Untold lives blog

28 January 2021

Sources for the 1947 Bengal and Punjab Boundary Commissions

A common question which India Office Records curators receive from researchers is what sources there are  in the records for the Bengal and Punjab Boundary Commissions of 1947. The Boundary Commissions have featured previously in an Untold Lives story.  The Commissions were created in 1947 for the purpose of determining the new border between India and Pakistan following independence from British rule.  Both were chaired by the British lawyer Sir Cyril Radcliffe.  The Radcliffe Line became the border between India and Pakistan when the Award was published on 17 August 1947, two days after independence.

Map of India taken from Report on the last Viceroyalty 1947Map of India taken from Report on the last Viceroyalty, Rear-Admiral The Earl Mountbatten of Burma, 22 March to 15 August 1947, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/5/396/15 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Files relating to the Boundary Commissions can be found in the principal series in the official records relating to the Transfer of Power, in particular the Public & Judicial Department Papers and the Private Office Papers.  A list of specific file titles and shelfmarks can be found at the end of this post.  Some papers are reproduced in the last volume of Constitutional relations between Britain and India. The transfer of power, 1942-7, edited by Nicholas Mansergh (London, 1970-83).

Map of India and Pakistan boundaries 1947Map of India/Pakistan boundaries as fixed by the Boundary Commission 17 Aug 1947 (London: War Office, 1947) shelfmark: Cartographic Items Maps MOD OR 6409 Images Online

Discussions concerning the Boundary Commissions appear in several collections of private papers, in particular:
• IOR Neg 15538-67: copies of the papers of Lord Mountbatten as Viceroy 1947 and Governor-General 1947-48 of India.
• Mss Eur C357: weekly correspondence of the Earl of Listowel, Secretary of State for India Apr-Aug 1947, with Lord Mountbatten, Viceroy of India.
• IOR Neg 10760-826: Papers of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, leader of Muslim League in India and founder of Pakistan.
• Mss Eur C645: letters, dated 1967-1973, from Sir Evan Meredith Jenkins, Governor of Punjab 1946-47, to Stuart Evelyn Abbott, his Private Secretary in 1947, on the question of last minute alterations to the boundary commission award partitioning the Punjab. See also Mss Eur D807.
• Mss Eur Photo Eur 358: copies of statements, dated 1989-1992, by Herbert Christopher Beaumont, Private Secretary to the Chairman of the Boundary Commissions. Also family letters at Mss Eur Photo Eur 428, and oral history recordings at C63/89-93.

Comments on the Boundary Commissions also appear in the private papers of Sir Penderel Moon, Indian Civil Service, Punjab (Mss Eur F230); Sir Francis Mudie, Governor of Sind and West Punjab (Mss Eur F164); Walter Henry John Christie, Indian Civil Service, Bengal (Mss Eur D718); and Sir Laurence Barton Grafftey-Smith, United Kingdom High Commissioner in Pakistan (Mss Eur C631).

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Establishment and composition of Boundary Commissions, Jun-Nov 1947, shelfmark: IOR/L/PJ/5/396/15.

Information Department file on the partition of Bengal and the Punjab, and the appointment of the Boundary Commission, 1947-1948, shelfmark IOR/L/I/1/770.

Appointment of Sir Cyril Radcliffe, Chairman, Punjab and Bengal Boundary Commissions, Jun 1947-Jan 1948, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/7/12500.

Boundary Commissions of Punjab and Bengal: petitions, memoranda and telegrams and protests against awards, Aug 1947-Oct 1948, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/7/12465.

File in the political papers of the Viceroy's Private Office on the Boundary Commission, Jun-Sep 1947, shelfmark IOR/R/3/1/157.

Reports of the Bengal Boundary Commission 1947 and Punjab Boundary Commission 1947, shelfmark IOR/V/26/261/60. The maps accompanying the reports are in the India Office Map Collections, shelfmarks IOR/X/9076 (for Bengal and Assam) and IOR/X/9077 (for Punjab).

Photocopies of the reports of the members of the Bengal and Punjab Boundary Commissions, Jul-Aug 1947, shelfmark Mss Eur Photo Eur 211.

`The Origins of the Frontier between India and East Pakistan': confidential printed memorandum, with maps annexed, dated 19 Feb 1969, by Research Dept. of Foreign and Commonwealth Office, shelfmark Mss Eur D768.

India/Pakistan boundaries as fixed by the Boundary Commission 17 Aug 1947 (London: War Office, 1947), scale 1:2 000 000, shelfmark: Cartographic Items Maps MOD OR 6409.

India/Pakistan boundaries fixed by the Boundary commission, 17 Aug 1947, Bengal and Assam, (London: War Office, 1947), scale 1:2 022 000, shelfmark: Cartographic Items Maps MOD OR 5682B.


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