (Unity) party.28 The eviscerated Palestinian Arab political leadership, unanimously opposed to the concept of partition, refused to participate in the undertaking on the grounds that the UN had no legal jurisdiction over Palestine and the question should be turned over to an international court.29

Facing this radical imbalance of evidence and opinion, UNSCOP members found it hard to reach a consensus and ended up submitting two reports: a minority proposal recommending a unitary federal state, and a majority proposal, inspired by the decade-old Peel Commission plan, recommending partition. The majority report envisioned a three-way division of Palestine, with an Arab state comprising 43 percent of the mandate territory, including the highlands and one-third of the coastline; a Jewish state encompassing 56 percent of the territory and including the northern coast, the eastern Galilee, and most of the Negev; and a “corpus separatum” including Jerusalem and its surrounds, which would be subject to some form of international authority. In describing the plan, the commission members noted that it suffered from many of the same problems the Peel Commission’s proposal had encountered—most centrally, the presence of large numbers of Arabs in the proposed Jewish state.

UNSCOP’s partition plan was voted through the UN General Assembly in November 1947, with India and Pakistan against the plan, the United Kingdom abstaining, and the United States and the USSR in favor. The first violent clashes signifying the beginning of the 1948 war—dubbed the War of Independence by Israelis and the nakba (catastrophe) by Palestinians—followed immediately. Essentially, the violence unfolded in two stages: first a “civil war” between local Arab Palestinian and Zionist forces between the partition vote and May 1948,30 when British forces were still in Palestine preparing for their final evacuation, and then a broader Arab-Israeli conflict following a declaration of war by the surrounding Arab states. Zionist forces moved quickly to secure territory assigned to them by the UN plan and beyond, working against poorly organized and poorly armed Arab militias handicapped not only by their long-institutionalized economic, political, and military disadvantages vis-à-vis the Yishuv, but also by the virtual decapitation of the Palestinian Arab political leadership by the British military during the revolt.

By the time Israel emerged as the clear victor, thousands had been killed on both sides, and Zionist paramilitary groups—transformed into the nascent Israel Defense Forces during the war—had forcibly expelled approximately 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from their newly claimed territory, which extended well beyond the bounds of the Jewish state envisioned in the 1947 UN plan (see map 2b). This mass expulsion of Palestinians created an acute and still unresolved refugee crisis across the region and effectively partitioned mandatory Palestine into an Israeli state, an Egyptian-occupied Gaza, and a Jordanian-occupied West Bank.31 The total incapacity of the newly formed UN to implement the partition plan led officials to try to recast themselves as mediators and supervisors of the truce and armistice agreements, a task at which they proved equally incapable. Partition had turned a difficult local and regional conflict into an apparently insoluble international one.

The simultaneity of partitions in Palestine and British India is striking: Pakistan gained independence on August 15, 1947, just two months after UNSCOP’s members arrived in Palestine to begin their investigations.32 And as in Ireland and Palestine, the eventual partition of the Indian subcontinent emerged, quite suddenly, from both colonial histories and immediate local circumstances. From the late nineteenth century, British imperial rule over India encouraged a reimagining of often-intermingled Hindu and Muslim populations as distinct and separate political communities. In particular, a series of British decisions about colonial legislative representation—including, rather ominously, the communally conscious division of Bengal into Muslim- and Hindu-majority territories in 1905—helped to encourage a wide range of local communalisms, many of which made use of indigenous traditions to support the emergence of communally conscious and even communally exclusive political structures from the 1920s on.33 This narrative of separate Hindu and Muslim subject “nations” had parallels in other parts of the empire, from Africa to Iraq, and constituted an important influence on an increasingly explicit international discourse of ethnic nation-statehood in the interwar period.34

Though electoral competition and negotiation over Hindu and Muslim interests (broadly represented by the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim League) had been a main feature of the Indian political landscape since the 1920s, the so-called two-nation theory did not emerge as a central component of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s political program until 1940—like the previous two partitions, in the context of global war.35 Scholars have debated the extent to which Jinnah’s adoption of a language of separatism represented a real claim for nation-statehood or merely a bargaining chip in the negotiations over postcolonial representation; either way, it soon took on a life of its own.36 In 1946, following a significant electoral victory on the part of the Muslim League and Jinnah’s declaration of a “Direct Action Day” to demonstrate the strength of Muslim political feeling, Muslim-Hindu violence broke out in Calcutta.

The bloodshed and the clear and dramatic loss of imperial control influenced the British decision to withdraw from India earlier than originally planned, leaving just a few short months to determine the shape of the postcolonial state or states. Partition now became a topic of intense debate within the Congress-led government as well as among Louis Mountbatten, Jinnah, and Jawaharlal Nehru, with Mohandas Gandhi in vehement opposition. Even at this late date, there was considerable opposition to the idea of partition within the Muslim-majority provinces whose legislators voted on the concept in June 1947.37 As historian Ayesha Jalal has pointed out, Jinnah now had to choose between a unified Indian state with no safeguards for Muslim political participation or a “maimed, mutilated and moth-eaten” separate Pakistan to be constructed from Muslim areas of the Punjab and Bengal.38 So, under pressure of time, Jinnah, Nehru, and Mountbatten signed off on a plan to partition the subcontinent into two states (see map 3b), on the assumption that the creation of Pakistan would free the Congress from any requirement to acknowledge Muslim political claims in the new India. The exact geographical disposition of the territory was left to the British lawyer Cyril Radcliffe, whose new borders were not made public for two days after formal independence at midnight on August 15, 1947. As the details emerged, the subcontinent descended into communal carnage.

The full human toll of the Indian partition will never be known. Its violence displaced something like fifteen million people and killed between one and two million; some seventy-five thousand women and girls were raped, and millions of refugees were left impoverished. Partition permanently altered the landscapes of the territories now labeled “India” and “Pakistan”: Karachi, which had been nearly half Hindu in 1941, had almost no Hindus left by 1950, and Delhi’s Muslim denizens—once a third of the city’s population—largely disappeared. And, of course, like all other partitions, it laid the groundwork for further future conflict. Hindu-Muslim violence has continued to recur in northern and western India; India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, one of which resulted in the bloody secession of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh); and insurgency and unrest continue in the disputed territory of Kashmir. Both states, incidentally, now possess nuclear capabilities.39


Since Palestine was divided in 1948, there have been any number of further partitions in our sense: Korea, Cyprus, Germany, Yugoslavia, and Sudan, to name just a few. A transnational study of these first three partitions, though, provides the clearest possible view of the origins of this idea as a strategy of British imperial rule across different territories, with Zionism as a crucial intellectual linchpin between Ireland and India. It also sheds light on how partition moved from theory to practice as decolonization unfolded and the nation-state became the default mode of political organization. The model of partition as a “solution” to ethno-national conflict was later exported elsewhere—in many cases via the imperially inflected venues of international high politics40—and tended to reflect the trajectories and structural features of the Irish, Palestinian, and Indian cases.

