India: A People Partitioned Oral Archive

Scope and Content

Comprises 205 oral history interviews conducted by Andrew Whitehead (with a small number by other interviewers) as research for the BBC World Service radio series 'India: A People Partitioned' (1997; 2000); the BBC Radio 4 programme 'An Incident in Kashmir' (2003); and Whitehead's published history 'A Mission in Kashmir' (Viking Penguin, 2007). Oral histories include an original deposit of 146 interviews about the Partition of India recorded in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh between 1995 and 1998. Interviews focus on the lived experience of Partition and the events of 1947 among ordinary people of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh heritage. Interviewees include individuals who lived through Partition as political activists (in particular those in the Indian communist movement); survivors of violence; refugees; soldiers; and journalists; as well as witnesses to Partition who later became leading cultural or political figures in South Asia [Reference: OA3/01/01-OA3/01/16]. There are an additional twelve oral history interviews recorded in 2000 with notable political figures from India and Pakistan, which focus on the legacy of Partition for India-Pakistan relations and the Kashmir conflict [Reference: OA3/01/17]; and an additional forty-seven oral history interviews, recorded between 1992 and 2007, primarily relating to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 but also including some broader accounts of Partition [Reference: OA3/01/18]. Interviews are predominately in English, with a small number in Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Punjabi (most with a running English translation). There are accompanying transcripts, partial transcripts and summaries for interviews [Reference: OA3/02]. These transcripts were compiled by Whitehead for working purposes and are therefore indicative rather than a definitive record of the contents of the sound recordings.

The collection includes five photocopies of articles by Andrew Whitehead drawing on the oral history interviews, published as an occasional series in the 'The Indian Express' newspaper in 1997 [Reference: OA3/03]. There are also audio-files of the broadcast recordings of the BBC radio programmes based on the interviews: BBC World Service series: 'India: A People Partitioned' (1997, 2003) and BBC Radio 4 documentary 'An Incident in Kashmir' (2003) [Reference: OA3/04].

Administrative / Biographical History

Andrew Whitehead is a broadcast journalist and social historian. He was educated at Keble College, University of Oxford (BA, 1977) and University of Warwick (MA, 1978). He was awarded a PhD by published works from the University of Warwick (2013). He worked as political correspondent for the BBC World Service and was based in Delhi as the BBC World Service correspondent for South Asia (1993-1997). He worked as an editor at Hindi TV and was country director for India for the BBC World Service Trust (2005-2007). He is currently Editor of BBC World Service News (2008 onwards). Whitehead is the author of the historical work 'A Mission in Kashmir' (Viking Penguin, 2007) about Kashmir during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. He is an Editor of the 'History Workshop Journal'.

'India: A People Partitioned' was a BBC World Service radio documentary series first broadcast in July/August 1997. It was written and presented by Andrew Whitehead and produced by Zina Rohan. It was among the BBC programmes commissioned to mark the 50th anniversary of Indian and Pakistani Independence from Britain. The series aimed to offer a social history of the Partition of India rather than focusing solely on the high-politics of the British Raj and Independence movements. It was based upon oral history interviews conducted across South Asia between 1995 and 1997 by Whitehead (as well as researcher Anuradha Awasthi), which recorded the memories and stories of some of the millions of people who lived through the dramatic changes brought about by Partition. 'India: A People Partitioned' won a bronze award at the 1998 New York Festivals: International Radio Program Awards. The series was rebroadcast by the BBC in 2000 when the fifth programme in the series, 'Unfinished Business', was updated by Whitehead to include further material on the legacy of Partition for India-Pakistan relations and the conflict in Kashmir.

'An Incident in Kashmir' was a BBC Radio 4 documentary programme broadcast in August 2003. It was written and narrated by Andrew Whitehead and produced by Jo Glanville, with production in Kashmir by Vivek Raj. The programme dealt with the attack on the Catholic mission hospital in Baramulla, Kashmir in October 1947, which took place during the Lashkar's invasion of the Kashmir valley during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. The documentary was based upon a series of interviews by Whitehead and others, conducted with witnesses to the attack on Baramulla mission and those with first-hand memories of Kashmir during Partition.


