The defiant border - Elisabeth Leake



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The defiant border - the Afghan-Pakistan borderlands in the era of decolonization, 1936-65
Elisabeth Leake
Paperback / softback
Cambridge University Press
UK Publication Date

The Defiant Border explores why the Afghan-Pakistan borderlands have remained largely independent of state controls from the colonial period into the twenty-first century. This book looks at local Pashtun tribes' modes for evading first British colonial, then Pakistani, governance; the ongoing border dispute between Pakistan and Afghanistan; and continuing interest in the region from Indian, US, British, and Soviet actors. It reveals active attempts by first British, then Pakistani, agents to integrate the tribal region, ranging from development initiatives to violent suppression. The Defiant Border also considers the area's influence on relations between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, as well as its role in the United States' increasingly global Cold War policies. Ultimately, the book considers how a region so peripheral to major centers of power has had such an impact on political choices throughout the eras of empire, decolonization, and superpower competition, up to the so-called 'war on terror'.

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Elisabeth Leake is a Lecturer in International History at the University of Leeds. She previously held a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has published articles in The Historical Journal, Modern Asian Studies, and The International History Review. She is coeditor, alongside Leslie James, of Decolonization and the Cold War: Negotiating Independence(2015), and has coedited a special issue of Contemporary South Asia on South Asia's 'wider worlds'.

'Elisabeth Leake explains why a small and peripheral part of the world, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of the frontier region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, should have had for much of the twentieth century an influence out of all proportion to their size on the politics both of surrounding states and of the great powers. This book is essential reading for those interested in the geopolitics of South Asia in the twentieth and twenty-firstcenturies.' Francis Robinson, Royal Holloway, University of London

'By putting the politics of imperialism and the Cold War at the heart of the study of the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier region, this book makes a novel theoretical and empirical contribution to the study of this troubled part of the world. Scholars, students, and policy-makers alike should all read Leake's thought-provoking and carefully researched study.' Magnus Marsden, Director of Sussex Asia Centre, University of Sussex

'In The Defiant Border, Elisabeth Leake tells the important and neglected story of South Asia's other great rivalry: the contested border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bridging the colonial and post-colonial eras, this book depicts the stubborn endurance of imperial borders, the power of local actors, and the challenges these posed to great powers. Based on impressive research across three continents, carefully argued, and cogently written, this is a major contribution to the study of South Asia in the world.' Robert B. Rakove, Stanford University, California

'… Leake's The Defiant Border sets out a new, comprehensive, and compelling intellectual roadmap with which to navigate the complex historical terrain that has shaped the Afghan-Pakistan borderlands over the course of the last century.' Paul M. McGarr, H-Diplo

'In tracing the appeal of the borderlands for various powers, Leake, through gaps in the archives, weaves an intricate historical description that resists any homogeneous linear narrativization of Pashtun as an identity and Pashtunistan as a movement and the complex entanglement of the latter with Kashmir. These contributions are particularly relevant for the current political moment unfolding in Pakistan named the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) - a movement to demandan end to the violence inflicted on the lives of those in the Pashtun borderlands … Leake's book is widely appealing.' Zunaira Komal, H-Net Reviews (

Keyword Index
Borderlands - Afghanistan - History - 20th century.|Borderlands - Pakistan - History - 20th century.|Decolonization - South Asia - History - 20th century.|Pushtuns - History - 20th century.|Afghanistan - Politics and government - 20th century.|Pakistan - Politics and government - 20th century.
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