In all three of these instances, as in many later iterations, partition emerged as an essentially ad hoc response to local, imperial, and international conditions; was enacted by mass violence; and utterly failed to solve the problems it purported to address.41 Likewise, in all three instances, partition was interpreted as a necessary evil for the emergence of viable ethno-national states; as a protection for the rights of ethnic or religious “minorities” (itself a fundamentally twentieth-century concept); and as a natural solution that required little in the way of historical explanation beyond the apparent existence of intractable, atavistic ethnic or religious conflict. A study of these three paradigmatic examples thus requires us to think not only about the genealogy of the concept of partition, but also about how it has been presented, defended, and remembered within a postcolonial framework—and, centrally, how it came to occupy its current position as a favored policy option for widely varied situations of ethno-national strife.

Because of the broad application of the idea, the violence of its implementation, and the emotive nature of its memorialization, partition has represented a particularly difficult topic for scholars to approach empirically. Nevertheless, no one could argue that historians have ignored partition; historical scholarship on the individual cases of Ireland, India, and Palestine could fill libraries. Among historians, this literature broadly falls into two camps: national and imperial histories of partition. Imperial histories have traced some of the paths through which partition was envisioned and enacted but have tended to reinforce narratives of top-down action and to neglect local landscapes and local actors. National histories, by contrast, have contributed a great deal of specificity and local nuance to our understanding of partition, but they have shortcomings too; they focus much more on outcomes and aftermaths than on genesis, and they often fail to recognize partition as a transnational political concept arising less out of local circumstance than out of world war and global decolonization.

Initially, the topic did not grab the attention of postindependence national historians. Partition, after all, represented a trauma that stood in bleak contrast with triumphal tales of the creation of homelands and rebirth of nations. Particularly in South Asia, in the years after partition the topic was rarely mentioned except as part of the heavy price of liberation.42 Not surprisingly, then, the topic was at first left mainly to diplomatic historians studying the reordering of the international system after imperial breakdown. As decolonization brought dirty wars, ethnic strife, and proxy conflict to the high politics of the Cold War years, diplomatic historians began to depict violent partitions as early manifestations of a broader political disorder characteristic of the Global South. This historiography tended to understand partitions as technical rearrangements undertaken by noble-minded but tragically naïve colonial administrators trying to oversee an orderly “transfer of power” in the face of violent nationalisms and religious fundamentalisms—a narrative W. H. Auden famously mocked in his ironic description of Cyril Radcliffe’s arrival in India:

Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,

Having never set eyes on this land he was called to partition

Between two peoples fanatically at odds,

With their different diets and incompatible gods.43

Even more sarcastically, the Boulting brothers’ 1959 comedy Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (starring Peter Sellers) presented partitions as Solomonic trials imposed in a top-down fashion by bored, cynical men of the British Foreign Office, trying to get rid of antique colonial possessions that had turned into political liabilities.44 Gradually, though, scholarship recycling these tropes fell into disrepute for its failure to acknowledge the crucial participation of local actors who helped turn partition from an abstract idea to a fact on the ground—and the structures of power that encouraged them to do so.45 The rise first of area studies and then of subaltern studies and postcolonial theory, and the increasing attention given to communal violence and “history from below,” all played decisive roles in dissolving such analyses. As historians began to think about partition as a story of communal and ethno-national imagination and violence, they sought to distance themselves from accounts that deprived local actors of all agency.

These older explanations were also cast aside because of their increasingly evident inability to explain the persistence of partition as a phenomenon, tactic, and experience. Partition retained a place in the international arsenal of legitimate political tools for decades after 1948, as international treaties advocating partition in settings from Cyprus to Bosnia made clear. Further, it gradually became clear that partitions had utterly failed to provide the promised solution to communal or ethno-national conflict. Take, for example, the orgy of violence prompted by the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh guards in October 1984, which led many, including Urvashi Butalia, to start challenging the selective amnesia of the nation-state. “It took the events of 1984 to make me understand how ever-present Partition was in our lives,” Butalia writes, and the recurring outbursts of violence in subsequent years further strengthened that conclusion.46 By the mid-1980s it was no longer possible to regard the Irish, Indian, and Palestinian partitions as closed events; they were clearly ongoing processes, continuing to shape both domestic and foreign politics and leaving their imprint on core aspects of everyday life. In this charged arena, high-politics accounts focusing on the powerful few made way for oral histories and testimonies capturing the voices and memories of the masses “from below.”

Decades after the event, then, historians of modern South Asia in particular began to think much more seriously about partition and now arguably have covered 1947 in greater detail and depth than any other event in the region’s modern history. Dominated for some decades by narratives of (and by) individuals personally involved in the partition decision and its implementation, the early historiography on partition mainly took as its topic “the dilemma of reconciling the attainment of freedom with national unity,” as Gyanesh Kudaisya puts it—an approach that was eventually largely abandoned in favor of more regionally conscious social, cultural, and environmental histories of partition.47 With the rise of the subaltern studies movement in the 1980s and 1990s, the literature on partition began to concern itself with personal narratives of the violence (often emphasizing the gendered nature of both the experience itself and its later recounting) and with questions of memory, memorialization, and forgetting.48 Though historians of midcentury South Asia have admirably succeeded in delineating regional, class, and gender differences in the historical experience of partition, they have by and large not sought to ask questions about the genesis of the partition idea outside a South Asian framework.

The literature on the partition of Palestine is still more fraught, complicated by the dispersal of the Palestinian Arab population, the absence of a Palestinian national archive, and the ongoing Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories. Early scholarly literature on the 1948 war and its outcomes almost exclusively reflected the Zionist narrative, with Arab accounts of the nakba facing serious obstacles to production and distribution.49 Israeli historiography paid some attention to the intra-Zionist debates concerning partition but was heavily invested in sui generis readings of Jewish nationalism, putting severe restrictions on any attempt to read partition in comparative or transnational contexts.50 For more than forty years, Israeli accounts of 1948 (which scholarship coming out of Europe and the United States tended to echo) did not highlight partition so much as a narrative of military victory and political independence and often failed to acknowledge how the imperial structures of the mandate framed the history of Zionism and the founding of the Israeli state. During the same period, Arab accounts likewise made use of a fundamentally nationalist framing that forestalled the consideration of partition as a topic in itself, although they did tend to highlight the colonial state as the architect of the conflict and thus provided the beginnings of a more sophisticated approach.51

In the mid-1980s, following the opening of at least some of the Israeli archival material from 1948, a somewhat disparate group of Israeli historians began to challenge the earlier triumphalist narrative both by investigating individual instances of expulsion and by reviewing evidence of a concerted plan for the violent mass removal of the Palestinians.52 Around the same time the Palestinian historian Nur Masalha published his still-important book on the Zionist idea of “transfer” that, for the first time, opened the question of connections between Zionist thinking about partition in Palestine and similar discussions elsewhere of forced migration as a political solution.53 Though this politically charged scholarship contained a great deal of disagreement and even vitriol, it shared two things: a basic agreement that the Palestine/Israel question was a sui generis history without significant reference points elsewhere, and a strikingly conservative methodology that relied almost exclusively on the most traditional of diplomatic and military archival sources. While the latter has slowly shifted over the intervening thirty years, there are still remarkably few scholars seeking to place Palestine/Israel into a wider imperial or global context.54 The historiography on 1948, in particular, has continued to exhibit self-referential characteristics and to ignore wider questions of ethnic nationalism, partition, and violence that might link the Palestinian/Israeli experience with other regions and histories.

