Skip to main content
Soldiers of Empire
  • Tarak Barkawi, London School of Economics and Political Science

  • Export citation
  • Recommend to librarian
  • Recommend this book

    Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

    Soldiers of Empire
    • Online ISBN: 9781316718612
    • Book DOI:
    Please enter your name
    Please enter a valid email address
    Who would you like to send this to? *
  • Buy the print book

Book description

How are soldiers made? Why do they fight? Re-imagining the study of armed forces and society, Barkawi examines the imperial and multinational armies that fought in Asia in the Second World War, especially the British Indian army in the Burma campaign. Going beyond conventional narratives, Barkawi studies soldiers in transnational context, from recruitment and training to combat and memory. Drawing on history, sociology and anthropology, the book critiques the 'Western way of war' from a postcolonial perspective. Barkawi reconceives soldiers as cosmopolitan, their battles irreducible to the national histories that monopolise them. This book will appeal to those interested in the Second World War, armed forces and the British Empire, and students and scholars of military sociology and history, South Asian studies and international relations.


‘It is sociological military history of the highest quality.'

Christopher Dandeker - King's College London

‘Only very rarely does a book come along which rips up the existing foundations of our thought and forces us to rethink the pigeon holes into which we put it. This is such a book. If you have been perplexed as to why Sikhs became the bedrock of the British Indian Amy but have not joined today's British Army in the same numbers, Tarak Barkawi gives you the answer. The implications, however, range far beyond his declared subject matter, challenging not just how we conceptualise armies and the ways in which they fight, but also how we configure the battles in which they kill and are killed.'

Sir Hew Strachan - military historian

‘How does an army succeed in beating a tough enemy, overcoming its own racial, caste and linguistic hierarchies and divisions? Tarak Barkawi's fascinating book on the Indian Army in World War II draws important lessons for those interested in the causes of imperial control and military effectiveness.'

Steven Wilkinson - Yale University, Connecticut

‘Both the scholarship and popular wisdom about modern armies links their loyalty, courage and sacrifice to shared identities, whether national, racial or ethnic. In this superb study of the multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-religious British Indian army during the Second World War, Tarak Barkawi demonstrates how this simplistic view can only be sustained by consigning imperial and other diverse or non-national forces to backward peoples and non-modern pasts. He points out that far from being historical curiosities, such cosmopolitan armies have increasingly come to characterise warfare all over the world, with the Indian army itself transformed from an old-fashioned colonial force to a global one in the 1940s. Using imperial history to question the Western obsession with citizen-armies, themselves more myth than reality, Barkawi allows us to understand the changing nature of military cohesion in fresh new ways.'

Faisal Devji - University of Oxford

‘Tarak Barkawi brings his unusual insight to the timeless question of how soldiers are made and why they fight. In challenging much of the received wisdom about the relationship between the armed forces and society, this original and richly documented account of British Indian and British imperial forces underscores the value of bringing a postcolonial perspective to the study of the military. This path-breaking book will be of interest to historians, political scientists and sociologists. It is likely to become a classic in the field.'

Elizabeth Kier - University of Washington

    • Aa
    • Aa
Refine List
Actions for selected content:
Select all | Deselect all
  • View selected items
  • Export citations
  • Download PDF (zip)
  • Send to Kindle
  • Send to Dropbox
  • Send to Google Drive
  • Send content to

    To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to .

    To send content to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

    Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

    Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

    Please be advised that item(s) you selected are not available.
    You are about to send:

Save Search

You can save your searches here and later view and run them again in "My saved searches".

Please provide a title, maximum of 40 characters.
John Agnew and Stuart Corbridge . Mastering Space: Hegemony, Territory, and International Political Economy. London: Routledge, 1995.

Alan Allport . Browned Off and Bloody-Minded: The British Soldier Goes to War 1939–1945. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015.

289 Catherine Andreyev . Vlasov and the Russian Liberation Movement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Deborah Avant . The Market for Force. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Cemil Aydin . The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

Jon Balkind . “A Critique of Military Sociology: Lessons from Vietnam.” The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2 (1978): 235259.

