When reading history–rather, anything at all–we should remember to read as many different versions as possible so as to get a bigger picture of the topic. Particularly when learning about the history of the formation of a state, we should be critical of everything we read and question the motives, the objectives, and the agenda of the text. There are always at least two sides to every issue, and, without necessarily accepting or rejecting one or the other, we should at least familiarize ourselves with whatever is there so that our opinion is more informed.
I also suggest that we read more than one genre of historical writing to broaden our understanding of any particular historical event or phenomenon. These would include–besides books/textbooks–novels, movies/films, comics, letters, and so on. Each provides what the other may not, and they all can complement each other to give us a fuller, more closer to complete depiction of the reality of something we’re interested in learning about.
Below, I share a list of books and films on the history of Pakistan, and I ask that if there’s any book/film out there that you think should be included in the list, please feel free to share it with us.Thanks!
In alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Click the title for details, reviews, etc. on each book.
- Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism: Allah, the Army and America’s War on Terror, Hassan Abbas
- Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin, Akbar Ahmed
- The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power, Tariq Ali
- India Wins Freedom, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad
- The Making of Pakistan: A Study in Nationalism, K. K. Aziz
- The Murder of History: A Critique of History Textbooks Used in Pakistan, K. K. Aziz
- British Imperialism in India, Joan Beauchamp
- Daughter of the East: An Autobiography, Benazir Bhutto
- The Pathans: 550 B.C.- A.D. 1957 (Oxford in Asia Historical Reprints), Olaf Caroe
- The Idea of Pakistan, Stephen Cohen
- Nonviolent Soldier of Islam: Badshah Khan: A Man to Match His Mountains, Ekneth Easwaran
- Islamic Pakistan: Illusions and reality, Abdus Sattar Ghazali
- Pakistan: Between Mosque And Military, Hussain Haqqani
- India and Pakistan: The First Fifty Years (Woodrow Wilson Center Press), Selig Harrison
- The Great Divide: Britain, India, Pakistan, H. V. Hodson
- The Scorpion’s Tail: The Relentless Rise of Islamic Militants in Pakistan-And How It Threatens America, Zahid Hussain
- Pakistan: Eye of the Storm, Owen Bennett Jones
- Facts are Facts: The untold story of India’s partition, Khan Abdul Wali Khan [an online version can be found at this link)
- The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan Yasmin Khan
- Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia: A Comparative and Historical Perspective (Contemporary South Asia, Ayesha Jalal
- The Oxford Companion to Pakistani History, Ayesha Jalal
- The Pity of Partition: Mantos Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide (Lawrence Stone Lectures), Ayesha Jalal
- Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam Since 1850, Ayesha Jalal
- The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge South Asian Studies), Ayesha Jalal
- Pakistan: A Hard Country, Anatol Lieven
- Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, Ahmed Rashid
- New Perspectives on Pakistan: Visions for the Future, Saeed Shafqat
- Making Sense of Pakistan (Columbia/Hurst), Farzana Sheikh
- Pakistan: A Modern History, Ian Talbot
- Pakistan: A New History (Columbia/Hurst), Ian Talbot
- India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Dispute: On Regional Conflict and Its Resolution, Robert Wirsing
- Jinnah of Pakistan, Stanley Wolperts
- Roots of Confrontation in South Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and the Superpowers, Stanley Wolpert
- Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India, Stanley Wolpert
- The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan, Rafia Zakaria
To be continued. Suggestions welcomed!
- Earth: 1947, directed by Deepa Mehta
- Khamosh Pani (Silent Waters)
- Mr. Jinnah: The Making of Pakistan
- A God in Every Stone: A Novel, Kamila Shamsie
- Cracking India: A Novel, by Bapsi Sidhwa
What about The Upstairs Wife , by Rafia Zakaria?
Oh, yes, of course! How could I forget. Thank you! Just added it in now.
The Indus Saga – Aitzaz Ahsan
History of Pakistan – Pakistan through ages – Ahmed Hassan Dani
Empire of the Indus – Alice Albinia
Pakistan: A Personal History – Imran Khan
Pakistan: A Dream Gone Sour – Roedad Khan
5000 years of Pakistan – Sir Mortimer Wheeler
The Grandeur of Gandhara – Rafi us Samad
Dead Reckoning – Sharmila Bose
The Untold Story of the People of Azad Kashmir – Chris Snedden
Jinnah: India,Partition, Independence – Jaswant Singh
Songs of Blood and Swords: A Daughter’s memoir – Fatima Bhutto
Thank you so much, Zarghuna! I’ll add these in soon.
It is terribly ironic that Zarghun, who brought up the Hazara massacres in history in his earlier comment feels that a genocide denial book like ‘Dead Reckoning’ is essential reading on the Pakistani state and its army.
Please ask the victims of the Bangladesh genocide and any serious historian what they feel about that book.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with his suggestion. I actually appreciate it because, like I said in the post above, we need multiple sources on history and what they highlight and what they ignore tell us a lot about the authors. Each of the above books complements the others.
Thank you for your suggestion, too!
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Hello! Long time reader, first time commenter. Love your blog! 🙂
Anyway, I thought I’d throw this one into the ring:
‘The Dancing Girls of Lahore’ by Louise Brown – an ethnography of the Hira Mandi/Tibbi Galli neighbourhood
Thank you, Raya! For your readership and suggestion!
I’ve read that book! Definitely worth adding it to the list. I’ll add it in when I wake up, iA.
“Creating a New Medina: State Power, Islam, and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial North India” – Venkat Dhulipala
This book is interesting and innovative. Interesting because it sheds light on the Pakistan movement through the politics and aspirations of the people who formed the precursors of today’s Urdu-speaking ‘Muhajir community’. This community has been influential in Pakistan since its inception and their language, Urdu, is the national language.
Innovative because it brings to the table the rhetoric and deliberations of the Urdu language media in late colonial South Asia, shifting the focus away from high-table, elite-level negotiations and discourse.
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