Further, unlike either Ireland or South Asia, the voices of the victims of 1948—displaced Palestinian Arabs—have been largely absent from the scholarly conversations about partition. This exclusion has been both structural and circumstantial. Because of the scattering of Palestinians in exile and camps across the Middle East and beyond—and because of the European and American complicity in supporting Palestinian dispossession as a “solution” to the “Jewish problem” in the aftermath of the Second World War and the Holocaust—little Palestinian writing on the nakba was disseminated, read, or seriously considered in American and European academia for many decades after the fact.55 More structurally, Palestinian writers and activists considered partition from the beginning as an aspect and symptom of the larger questions of imperial occupation and loss of sovereignty and civil rights, not as a phenomenon in itself. As Palestinian nationalist activist Musa Alami wrote as early as 1949: “We resisted both imperialism and partition and considered them complementary to each other. . . . We used to say that partition was the work of the imperialists.”56 The framework through which Palestinians understood the nakba was not the division of their territory along ethno-communal lines but the total and permanent loss of the homeland and the hope of a state; and as such their own writings, conversations, and analyses of both the mandate period and the 1948 war focused on the fundamental illegitimacy of the Zionist settler movement, the Balfour Declaration, the British occupation and mandate, and the military expulsion of a majority of the Palestinian Arab population from the Israeli state. Palestinians did, of course, think, talk, and write extensively about their experiences; but they did not generally consider these experiences within the framework of partition, not least because no division of territory between a Jewish Israel and an Arab Palestine ever emerged.

Indeed, the opposite happened: after the 1967 war, many Palestinians found themselves living under an Israeli military occupation that was, from the beginning, not conceived as merely temporary. The first months of the occupation drew on plans that had been in place for at least a few years, developed first by military advocate general Meir Shamgar and further elaborated by the General Security Service.57 Moshe Dayan quickly deployed these plans on the ground in the months following the war, hoping to normalize this new situation of Israeli rule, in perpetuity, over a Palestinian population without political rights. This institutionalization and naturalization of occupation, on the basis of a permanent differentiation of rights between Israeli citizens (and settlers) and Palestinian residents, emerged quickly and soon became not a temporary circumstance but a central aspect of Israeli state organization.58

Ironically, it was only in this context that the concept of partition—in our terms—became truly central to Palestinian political narratives and analyses. As the Palestinian economy and labor market were forcibly integrated into Israel on radically inequitable terms,59 the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) began to think seriously about the possibility of accepting partition as a mode of political settlement—that is, to accede to the terms of a so-called two-state solution that would provide for a Palestinian nation in the West Bank and Gaza. Though the word “partition” was rarely used, Yasser Arafat’s official acceptance of the principle of Palestinian statehood in the territories represented a decades-later agreement to the partition concept first formally mooted in 1937 and proposed again in 1947 (and, of course, soundly rejected by Palestinian nationalists in both instances). Now the old debates were revived in a different political and military context, one in which the painful reality of a physically integrated but permanently and violently politically differentiated regime for Israelis and Palestinians had become, for Palestinians in the territories, the de facto alternative to ethno-national partition.

In its new guise as the “two-state solution,” partition now became the stated goal of the PLO, the Israeli left, and any number of external mediators, including (eventually) the United States, though the word itself was notably absent from all negotiations from Oslo onward. In the eyes of the great majority of liberal Zionists—Israeli author Amos Oz remains the most eloquent spokesman of that camp—partition remained the only possible answer to what they saw as a “clash of right with right.”60 After the Oslo Accords, objections to partition came mainly from Israel’s right wing and from a newly prominent Hamas, which viewed the PLO’s acceptance of partition as having conceded the central premise of Palestinian nationalism without gaining anything in return.61 The Israeli administration’s eventual rhetorical concessions to the idea of partition, in 2009, came only in the context of a settlement movement so entrenched in the territories that it rendered real Palestinian autonomy unworkable.62 By now, the discussions of the partition solution that formed the backbone of the post-Oslo peace talks have withered on the vine. As historian and political commentator Tony Judt put it so trenchantly just before his death: “To summarize: further pursuit of the old ‘peace process’ and ‘road map’ is futile. No one who matters believes in it anymore.”63

Scholars have approached the partition of Ireland in rather different though equally atomized terms. Though it occurred in the immediate aftermath of the First World War and clearly reflected some of the assumptions about ethnicity and communalism being discussed at the peace talks, historians of Ireland have long tended to explain the partition mainly in terms of the longer local history of Home Rule dating to the mid-nineteenth century.64 To the extent that they have discussed partition in a comparative imperial framework, scholars of Ireland have based their discussion around Nicholas Mansergh’s 1978 argument that partition in both Ireland and India emerged not out of British malice but as a consequence of competing nationalist interests and an imperial desire for an easy form of decolonization—an idea that challenged Irish nationalist beliefs in some important ways but also tended to confine the question of Irish partition to a set of specific local circumstances and players.65 As in the Palestinian case, some of the reluctance to take on the question of partition derived from the particulars of the contemporary political situation; as historian Margaret O’Callahan notes, “Because addressing the fundamental issue of partition was seen as potentially justifying the Provisional IRA campaign, there was a moratorium on serious historical research on certain kinds of questions about ‘the North.’66 It is only quite recently, then, that a few scholars of Ireland have begun to make a serious effort to examine the simultaneously imperial and internationalist exchanges in which the idea of partition emerged as a “solution” for the “Irish question.”67 It may be worth noting that Britain’s recent decision to withdraw from the European Union has brought the question of Ireland and its borders back to the fore; it seems likely that this development, potentially turning the 310-mile frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland into an international border of the older, pre-EU type, might now encourage broader scholarly and public reassessments of the origins of Irish partition.

Contemporary historiography, then, offers much richer accounts than older diplomatic histories trapped in the rigid teleological paradigms of nation-statehood. But it remains a highly fragmented history. It is invested in recovering distinctive, previously repressed voices and exposing the bloody aftermaths of partition, but it has largely abandoned the attempt to offer a more synoptic view of partitions in plural, to trace their shared contexts and genealogies. In its deep suspicion—if not overt resentment—of haute politique, contemporary historiography often makes the recovery of connections among these partitions difficult. (The “new” imperial history, which prefers a networked or webbed conception of imperial space over older analyses centered around colony-metropole and patron-client dynamics, has by and large not interested itself in partition.)68 To paraphrase J. G. A. Pocock’s famous complaint, the historiography of partition has not yet succeeded in presenting a verità effettuale—“a reality that determines the present and renders a past intelligible.”69