Tarak Barkawi . “Peoples, Homelands and Wars? Ethnicity, the Military and Battle among British Imperial Forces in the War against Japan.” Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 46, No. 1 (January 2004): 134163.

Tarak Barkawi . “Political Military Legacies of Empire in World Politics” in Sandra Halperin and Ronen Palan , eds., Legacies of Empire: Imperial Roots of 290Contemporary Global Order. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015: 2745.

Tarak Barkawi and Mark Laffey . “The Postcolonial Moment in Security Studies.” Review of International Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (2006): 329352.

David Beetham . The Legitimation of Power. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1991.

Maurice Bloch and Jonathan Parry . Death and the Regeneration of Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Bernard Boëne . “How ‘Unique’ should the Military be? A Review of Representative Literature and Outline of a Synthetic Formulation.” European Journal of Sociology, Vol. 31 (1990): 359.

292 Sugata Bose . His Majesty's Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India's Struggle Against Empire. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2011.

Antoinette Burton . “On the Inadequacy and the Indispensability of the Nation” in Burton , ed., After the Imperial Turn: Thinking with and through the Nation. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.

Elliot P. Chodoff Ideology and Primary Groups.” Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 9, No. 4 (1983): 569593.

Randall Collins . “Does Nationalist Sentiment Increase Fighting Efficacy? A Skeptical View from the Sociology of Violence” in John A. Hall and Sinisa Malesevic , eds., Nationalism and War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013: 3143.

294 Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook . Japan at War: An Oral History. London: Phoenix Press, 2000.

Randolf G. S. Cooper Culture, Combat, and Colonialism in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century India.” The International History Review, Vol. 27, No. 3 (2005): 534549.

Fernando Coronil . “Beyond Occidentalism: Toward Nonimperial Geohistorical Categories.” Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 11, No. 1 (1996): 5187.

295 Purnima Dhavan . When Sparrows Became Hawks: The Making of the Sikh Warrior Tradition, 1699–1799. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

R. Wayne Eisenhart . “You Can't Hack It Little Girl: A Discussion of the Covert Psychological Agenda of Modern Combat Training.” Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 31, No. 4 (1975): 1323.

Geoff Eley and David Blackbourne . The Peculiarities of German History: Bourgeois Society and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Germany. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.

James W. Fernandez Symbolic Consensus in a Fang Reformative Cult.” American Anthropologist, Vol. 67 (1965): 902929.

David French . Military Identities: The Regimental System, the British Army, and the British People, c.1870–2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

James Griffith . “The Army's New Unit Personnel Replacement and Its Relationship to Unit Cohesion and Social Support.” Military Psychology, Vol 1, No. 1 (January 1989): 1734.

Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson . Culture, Power, Place: Explorations in Critical Anthropology. Durham: Duke University Press, 1997.

M. I. Gurfein and Morris Janowitz . “Trends in Wehrmacht Morale.” Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 1 (1946): 7884.

Barbara Harlow and Mia Carter , eds. Archives of Empire Volume I: From the East India Company to the Suez Canal. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.

Mark Harrison . Medicine and Victory: British Military Medicine in the Second World War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

James Hevia . The Imperial Security State: British Colonial Knowledge and Empire-Building in Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

John M. Hobson The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Ashley Jackson . Botswana 1939–1945: An African Country at War. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999.

Ian Jarvie . “Fanning the Flames: Anti-American Reaction to Objective Burma (1945).” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 1, No. 2 (1981): 117137.

Ian Jarvie . “The Burma Campaign on Film: ‘Objective Burma’ (1945), ‘The Stilwell Road’ (1945) and ‘Burma Victory’ (1945).” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 8, No. 1 (1988): 5573.

Indivar Kamtekar . “A Different War Dance: State and Class in India 1939–1945.” Past and Present, Vol. 176, No. 1 (August 2002): 187221.

Anthony Kellett . Combat Motivation: The Behavior of Soldiers in Battle. Boston: Kluwer, 1982.

Elizabeth Kier . “Homosexuals in the U.S. Military: Open Integration and Combat Effectiveness.” International Security, Vol. 23, No. 2 (1998): 539.

