Countdown to Freedom

Countdown to Freedom

To mark the 60th anniver­sary of Indian Inde­pendence and the birth of Pakistan, a selection of British Library material relating to India’s fight for freedom from colonial rule – much of it banned by the British Government in India between the 1910s and the 1940s – will go on disp­lay for the first time.

At the heart of the British Library’s Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections lies one of the largest accumu­lations of literature and ephe­mera relating to India’s fight for freedom from colonial rule. Countdown to Freedom gathers together books, newspapers, leaflets, posters, party member­­ship forms and handbills, written in many South Asian languages as well as English, and intersperses them with photo­graphs and cor­res­pondence from the India Office collections to chart the crucial decades culminating in the summer of 1947.

A series of placards created from the texts and images of actual banned publications leads into the exhibition. Highlights include a flag emblazoned with ‘Simon Go Back’ from the protest rallies of 1928 against the all-English delegation sent to decide the country’s political future; propaganda posters advocating non-cooperation as the only means of achieving self-rule; and a large caricature depicting delegates at the First Round Table Conference of 1930. There is also a handwritten letter from an imprisoned Gandhi to the Viceroy; Cambridge student Chaudhri Rahmat Ali’s proposal for the creation of the separate Muslim state of P-A-K-i-S-T-A-N (an acronym derived from Punjab, Afghan Province, Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan); and British Prime Minister Attlee’s final message of goodwill to the Subcontinent on the transfer of power.

Exhibition curator Leena Mitford commented, “The 60th anniversary provides an unmissable opportunity to display a little known part of the British Library’s holdings: the South Asian response to the British in India and the struggle for purna swaraj or complete independence. Setting the voices of those fighting for freedom amongst historic records, letters and photos of the time, and bringing them to life through recordings and video footage, Countdown to Freedom offers a unique overview of the events leading up to Indian independence and the birth of Pakistan.”

Region: All
Venue: The British Library
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Press Tickets:
Name: Ruth Howlett
Phone: 020 7412 7112