The most extensive literature on partition as a political phenomenon has come not from historians but from political scientists, who have in the main approached the question of partition from a prescriptive angle. (The few “international history” approaches to partition have shared this policy-oriented approach, investigating rates of “success” for past partitions.) Such scholarship has taken a for/against perspective, with many participants advocating for externally enforced ethnic partitions as a mode of preventing worse violence or ending civil war and others (fewer in number, it must be noted) arguing against partition as an ineffective tool of international peacekeeping. Both positions take a purely instrumentalist view of partition—that is, they see it as a definable, traceable “solution” whose efficacy can be measured after the fact by applying a set of consistent metrics to measure the recurrence of ethnic violence in each setting. Thus pro-partition political scientists like Chaim Kaufmann can make the case that partition represents a “best solution” to ethnic conflict, with alternative political arrangements like enforced unification or federalism representing options that “would likely have been worse” in terms of casualties.70 Similarly, in an influential article published in 2007, Thomas Chapman and Philip Roeder argued that if case studies are limited to instances where partition resulted in sovereign states recognized by international authorities, “partition is more effective than alternative institutions at reducing the likelihood of a recurrence of violence.”71 Their interlocutors reject this conclusion but make use of the same premise that partition can be studied as an independently recognizable tool of international diplomacy; as another well-known article puts it, “it is important to assess the risks and benefits of partition” through analysis of concrete empirical evidence—which, this particular study argues, demonstrates that partition actually “does not work in general.”72

This application-oriented, policy-guiding literature, both pro- and anti-partition, fails utterly to recognize the historical contingencies that served to produce the idea of partition after the First World War and continue to shape its application in the twenty-first century. Above all, it fails to acknowledge that the very concept of ethnic majorities and minorities rests on the emergence of a nation-state order dating back no farther than the First World War and dependent on the new capacity of the League of Nations (backed, of course, by British and French imperial force) to enforce such ethnic boundaries in the war’s aftermath.73 Partition, in other words, is not an independent, free-standing “solution” to anything; it is an idea that was invented in very particular circumstances—specifically, by empires trying to extend their lifespans via a carefully calibrated application of some of the characteristics of nation-states in their colonies—and applied by external actors to colonized spaces. As historian A. Dirk Moses has trenchantly noted, such work “proceeds as if thirty years of constructivist sociology and historiography about nations and nationalism was never written . . . [and] is indentured to a managerial gaze of ‘solving’ the problems of non-Western peoples, a subject position that smacks of neo-imperialism that in many cases led to the problems in the first place.”74

Political scientists’ wholesale acceptance of the premise of partition as a clear and simple, if morally fraught, preexisting tool of international diplomacy represents at best a misapprehension of and at worst a capitulation to imperial propaganda. A transnational approach to the history of partition, by contrast, provides a demonstrated pedigree of the concept: its origins in specific colonial planners; its expression through particular ethnic nationalist movements, especially those associated with colonial rule like Zionism; and its movement across colonial territories via colonial officialdom and colonial collaborators, rather than through any kind of grassroots ethnic consciousness. This transnational account clearly categorizes partition as a fundamentally imperial idea, one whose origins specifically do not lie in local ethnic or communal conflicts in any of the territories where it was enacted over the course of the twentieth century. In particular, it demonstrates partition’s emergence from a British colonial ethnography that emphasized ethno-communal division for the purposes of imperial governance75—an analysis that helps explain why partition, touted as a “solution” to ethnic conflict, has invariably been associated with mass violence.


Partition has been both extensively explored and inadequately understood. We know a considerable amount about how it unfolded in various places; we have analyses of its rates of “success”; we can read about how it is remembered. But scholars and policymakers alike have by and large failed to understand it as the product of a particular global moment, when decolonization, ethnic nationalism, and new forms of international organization came together to create a kind of toxic miasma around the idea of physically separating ethnically or communally defined populations. Any historical approach to the concept of partition must acknowledge its fundamentally colonial roots and its entanglement with the careful institutionalization of imperial privilege at the heart of an emerging twentieth-century international order.

This volume, then, looks at partition as a “traveling theory”—a notion that Edward Said pioneered in his 1983 book The World, the Text, and the Critic, in which he defined the transmission of ideas and theories as having three or four discernable stages: a specific point of origin and a “distance transversed,” whereby an idea moves into a new place and standing; conditions of “acceptance or, as an inevitable part of acceptance, resistances” that make the implementation of the idea possible; and a final process by which the “now full (or partly) accommodated (or incorporated) idea is to some extent transformed by its new uses.”76 Here, we adapt this idea to explore the genesis, dissemination, and transformation of the concept of partition. The first part of this book, “Origins and Genealogies,” looks at some origin points for the idea of partition: in colonial contexts, in the Zionist movement, and in intra-European power politics. In the second part, “Distances Transversed,” the authors examine the development of an abstract language of partition at the international level, which British imperial politicians imagined as broadly applicable to any number of local cases. These essays focus particularly on the colonial dissemination of ideas through a small and tightly knit group of colonial officials whose ideas about how to retain power over the populations under their rule led to a broader conceptualization of partition as a mode of imperial and postimperial control. The last part, “Acceptance, Resistance, and Accommodation,” explores a wide variety of reactions to partition, from accommodation to resistance. These essays look at some of the reactions to and depictions of partition from those affected, ranging from internationally focused political activism to intracommunity conversations about collective identity to private familial processes of narration and memorialization. A. Dirk Moses’s epilogue, “Partitions, Hostages, Transfer,” explores the long-term violence of partition through the emergence of a postpartition logic of collective security and retribution.

The analysis contained in this volume particularly matters at the moment because we have recently witnessed a revival of interest in the idea of partition as a political “solution” to ethnic and religious conflict, especially for the Middle East. In 2009, journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft (responding to an article by Christopher Hitchens deploring the consequences of colonial partitions) declared it a viable and justifiable conceit: “Over and over again partition has been the entirely inevitable solution; not a good remedy, but the least bad remedy in the objective circumstances. . . . Over and again partition has averted civil war and made possible the establishment of orderly states.”77 In 2012, the well-known journalist and commentator Dilip Hiro wrote an article in which he made the case that the partition of South Asia constituted a successful model of state-building to which diplomats seeking solutions for Syria might turn. “The Indian subcontinent is about 5000 kilometers away from the cockpit of the Middle East’s latest upheaval,” he wrote, “but analysts would do well to examine the subcontinent’s recent history to gain insight into Syria’s intractable conflict. . . . The 1947 partitioning of British India into India and Pakistan eased communal violence dramatically. And so Syria, too, could be on the way to a solution by partition.”78 Claims like these are by no means unusual in the current political climate, which has seen repeated suggestions from a variety of quarters that partition might represent a viable path forward for a Syria mired in violence and a collapsing Iraqi state.79

Such propositions represent a dangerous misreading of history. Partition is not a long-standing or natural solution to a problem of pluralism; it is a consequence of a particular alignment of global interests, dating from the interwar period, that privileged ethnic nationalisms and ethnically purified nation-states as the building blocks of a modern world order. Further, its imposition has without exception been accompanied by violence of the most extreme kind; only a radical ignorance of the historical facts could allow for the claim that the 1947 partition of South Asia “eased communal violence dramatically.” There is no historical evidence that partition as a political practice has done anything whatsoever to provide a “solution” to ethnic conflict—or indeed that it was ever intended to do so; its primary rationale was to smooth the path for imperial powers to create new forms of informal authority and friendly client states for a new postcolonial era, without regard for the human costs. If a historically informed examination of the concept of partition tells us anything, it is that past attempts to enforce ethnic homogeneity as a condition of viable statehood—in Ireland, Palestine, and India alike—now stand as some of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century.


