Freedom at Midnight

Cover of the paperback edition

Freedom at Midnight (1975) is a non-fiction book by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. It describes events around Indian independence and partition in 1947-48, beginning with the appointment of Lord Mountbatten of Burma as the last viceroy of British India, and ending with the death and funeral of Mahatma Gandhi.


The book gives a detailed account of the last year of the British Raj, the princely states' reactions to independence (including descriptions of the Indian princes' colorful and extravagant lifestyles), the partition of British India (into India and Pakistan) on religious grounds, and the bloodshed that followed.[1]

There is a description of the British summertime capital Shimla in the Himalayas and how supplies were carried up steep mountains by porters each year. On the theme of partition, the book relates that the crucial maps setting the boundary separating India and Pakistan were drawn that year by Cyril Radcliffe, who had never visited India in his life before being appointed as the chairman of the Boundary Commission. It depicts the fury of both Hindus and Muslims, misled by their communal leaders, during the partition, and the biggest mass slaughter in the history of India as millions of people were uprooted by the partition and tried to migrate by train, oxcart, and on foot to new places designated for their particular religious group. Many migrants fell victim to bandits and religious extremists of both dominant religions. One incident quoted describes a canal in Lahore that ran with blood and floating bodies. Also covered in detail are the events leading to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, as well as the life and motives of British-educated Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistani leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah.


The authors interviewed many who were there, including a focus on Lord Mountbatten of Burma.[2] They subsequently wrote a book based in particular upon their research on Mountbatten, titled Mountbatten and the Partition of India. That book contains interviews with Mountbatten, and a selection of papers that were in his possession.[3]

Critical reaction

Freedom at Midnight is a non-fiction book told in a casual style, similar to the authors' previous Is Paris Burning? and O Jerusalem!. It aroused controversy for its portrayal of the British expatriates, the native rulers of India and members of India's first cabinet.[2][4] James Cameron described it as the result of deep research into events often neglected by other historians.[5]


  1. Gray, Paul (27 October 1975). "Books: The Long Goodbye". Time.
  2. 1 2 Gordon, Leonard A. (August 1976). "Book review: Freedom at Midnight". The Journal of Asian Studies. University of Cambridge Press. 35 (4). doi:10.2307/2053703.
  3. Krishan, Y (February 1983). "Mountbatten and the Partition of India". The Journal of the Historical Association. 68 (222): 22–38. doi:10.1111/j.1468-229X.1983.tb01396.x.
  4. Brasted, H. V.; Bridge, Carl (1994). "The transfer of power in South Asia: An historiographical review". South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies. 17 (1). doi:10.1080/00856409408723200.
  5. Cameron, James (October 26, 1975). "Book Review: Freedom at Midnight". New York Times Book Review. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 'There is no single passage in this profoundly researched book that one could actually fault. Having been there most of the time in question, I can vouch for the accuracy of its general mood. It is a work of scholarship, of investigation, research and of significance.'
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