The collection is divided into four sections: Oral History Interviews [sound recordings]; Oral History Interviews [transcripts]; Newspaper Articles; and BBC Radio Broadcasts [sound recordings].

Access Information

DVD-Rs containing MP3 sound recordings can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room. Please bring your own laptop and headphones. The sound recordings cannot be copied and are for listening purposes only.


Acquisition Information

Deposited at SOAS Library by Andrew Whitehead in 1998, 2000 and 2009.


"In all cases, those interviewed knew that their words were likely to be in the public domain. There was no concealed recording and no concealed purpose. Some interviews were conducted on my behalf by colleagues, and I would like to acknowledge their kindness and professionalism. In all such cases, the name of the interviewer is included", Andrew Whitehead, 1998.

Other Finding Aids

Transcripts include introductory notes and lists of interviewees compiled by Andrew Whitehead [Reference OA3/02]

Alternative Form Available

Broadcast recordings of the BBC World Service radio series, 'India: A People Partitioned', and BBC Radio 4 programme, 'An Incident in Kashmir' are available via Andrew Whitehead's website [ and].

Archivist's Note


Conditions Governing Use

Recordings are available for consultation without restriction, and short extracts (up to 200 words) can be published with an appropriate acknowledgement. Any publication of longer extracts or use of interviews for broadcast requires the prior written permission of Andrew Whitehead.

Copyright in oral history interviews and transcripts held by Andrew Whitehead and BBC; British Broadcasting Corporation. Copyright in newspaper articles held by The Indian Express'. Copyright in radio broadcast recordings held by BBC; British Broadcasting Corporation

Related Material

SOAS Library holds the Henry Vincent Hodson collection [Reference PP MS 39]. This comprises research materials for Hodson's book on the Partition of India, 'The Great Divide: Britain-India-Pakistan' (1969). This collection includes nineteen oral history recordings about Partition, 1964-1965, including recordings with Lord Mountbatten; V.P. Menon; J. B. Kripalani; Pyarelal Nayar; Mohammed Al Choudary; and General Lord Ismay.

SOAS Library holds 'Plain Tales from the Raj' collection [ref. OA1], containing seventy-five oral history interviews recorded by the BBC for the radio series 'Plain Tales from the Raj' (1974), covering experiences of the British and Indian individuals who lived in India during the period of British colonial rule.

SOAS Library holds 'British in India Oral Archive Project' [Reference OA2], containing sixty-one oral history interviews about the British role in India, covering the pre-Independence and post-Independence periods.

SOAS Library also holds 'Memories of the British in India' collection [Reference OA4]. Twenty-eight oral history interviews with British individuals who lived in India during British rule, conducted by the British Libray; India Office Library & Records division.

The British Library Sound Archive holds the 'Andrew Whitehead oral history interviews with political radicals' collection [Reference C1377].

Location of Originals

MP3 audio datafiles digitised from original recordings on analogue cassette tapes: OA3, India: A People Partitioned, Compact Cassettes, Box 1 and 2.


'India: A People Partitioned', Narr. Andrew Whitehead. Writ. Andrew Whitehead. Prod. Zina Rohan. BBC World Service, 1997 'An Incident in Kashmir', Narr. Andrew Whitehead. Writ. Andrew Whitehead. Prod. Jo Glanville. Prod. Vivek Raj. BBC Radio 4, 2003 Andrew Whitehead, 'A Mission in Kashmir', Viking Penguin, 2007 [SOAS Library Classmark: JFB954.6/725586] Yasmin Khan, 'The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan', Yale University Press, 2007 [SOAS Library Classmark: JA954.04/993836]