Map 2a   Royal Commission Partition Plan, 1937

Map 2b   United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine (Resolution 181 (II)), 1947

Map 3b   The Partition of India and Pakistan, 1947


1. For useful overviews of these processes, see Robert Hayden, From Yugoslavia to the Western Balkans: Studies of a European Disunion, 1991–2011 (Leiden: Brill, 2012); Sabrina Ramet, Thinking About Yugoslavia: Scholarly Debates About the Yugoslav Breakup and the Wars in Bosnia and Kosovo (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Mansur Khalid, The Paradox of Two Sudans: The CPA and the Road to Partition (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2015); and John Young, The Fate of Sudan: The Origins and Consequences of a Flawed Peace Progress (London: Zed Books, 2012). For a few examples of proposals on dividing Iraq and Syria, see especially Dilip Hiro, “Is Partition a Solution for Syria?,” Yale Global Online, July 31, 2012,; Fred Dews, “The Right Way to Partition Iraq (If Necessary),” Brookings Now, July 9, 2014,; Fareed Zakaria, “An Enclave Strategy for Iraq,” Washington Post, June 19, 2014; Thomas Friedman, “Syria Scorecard,” New York Times, June 22, 2013; and Nicholas Sambanis and Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl, “Partitions in Practice: The Case Against Dividing Iraq,” Foreign Affairs, December 1, 2014.

2. See Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil (London: Verso, 2011), for a trenchant summary of the emergence of this new language of “self-determination” and its economic implications for the Western European imperial powers.

3. Susan Pedersen has traced the many ways in which structures of “internationalism” were largely derived from imperial models and imperial ideologies, from the League of Nations onward. See especially her “Empires, States and the League of Nations,” in Internationalisms: A Twentieth-Century History, ed. Glenda Sluga and Patricia Clavin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 133–138.

4. On this point and historians’ fuzzy understanding of the new political and diplomatic language of the interwar period, see Arie Dubnov, “Notes on the Zionist Passage to India, or: The Analogical Imagination and Its Boundaries,” Journal of Israeli History 35, no. 3 (2016): 177–214.

5. The emergence of this minority-majority discourse is chronicled in some detail in Eric D. Weitz, “From the Vienna to the Paris System: International Politics and the Entangled Histories of Human Rights, Forced Deportations, and Civilizing Missions,” American Historical Review 113, no. 5 (2008): 1329–1333, and Mark Mazower, “Minorities and the League of Nations in Interwar Europe,” Daedalus 126, no. 2 (1997): 47–63. Wilson’s revision of “self-determination”—which had emerged as a socialist idea about collectivist political expression within multiethnic states—meant, as Weitz puts it, “free white men coming together consensually to form a democratic political order.” See his “Self-Determination: How a German Enlightenment Idea Became the Slogan of National Liberation and a Human Right,” American Historical Review 120, no. 2 (2015): 485.

6. With one notable exception—T. G. Fraser’s Partition in Ireland, India, and Palestine: Theory and Practice (New York: St. Martin’s, 1984)—historians of partitions have generally avoided the comparative methods that were (and remain) popular among political scientists. For a “transnational critique” of the comparative approach, see Dubnov, “Notes on the Zionist Passage to India,” 8–9.

7. Dictionary definitions of the word “partition”—the infallible Oxford English Dictionary provides four different meanings to the verb and a dozen definitions for the noun—provide little help, as they blur the distinctions between division and partition, border and barrier, division and separation. Furthermore, citing etymologies dating back to the fifteenth century, they fail to make clear the novelty of partition as a political idea. See “partition, v.” and “partition, n.,” OED: Oxford English Dictionary Online,, accessed January 9, 2018.

8. Robert Schaeffer, Warpaths: The Politics of Partition (New York: Hill and Wang, 1990), 7.

9. Brendan O’Leary, “Analysing Partition: Definition, Classification and Explanation,” Political Geography 26 (2007): 886–908, quotation on 888. Like Schaeffer, O’Leary distinguishes between premodern divisions of territory and modern partition, noting that the notion of partition and objections to it “take the nation-state and its national territory for granted,” while premodern states “treated lands as real estate. . . . Thus, in feudal and patrimonial regimes, ‘partition’ had no political meaning outside of estate law; and land divisions were not the subject of debates over their national public legitimacy.”

10. This metaphor appeared most notably, though not only, in the Peel Commission report that first proposed the partition of Palestine in 1937. Nationalist opponents of partition often favored organicist imagery as well, rendering it an artificial “cut in the flesh,” a violation of the “sacred body” of the “motherland.” Before walls or fences were erected, scissors were the leitmotif appearing in cartoons. Emblematically, even when O’Leary attempted to add precision to our discussion, he ended up using metaphorical language to describe partition: “a fresh border cut” through at least one “national homeland,” unfastening,” “tearing”; see O’Leary, “Analysing Partition,” 887.

11. Some scholars have viewed Ulster as the legacy of an early modern settler colonial project that at times rose to the level of genocide; see, for instance, Ben Kiernan, Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007), 169–212. On the original settlement, see also Nicolas Canny, Making Ireland British, 1580–1650 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), and Éamonn Ó Ciardha and Micheál Ó Siochrú, eds., The Plantation of Ulster: Ideology and Practice (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2012). For a useful overview of the Ulster question in the subsequent centuries, see especially Alvin Jackson, Home Rule: An Irish History, 1800–2000 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), and The Two Unions: Ireland, Scotland, and the Survival of the United Kingdom, 1707–2007 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

12. On the 1916 Easter Rising and its wartime context, see Fearghal McGarry, The Rising: Ireland—Easter 1916 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); Charles Townshend, Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2006); and Alan Ward, The Easter Rising: Revolution and Irish Nationalism (Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, 2003).

13. Robert F. Foster, Modern Ireland, 1600–1972 (London: Penguin, 2011), 494.

14. This idea is central to much recent literature on violent ethnic conflict in the late Ottoman Empire; see, for instance, Ipek Yosmaoğlu, Blood Ties: Religion, Violence, and the Politics of Nationhood in Ottoman Macedonia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014), and Ryan Gingeras, Sorrowful Shores: Violence, Ethnicity, and the End of the Ottoman Empire, 1912–1923 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

15. Eamon de Valera to David Lloyd George, September 30, 1921, reprinted in Further Correspondence Relating to the Proposals of His Majesty’s Government for an Irish Settlement (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1921), 11.

16. Quoted in Lee Ward, “Republican Political Theory and Irish Nationalism,” European Legacy 21, no. 1 (2015): 1–19, quotation on 12.

