Shadows at Noon by Joya Chatterji

Shadows at Noon is an ambitious synthesis of decades of research and scholarship which explores the key strands of South Asian history in the twentieth century with clarity and authority. Unlike other narrative histories of the subcontinent that concentrate exclusively on politics, here food, leisure and the household are given equal importance to discussions of nationhood, the development of the state and patterns of migration.

While it tells the subcontinent’s story from the British Raj to independence and partition and on to the forging of the modern nations of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the book’s structure is thematic rather than chronological. Each of the chapters illuminates on overarching theme or sphere that has shaped South Asia over the course of the century. This format allows the reader to explore particular issues – such as the changing character of nationalism or food consumption – over time and in depth.

Shadows at Noon makes contemporary South Asia intelligible to readers who are fascinated by the subcontinent’s cultural vibrancy and diversity but are often perplexed by its social and political make-up. And it illuminates the many aspects that its people have in common rather than what divides them.

Joya Chatterji


“[A] definitive new 20th-century thematic history of the Indian subcontinent that rejects hegemonic conceptions of national ‘difference.'”

— Financial Times

“The story of South Asia told with such verve, wit, and brilliance it catches comatose facts by the throat and shakes them alive. This book invents a genre: navigating effortlessly between the archives, conversations, memoir, newspapers, swooping out to make magisterial observations, zooming in to unearth nuggets of gossip. It is like riding a rollercoaster with a mesmerizing guide who can touch down on any part of South Asia that she chooses, before taking off again.”

— Anuradha Roy, author of All The Lives We Never Lived

“This book is a symbol of the inexhaustible richness of the modern history of what are now India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, studied together by one of South Asia’s very best historians. Chatterji weaves engaging vignettes of her own experiences into a masterful account anchored in a chronological narrative and illuminated by brilliantly chosen thematic focuses. A pleasure to read, this book will engage newcomers and old-timers alike.”

–Barbara D. Metcalf, coauthor of A Concise History of Modern India

“An incredible achievement by an historian writing at her best and displaying narrative sweep and analytical depth.”

— Rudrangshu Muhkerjee, Ashoka University

“A truly magnificent book, and a must-read for anyone interested in the region.”

Mihir Bose, author of The Nine Waves
About the Author

Joya Chatterji is a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, Professor of South Asian History at the University of Cambridge and sometime Reader in International History at the London School of Economics. She is the Editor in- Chief of Modern Asian Studies, the leading scholarly journal in the field, and since 2014 she has been the Director of the Centre of South Asian Studies at CambridgeJoya Chatterji

Leave a Reply