Regular soldiering and combat are human potentials, not evidence of cultural or national essences, as much writing on armies imagines’. Tarak Barkawi’s book, Soldiers of Empire: Indian and British Armies in World War II, is a counter-argument to conventional thinking by arguing just this. The key questions are ‘how are soldiers made?’ and ‘why do they fight?’. More broadly, the book explores the consequences of allowing a nation to frame and contain how we comprehend the ‘passions and energies’ of military service. It is essential reading for anyone seeking to benefit from the annals of soldiering history. What Barkawi’s research adds to the field is evidence of limitations on the histories of armed forces and warfare that are crafted within the often-imposed categories of nation and modernity. The book identifies the problem of similarity and difference in military behaviour and uses post-colonial critique to understand it.


“Soldiers of Empire: Indian and British Armies in World War II.” The RUSI Journal, 163(2), pp. 104–105. Read the review here.

Sneha Reddy is a PhD candidate at CSTPV