17. The task was assigned to the Irish Boundary Commission, in charge of interpreting Article XII of the treaty, to come up with such a line, “in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, so far as may be compatible with economic and geographical conditions.” Quoted in Ged Martin, “The Origins of Partition,” in The Irish Border: History, Politics, Culture, ed. Malcolm Anderson and Eberhard Bort (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1999), 57–112, quotation on 70. For additional analysis, see K. J. Rankin, “The Role of the Irish Boundary Commission in the Entrenchment of the Irish Border: From Tactical Panacea to Political Liability,” Journal of Historical Geography 34, no. 3 (2008): 422–447.

18. For more on the Greek-Turkish “population exchange” of 1923, see especially Bruce Clark, Twice a Stranger: The Mass Expulsions That Forged Modern Greece and Turkey (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006); Renee Hirshon, Crossing the Aegean: An Appraisal of the 1923 Compulsory Population Exchange Between Greece and Turkey (New York: Berghahn Books, 2004); and Onur Yildirim, Diplomacy and Displacement: Reconsidering the Turco-Greek Exchange of Populations, 1922–1934 (New York: Routledge, 2006).

19. See Laura Robson, States of Separation: Transfer, Partition, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Oakland: University of California Press, 2017); Matthew Frank, “Fantasies of Ethnic Unmixing: Population Transfer and the Collapse of Empire in Europe,” in Refugees and the End of Empire: Imperial Collapse and Forced Migration in the Twentieth Century, ed. Panikos Panayi and Pippa Virdee (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 81–101; and Umut Özsu, Formalizing Displacement: International Law and Population Transfers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

20. On this point see Weitz, “From the Vienna to the Paris System”; Aristide R. Zolberg, “The Formation of New States as a Refugee-Generating Process,” in The Global Refugee Problem: U.S. and World Response, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 467 (1983): 24–38; Nathaniel Berman, Passion and Ambivalence: Colonialism, Nationalism, and International Law (Leiden: Brill, 2011); and Robson, States of Separation.

21. Quoted in Christopher Sykes, Crossroads to Israel (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973), 7.

22. See Laura Robson, Colonialism and Christianity in Mandate Palestine (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011), chap. 2; Bernard Wasserstein, Herbert Samuel: A Political Life (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992); and John Strawson, Partitioning Palestine: Legal Fundamentalism in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), chap. 2.

23. See Barbara J. Smith, The Roots of Separatism in Palestine: British Economic Policy, 1920–1929 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993), and Jacob Metzer, The Divided Economy of Mandatory Palestine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

24. The literature on British policy, Zionist development, and Palestinian nationalism during the mandate years is extensive. On the development of separate political and economic spheres for Arabs and Jews, see particularly Charles Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 8th ed. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013); Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (Boston: Beacon, 2006); and Assaf Likhovski, Law and Identity in Mandate Palestine (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006). On Labor Zionism and its efforts (not always successful) to enforce all-Jewish enclaves in Palestine, see particularly Zachary Lockman, Comrades and Enemies: Arab and Jewish Workers in Palestine, 1906–1948 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996); Gershon Shafir, Land, Labor, and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1882–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Zeev Sternhell, The Founding Myths of Israel: Nationalism, Socialism, and the Making of the Jewish State (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998); and Mark LeVine, Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv, and the Struggle for Palestine, 1880–1948 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).

25. On the British response and the gradual intensification of the military campaign against the revolt, see particularly Jacob Norris, “Repression and Rebellion: Britain’s Response to the Arab Revolt in Palestine of 1936–39,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 36, no. 1 (2008): 25–45.

26. John Newsinger, British Counterinsurgency, from Palestine to Northern Ireland (London: Palgrave, 2002); Richard Andrew Cahill, “‘Going Berserk’: ‘Black and Tans’ in Palestine,” Jerusalem Quarterly 38 (2009): 59–68; Matthew Hughes, “The Banality of Brutality: British Armed Forces and the Repression of the Arab Revolt in Palestine, 1936–39,” English Historical Review 124, no. 507 (2009): 313–354. For an intriguing sketch of a transnational history of counterinsurgency, see Laleh Khalili, “The Location of Palestine in Global Counterinsurgencies,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 42, no. 3 (2010): 413–433.

27. Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, ‘Al ha-haluka [On Partition] (Jerusalem: Berit hatsahar, 1937) (translation ours). It is worth noting that with the outbreak of the Second World War, shortly before his death, Jabotinsky abandoned this view and declared that the Turkish-Greek model was not a failure after all and that the Arab population in Palestine “will have to make room” for the flood of Jewish refugees he expected pouring from Europe. See Vladimir Jabotinsky, “Population Exchanges—Notes in Jabotinsky’s Handwriting, in English,” Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky Papers, Jabotinsky Institute, Tel-Aviv, Alef-1–2/12, quoted (and discussed) in Gil Rubin, “The Future of the Jews: Planning for the Postwar Jewish World, 1939–1946” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 2017), chap. 2. Notably, Jabotinsky’s biographer, Joseph B. Schechtman, gained a reputation as a world-renowned expert on the subject with the publication of his study European Population Transfers, 1939–1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946). In 1948 Schechtman served as an advisor to the Israeli government’s Transfer Committee. See also Colin Shindler, “Opposing Partition: The Zionist Predicaments After the Shoah,” Israel Studies 14, no. 2 (2009): 88–104, and Antonio Ferrara, “Eugene Kulischer, Joseph Schechtman and the Historiography of European Forced Migrations,” Journal of Contemporary History 46, no. 4 (2011): 715–740.

28. Aaron S. Klieman, “In the Public Domain: The Controversy over Partition for Palestine,” Jewish Social Studies 42, no. 2 (1980): 147–164; Elad Ben-Dror, “The Success of the Zionist Strategy vis-à-vis UNSCOP,” Israel Affairs 20, no. 1 (2014): 19–39. On Ihud, see Adi Gordon’s contribution to the current volume as well as Paul Mendes-Flohr, A Land of Two Peoples (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983); Joseph Heller, Mi-Berit shalom le-Ihud: Yehudah Leib Magnes veha-maavak li-medinah du-leumit [From “Brit Shalom” to “Ihud”: Judah L. Magnes and the Struggle for a Binational State] (Jerusalem: Magnes, 2003); and Eric Jacobson, “Why Did Hannah Arendt Reject the Partition of Palestine?,” Journal for Cultural Research 17, no. 4 (2013), 358–381.

29. Discussed in greater detail in Robson, States of Separation, 132ff.

30. The term “civil war” seems to have been introduced three decades ago by the Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi but has been absorbed since into the writings of Israeli historians (a rare phenomenon in that contested field of historiography). See Walid Khalidi, “A Palestinian Perspective on the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” Journal of Palestine Studies 14, no. 4 (1985): 35–48; Yoav Gelber, Palestine, 1948: War, Escape and the Emergence of the Palestinian Refugee Problem (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2006); Benny Morris, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008); and James L. Gelvin, The Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 127.

31. On the 1948 expulsion of the Palestinians, see especially Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), and The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); and Avi Shlaim, Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988).