Anthony King . “The Word of Command: Communication and Cohesion in the Military.” Armed Forces & Society, Vol. 32, No. 4 (July 2006): 493512.

Anthony King . The Combat Soldier: Infantry Tactics and Cohesion in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Peter Lorge . The Asian Military Revolution: From Gunpowder to the Bomb. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Andrew Mack . “Why Big Nations Lose Small Wars: The Politics of Asymmetric Conflict.” World Politics, Vol. 27, No. 2 (1975): 175200.

Gregory Mann . Native Sons: West African Veterans and France in the Twentieth Century. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006.

Mark Mazower . “Military Violence and Nationalist Socialist Values: The Wehrmacht in Greece 1941–1944.” Past and Present, Vol. 134 (February 1992): 129158.

V. P. Menon The Transfer of Power in India. New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1957.

Aaron William Moore . Writing War: Soldiers Record the Japanese Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013.

David Omissi . “Europe Through Indian Eyes: Indian Soldiers Encounter England and France, 1914–1918.” English Historical Review, Vol. CXXII, No. 496 (April 2007): 371396.

David Omissi . Indian Voices of the Great War: Soldiers’ Letters, 1914–18. London: Macmillan, 1999.

David Omissi . The Sepoy and the Raj: The Indian Army, 1860–1940. London: Macmillan, 1994.

J. A. B. Palmer The Mutiny Oubreak at Meerut in 1857. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966.

Sarah Percy . Mercenaries: The History of a Norm in International Relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Barry Posen . “Nationalism, the Mass Army, and Military Power.” International Security, Vol. 18, No. 2 (1993): 80124.

Kaushik Roy . “Discipline and Morale of the African, British and Indian Army units in Burma and India during World War II: July 1943 to August 1945.” Modern Asian Studies, 44, 6 (2010): 12551282.

Jeff Rutherford . Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front: The German Infantry's War, 1941–1944. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Paul L. Savage and Richard A. Gabriel . “Cohesion and Disintegration in the American Army: An Alternative Perspective.” Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 2, No. 3 (1976): 340376.

Edward Shils . “Primordial, Personal, Sacred and Civil Ties.” British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 8 (1957): 130145.

Edward A. Shils and Morris Janowitz . “Cohesion and Disintegration in the Wehrmacht in World War II.” Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 2 (1948): 280315.

M. Brewster Smith . For a Significant Social Psychology: The Collected Writings of M. Brewster Smith. New York and London: New York University Press, 2003.

Philip Smith . “Meaning and Military Power: Moving on from Foucault.” Journal of Power, Vol. 1, No. 3 (December 2008): 275293.

Ronald Spector . “The Royal Indian Navy Strike of 1946: A Study of Cohesion and Disintegration in Colonial Armed Forces.” Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Winter 1981): 271284.

George Steinmetz . “German Exceptionalism and the Origins of Nazism” in Ian Kershaw and Moshe Lewin , eds. Stalinism and Nazism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997: 251284.

Hew Strachan . “Training, Morale and Modern War.” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 41, No. 2 (2006): 211227.

Chandar S. Sundaram A Paper Tiger: The Indian National Army in Battle, 1944–1945.” War and Society, Vol. 13, No. 1 (May 1995): 3559.

B. R. Tomlinson The Indian National Congress and the Raj, 1929–1942: The Penultimate Phase. London: Macmillan, 1976.

Vron Ware . Military Migrants: Fighting for Your Country. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Alexander Watson . Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies 1914–1918. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Alexander Watson . “Culture and Combat in the Western World, 1900–1945.” Historical Journal, Vol. 51, No. 2 (2008): 529546.

Lisa Wedeen . “Conceptualizing Culture: Possibilities for Political Science.” American Political Science Review, Vol. 96, No. 4 (December 2002): 713728.

Andrew Zimmerman . “Africa in Imperial and Transnational History: Multi-Sited Historiography and the Necessity of Theory,” Journal of African History, Vol. 54 (2013): 331340.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 4
Total number of PDF views: 301 *
Loading metrics...

Book summary page views

Total views: 1106 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 29th June 2017 - 18th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.