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Shadow States
India, China and the Himalayas, 1910–1962


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  • Date Published: March 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316627242

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About the Authors
  • Since the mid-twentieth century China and India have entertained a difficult relationship, erupting into open war in 1962. Shadow States is the first book to unpack Sino-Indian tensions from the angle of competitive state-building - through a study of their simultaneous attempts to win the approval and support of the Himalayan people. When China and India tried to expand into the Himalayas in the twentieth century, their lack of strong ties to the region and the absence of an easily enforceable border made their proximity threatening - observing China and India's state-making efforts, local inhabitants were in a position to compare and potentially choose between them. Using rich and original archival research, Bérénice Guyot-Réchard shows how India and China became each other's 'shadow states'. Understanding these recent, competing processes of state formation in the Himalayas is fundamental to understanding the roots of tensions in Sino-Indian relations.

    • Analyses the daily dynamics of China and India's state- and nation-building in Tibet and the Himalayas
    • Contests standard narratives of the roots of the 1962 Sino-Indian War and India's defeat by China
    • Brings to light the importance of the Himalayan people in China and India's relations
    • Draws on a variety of unexplored archives, including from Arunachal Pradesh itself
    Read more


    • Winner, 2019 James Fisher Book Prize, The Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies

    Reviews & endorsements

    'In the eastern Himalayas the imperial ambitions of the world's two most populous states, China and India, have clashed, and mirrored each other, since the nineteenth century. This brilliant, pioneering study goes beyond geopolitics and security concerns to detail how state making actually unfolded in this vast trans-border region (Tibet to the north and the area known to Indians as 'Arunachal Pradesh' and to Chinese as 'South Tibet' to the south). Shadow States is a landmark. Based on meticulous research, it skilfully highlights the agency of Himalayan populations in shaping Sino-Indian relations - and the crucial role that borderlanders play in the formation of states, nations and international relations around the world.' Willem van Schendel, Universiteit van Amsterdam

    'We are indebted to Bérénice Guyot-Réchard for providing the first serious history of the resulting India-China border problem … Guyot-Réchard describes in rich detail and with compelling clarity India's northeast border politics, from its imperial origins, before World War I, through its strategic transformation, during the WWII, and through its evolution into a policy of integrative national development, during an extended competition with China over control over the loyalty of Himalayan populations … The great value of this study is its deft interweaving of central state policy making with locally sensible administrative and political activity as they interact with the changing life conditions and intricate decision-making of local residents. This is a rare example of history that brings together a lively evocation of the lived experience of borderland peoples with a sharp empirical analysis of the process by which the mountain borderland became a distinctive iconic formation of national territory.' David Ludden, New York University

    'This is a remarkable work of scholarship in a long-neglected area … Unlike other books which have dealt with the high politics of the India-China relationship and boundary, it studies these issues from the ground up, from the point of view of the peoples and society … the result of her considerable scholarship is an important book that covers significant themes in an increasingly important area with a professional historian's care and precision … Do read this book. It is of value well beyond the limited circle of academic readers that the title might attract.' Shivshankar Menon, The Indian Express

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316627242
    • length: 347 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.53kg
    • contains: 20 b/w illus. 6 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. 1910–50:
    1. False starts: the first rush towards the eastern Himalayas
    2. The return of the fair-weather state: World War Two and the Himalayas
    Part II. 1950–59:
    3. Exploration, expansion, consolidation? State power and its limitations
    4. The art of persuasion: development in a border space
    Part III. 1959–62:
    5. A void screaming to be filled: militarisation and state-society relations
    6. Salt tastes the same in India and China: a different kind of security dilemma
    7. Open war: state-making's dress rehearsal

  • Author

    Bérénice Guyot-Réchard, King's College London
    Bérénice Guyot-Réchard teaches International and South Asian History at King's College London. She was previously Research Fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Her research explores the effects of social, political, and environmental processes on South Asia's contemporary international relations. She has recently published in Contemporary South Asia and Modern Asian Studies.


    • Winner, 2019 James Fisher Book Prize, The Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies

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