32. As the chapters in this volume show, these parallel trajectories were not hidden from the eyes of the contemporaneous political actors, who assumed that the political futures of the two regions would likely follow a similar pattern. See for example the confidential memo composed by Jacob Robinson, “Partition of India: Implications for Palestine,” June 4 [?], 1948, S25/9029, Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem. Robinson, director of the Institute for Jewish Affairs in New York and a professor of international law at Columbia University, was appointed legal advisor of the Jewish Agency delegation in New York. In a typical example of transnational “analogical thinking,” Robinson prophesied that Palestine would probably follow the same trajectory as India and also made clear references to Home Rule and the Ulster problem in Ireland. A few days later, Chaim Weizmann wrote to Lord Mountbatten, India’s last viceroy, stating that creating a “Palestinian Pakistan” would be the best solution to the Palestine problem. See Weizmann to Mountbatten, June 10, 1947, 2725, Weizmann Archive, Rehovot, Israel. For further analysis of this parallelism, see Lucy Chester’s chapter included in the present collection.

33. In the Bengali case, for instance, this early, local administrative partition was initially considered a welcome move in the eyes of the Hindu leadership, eager to restore an influence that had long been in decline and increasingly anxious, in this era of communalism, about living “under the sway of ‘Muslim majority.’” Joya Chatterji, The Spoils of Partition: Bengal and India, 1947–1967 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 71. On the making of communalism more generally, see especially Gyanendra Pandey, The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994); Suranjan Dass, Communal Riots in Bengal, 1905–1947 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1991); and Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993).

34. See, for instance, Nicholas Dirks, Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001); Ayesha Jalal, “Exploding Communalism: The Politics of Muslim Identity,” in Nationalism, Democracy and Development: State and Politics in India, ed. Ayesha Jalal and Sugata Bose (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998), 76–103; and C. A. Bayly, Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). This practice was subsequently exported to the Middle East, particularly British-controlled Egypt and Palestine; see C. A. Bayly’s exploration of parallels between Egypt and India with regard to religious minorities in his “Representing Copts and Muhammadans: Empire, Nation, and Community in Egypt and India, 1880–1914,” in Modernity and Culture: From the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, ed. Leila Fawaz and C. A. Bayly (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 158–203; and Robson, Colonialism and Christianity in Mandate Palestine, chap. 2.

35. The meaning and origins of the “two-nation” theory are discussed in Stephen P. Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2004), chap. 1, and Mridu Rai, “Jinnah and the Demise of a Hindu Politician?,” History Workshop Journal 62 (2006): 232–240.

36. For an assessment of various scholarly positions on this question, see Rai, “Jinnah and the Demise of a Hindu Politician?,” and Ayesha Jalal, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League, and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

37. Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal note that “the majority of legislators in both provinces rejected partition; the decisive votes in favor of partition were cast by east Punjab and west Bengal legislators acting under Congress whip,” the Congress hoping that a partition decision would assure it full control over the Hindu majority provinces. See Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy (London: Routledge, 2011), 152–153. A number of scholars have pointed out that support for partition was strongest in the Muslim-minority provinces and fairly weak in the majority areas where Pakistan was ultimately established; see, for instance, Stephen Cohen, who notes in his 2004 book on the subject: “Support for the Muslim League and a separate Muslim state had been strongest in North India, where Muslims had been in a minority. However, Pakistan was established on the periphery of the subcontinent, where Muslims were in a majority but support for Pakistan was weak” (The Idea of Pakistan, 36).

38. Bose and Jalal, Modern South Asia, 154.

39. For a detailed look at their political and technological development, see Sumit Ganguly and Devin T. Hagerty, Fearful Symmetry: India-Pakistan Crises in the Shadow of Nuclear Weapons (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005).

40. See Pedersen, “Empires, States and the League of Nations,” 133–138.

41. For a political science argument against ad hoc partitions, see James D. Fearon, “Separatist Wars, Partition, and World Order,” Security Studies 13, no. 4 (2004): 394–415.

42. Tai Yong Tan and Gyanesh Kudaisya, The Aftermath of Partition in South Asia (London: Routledge, 2000).

43. W. H. [Wystan Hugh] Auden, “Partition,” Collected Poems (New York: Random House, 1976), 604. Auden’s poem is dated May 1966.

44. John Boulting and Jeffrey F. Dell (directors), Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (London: Charter Film Productions, 1959).

45. Joya Chatterji, The Spoils of Partition: Bengal and India, 1947–1967 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Yasmin Khan, The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press); Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar, The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007).

46. Urvashi Butalia, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000), 5, 275–276.

47. Gyanesh Kudaisya, “The ‘Regional’ Turn in the Writing of Modern Indian History: Some Notes on the State of the Field,” South Asia 39, no. 1 (2016): 277.

48. For some key examples of this outcome- and memory-focused literature, see Gyanendra Pandey, Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism and History in India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Zamindar, The Long Partition; and Ayesha Jalal, The Pity of Partition: Manto’s Life, Times, and Work Across the India-Pakistan Divide (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013). It has significant parallels in the literature on the Palestinian nakba; see, for instance, Nur Masalha, “Remembering the Palestinian Nakba: Commemoration, Oral History and Narratives of Memory,” Holy Land Studies 7, no. 2 (2008): 123–156; Ahmad H. Sa’di and Lila Abu-Lughod, eds., Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007); and in literature on Ireland, for instance, Ian McBride, ed., History and Memory in Modern Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

49. See, for instance, the once-popular though fundamentally erroneous work by Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine (New York: Harper and Row, 1984), a work so inaccurate that the London Spectator called it “a piece of disinformation roughly the size and weight of a dried cowpat”—one of many scathing reviews unearthed and discussed in Norman Finklestein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (London: Verso, 2003), 45.

50. See note 33 above as well as Shmuel Dothan, Pulmus-Ha-Halukah Bi-Tekufat HaMandat [The Partition Controversy During the British Mandate in Palestine] (Jerusalem: Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi, 1979); Itzhak Galnoor, The Partition of Palestine: Decision Crossroads in the Zionist Movement (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995); and Joseph Heller, “The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine (1945–1946): The Zionist Reaction Reconsidered,” in Essential Papers on Zionism, eds. Jehuda Reinharz and Anita Shapira (New York: New York University Press, 1996), 689–723.

51. See, for instance, Constantine Zurayk, The Meaning of the Disaster (Beirut: Khayat’s College Book Comparative, 1956); Walid Khalidi, ed., From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem Until 1948 (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1971); Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1991); and, before 1948, George Antonius, The Arab Awakening (London: Hamilton, 1938).

52. See in particular Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949; Shlaim, Collusion Across the Jordan; and Ilan Pappe, The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947–1951 (London: Tauris, 1992).

53. Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of “Transfer” in Zionist Political Thought (Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992). Some of his subsequent work expands on this theme; see A Land Without a People: Israel, Transfer and the Palestinians, 1949–96 (London: Faber and Faber, 1997), and The Politics of Denial: Israel and the Palestinian Refugee Problem (London: Pluto, 2003).

54. The more recent literature has tended to focus on social history and on political economy; see, for instance, Ted Swedenburg, Memories of Revolt: The 1936–1939 Rebellion and the Palestinian National Past (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995); Ellen Fleischmann, The Nation and Its “New” Women: The Palestinian Women’s Movement, 1920–1948 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003); Robson, Colonialism and Christianity in Mandate Palestine; Jacob Norris, Land of Progress: Palestine in the Age of Colonial Development, 1905–1948 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); and Sherene Seikaly, Men of Capital: Scarcity and Economy in Mandate Palestine (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015).

