Book Review: Calcutta Under Fire

Title: Calcutta Under Fire- the Second World War Years
Author: David Lockwood
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Pages: 304
ISBN: 978-9353333287
Source: Publisher


Calcutta Under Fire presents an account of what all underwent in India during the second Word War. It records the reactions of various stakeholders- mainly the colonial power of British and the Indian National Congress. Bombing of Calcutta and the possibility of a Japanese Invasion serves as the axis around which the whole book revolves.

The book opens with how the bombing took everyone off the guard and the ensuing chaos and the general atmosphere of uncertainty that engulfed the common people. Before focusing on the responses and strategies of the British, Indian and Japanese, the author establishes a background setting.

David Lockwood employs Antonio Gramsci’s concept of Hegemony and Counter-hegemony to elucidate the equation of the British with the Indian National Congress (INC). I enjoyed reading this section of the book most. The rest of the book deals with the formulations of strategies by both the parties, the negotiations that took place between the two, the consequent results and how they came to affect the whole scenario.

The author very well traces the dilemma of the British and the rift within the Congress and the ultimate interaction between the various forces. The book certainly offers several insights and is quite informative. It is well-suited for beginners (in this subject, like me) who have very little knowledge of what underwent. The author has dealt with the subject quite well and in a lucid manner.

Despite the book succeeding in its purpose, I had some issues with the book, which irked me throughout the book. The author has given a lot of space to what different people had to say on matters of concern. Of course this is done to emphasize certain points but he does this to a great extent. Almost 30% (perhaps even more) of the text comprises of quotations. Each chapter has about 70-90 footnotes, which I feel is way more than what is actually required.

Further I feel the author should have also included what political forces other than INC had to say. There is very little of the communist party and nothing about any other Indian political force. I also felt (though I might be wrong) that the author had an inclination towards the INC and was in a way trying to glorify it for the decisions it made.

All in all, I feel the author could have managed, very well, to say what he had to say in about 200 pages only, with less references to other works and other people. I would have definitely enjoyed the book more. The whole chapter on the radio, in my view, could have been kept out. Nevertheless it was interesting to read how radio transmissions were used a tool.

My Rating: *** (3/5)

What do you think about this book? Have you read any non-fiction on India and the second World War? Do share your views. Thanks.

*I was kindly sent a book by the Publisher. Views expressed are entirely personal and unbiased.*

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Calcutta Under Fire

  1. Oh, it’s great to know you’re reading books of all the sensitive genres Bhai!
    I, for one, am amazed to know how you can finish these books so quickly. Wonder how many you’ve read so far? Do you have a count, lol?

    Liked by 1 person

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