Assess the role of British imperial power in complicating the process of transfer of power during the 1940s.

Sample Answer


The British had ruled India for almost 200 years before India gained independence in 1947.  The transfer of power from the British to the Indians was a complicated process due to the strong imperial ambitions of the British.


Reluctance to Transfer Power

  • The British were reluctant to transfer power to Indians and give up their imperial control.
  • Even after WWII, they wanted to cling to power as long as possible.
  • The Cripps Mission in 1942 and the Wavell Plan in 1945 were half-hearted British attempts to transfer power that were rejected by Indians.
  • The British hoped to retain strategic control and protect British economic interests in India. 

Divide and Rule Tactics

  • The British policy of divide and rule made the transfer of power difficult.
  • They accentuated religious differences and favored Muslims to counter the Indian National Congress.
  • This widened the Hindu-Muslim divide and made power transfer complicated in provinces like Bengal and Punjab with roughly equal populations of Hindus and Muslims.

Abrupt Withdrawal and partition 

  • Eventually, the British agreed to transfer power but did so abruptly.
  • The sudden British decision to withdraw from India by June 1948 led to a hasty partition of India based on religious lines.
  • The partition was done in a haphazard manner without adequate planning and consultation, leading to massive loss of lives and displacements.    


British imperial ambitions and policies complicated the transfer of power in India. Their reluctance to share power, divide and rule tactics, and abrupt withdrawal created difficult conditions for the transfer of power, ultimately leading to the partition of India.

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