Khan's sweeping work centers on the lives of ordinary Indian people, exploring the ways they were affected by a cataclysmic war with origins far beyond Indian shores. In manpower alone, India's contribution was staggering; it produced the largest volunteer army in world history, with 2.5 million men. Indians were engaged in making the raw materials and food stuffs needed by the Allies, and became involved in the construction of airstrips, barracks, hospitals, internee camps, roads and railways. Their lives were also profoundly affected by the presence of the large Allied army in the region, including not only British but American, African, and Chinese troops. Madras was bombed by the Japanese and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were occupied, while the Bengal famine of 1943-in which perhaps three million Bengalis died-was a man-made disaster precipitated by the effects of the war.
This authoritative account offers a critically important look at the contributions of colonial manpower and resources essential to sustaining the war, and emphasizes the significant ways in which the conflict shaped modern India.