Through War and Famine: Bengal, 1939-45: World War II and the Famine of 1943 in Bengal are the two windows through which this book explores the history of Bengal between 1939 and 1945. The social base of the different sections of the people in Bengal during this period determined the impact of both the War and the famine on them. Drawing upon this multidimensional reality, the book presents a holistic history of Bengal during this period. The author delves into questions of how the War transformed the relationship between the imperial state and it subjects, and their political representatives. She focuses on the fears and hopes, and the political ambitions and frustrations of different political groups and individuals as the state used propaganda and force to command their loyalty.
Srimanjari’s work shows how the War provided an opportunity to challenge the validity of the colonial classification of martial and non-martial races as it was applied in Bengal. It highlights the tense relations between the military and civil society and how war and deprivation drew religious and lower-caste groups into sectarian politics. Bringing to the fore the alterations in the economic landscape of Bengal, the author highlights the realities of wage cuts, longer working hours, absence of insurance against injury and non-payment of compensation.
Through War and Famine draws attention to the economic distress of the peasants and the curious case of the famine unfolding in the rural interiors and the government’s debt collection drive in 1943, that made a mockery of the latter’s famine relief activities. It was not just a coincidence or a war-time casualty, the author argues, that a substantial section of destitute women were driven by circumstances into a network of prostitution in the war-years. This book will be useful to students and scholars interested in studies on partition, communalism, gender, and famine studies.