55. This situation was worsened by the difficulties Palestinian researchers have faced finding relevant archival sources, which are scattered in any number of often-inaccessible archives across the Middle East, within Israel, and in the United Kingdom. Unsurprisingly, much literature on the nakba has had to focus on oral sources and questions of memory; see, for instance, Anaheed Al-Hardan, Palestinians in Syria: Nakba Memories of Shattered Communities (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016).

56. Musa Alami, “The Lesson of Palestine,” Middle East Journal 3, no. 4 (1949): 373–405, quotation on 388.

57. Ariella Azoulay and Adi Ophir, The One-State Condition: Occupation and Democracy in Israel/Palestine (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), 3; Neve Gordon, Israel’s Occupation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 26.

58. As Azoulay and Ophir put it: “Half a century is a very long time in modern history. One cannot possibly regard such a long-lasting political situation as a historical ‘accident’ that happened to the State of Israel. . . . A new conceptual grid is necessary in order to explain that and how Israelis and Palestinians have been governed since 1967 by the same ruling power, within the bounds of the same regime.” See The One-State Condition, 11.

59. For a brief overview of this colonial political economy in the occupied territories, see Gelvin, The Israel-Palestine Conflict, 183–189; for a more detailed account, see Sara Roy, The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-Development (Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1995).

60. Amos Oz, How to Cure a Fanatic (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), 1–36; Amos Oz, Dear Zealots: Letters from a Divided Land, trans. Jessica Cohen (Boston: Random House, 2018).

61. This conclusion was eventually shared by other analysts, including Edward Said, who in 2000 described what he saw as “Oslo’s malign genius, that even Israel’s ‘concessions’ were so heavily encumbered with conditions and qualifications and entailments that they could not be enjoyed by the Palestinians in any way resembling self-determination.” On Arafat’s concessions, he continued: “Caught between his own track record of having already signed seven years of peace process agreements with Israel and the prospect of signing what was obviously meant to be the last one, Yasir Arafat balked . . . he might have awakened to the enormity of what he had already signed away (I would like to think that his nightmares are made up of unending rides on the bypassing roads in Area C).” See From Oslo to Iraq and the Road Maps: Essays (New York: Pantheon, 2004), 12, 23.

62. See, among others, Geoffrey Arenson, “Settlement Monitor,” Journal of Palestine Studies 42, no. 2 (2013): 143–158.

63. Tony Judt, “What Is to Be Done?,” in When the Facts Change: Essays, 1995–2010 (New York: Penguin, 2015), 165.

64. See, for instance, Michael Laffan, The Partition of Ireland (Dublin: Dublin Academic Press, 1983); Stephen Duffy, The Integrity of Ireland: Home Rule, Nationalism, and Partition, 1912–1922 (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2009); and James Anderson and Liam O’Dowd, “Imperialism and Nationalism: The Home Rule Struggle and Border Creation in Ireland, 1885–1925,” Political Geography 26, no. 8 (2007): 934–950, all of which draw fairly straight lines between the late-nineteenth-century conversations surrounding “Home Rule” and the specifics of the border negotiations of 1921.

65. Nicholas Mansergh, The Prelude to Partition: Concepts and Aims in Ireland and India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), and The Unresolved Question: The Anglo-Irish Settlement and Its Undoing 1912–72 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991). The historiography of the partition question in general and Mansergh’s specific contributions in particular are dealt with in Antoine Mioche, “India or North America? Reflections on Nicholas Mansergh’s Partition Paradigm,” Eire-Ireland 42, nos. 1–2 (2007): 290–310.

66. Margaret O’Callahan, “Genealogies of Partition: History, History-Writing, and ‘The Troubles’ in Ireland,” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 9, no. 4 (2006): 619–634, quotation on 623.

67. See, for instance, Thomas Hennessey, Dividing Ireland: World War I and Partition (London: Routledge, 1998), and Stacie Goddard, Indivisible Territory and the Politics of Legitimacy: Jerusalem and Northern Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

68. For examples of this “new” imperial approach, see David Lambert and Alan Lester, eds., Colonial Lives Across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), which focuses on how “ideas, practices and identities developed trans-imperially as the moved from one imperial site to another” (2); and Nicholas Dirks, who comments similarly that “we need to see colonialism less as ‘a process that began in the European metropole and expanded outwards’ and more as ‘a moment when new encounters within the world facilitated the formation of categories of metropole and colony in the first space” (Colonialism and Culture [Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001], 6). These historians offer a useful approach but have not themselves sought to apply it to the comparative study of partition as an imperial tactic.

69. J. G. A. Pocock, “The Limits and Divisions of British History: In Search of the Unknown Subject,” American Historical Review 87, no. 2 (1982): 311–336, quotation on 313.

70. Chaim Kaufmann, “When All Else Fails: Ethnic Population Transfers and Partitions in the Twentieth Century,” International Security 23, no. 2 (1998): 120–156, quotation on 154.

71. Thomas Chapman and Philip G. Roeder, “Partition as a Solution to Wars of Nationalism: The Importance of Institutions,” American Political Science Review 101, no. 4 (2007): 677–691, quotation on 677.

72. Nicholas Sambanis and Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl, “What’s in a Line? Is Partition a Solution to Civil War?,” International Security 34, no. 2 (2009): 82–118, quotation on 83.

73. On the definition of the word “minority” and its emergence as a concept in diplomatic exchange, see Benjamin Thomas White, The Emergence of Minorities in the Middle East: The Politics of Community in French Mandate Syria (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011); Seteney Shami, “‘Aqalliyya/Minority’ in Modern Egyptian Discourse,” in Words in Motion: Towards a Global Lexicon, ed. Carol Gluck and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009); and Robson, States of Separation, especially chap. 3.

74. A. Dirk Moses, “Partitions and the Sisyphean Making of Peoples,” Refugee Watch 46 (2015): 36–50, quotation on 39.

75. The centrality of these nineteenth- and twentieth-century British imperial preoccupations to partition helps explain the relative absence of the idea from French imperial circles in the same period; it may also help to explain the concomitant imperial interest in federations being explored at the same time. See, for instance, Jason Parker, “The Failure of the West Indies Federation,” in Ultimate Adventures with Britannia, ed. Wm. Roger Louis (London: Tauris, 2009), 235–246.

76. Edward Said, The World, the Text, and the Critic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), 226–227.

77. Geoffrey Wheatcroft, “The Myth of Malicious Partition,” in Penultimate Adventures with Britannia: Personalities, Politics and Culture in Britain, ed. William Roger Louis (London: I. B. Tauris, 2008), 153–167.

78. Hiro, “Is Partition a Solution for Syria?”

79. For just a few examples of this conversation, see James Stavridis, “It’s Time to Seriously Consider Partitioning Syria,” Foreign Policy, March 9, 2016, and Barak Mendelsohn, “Divide and Conquer in Syria and Iraq: Why the West Should Plan for a Partition,” Foreign Affairs, November 29, 2015.