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Defining a Nation: India on the Eve
of Independence, 1945

by Ainslie T. Embree, Mark C. Carnes. Lopita Nath, and Eric Pullin

Portions of this page are still under construction, pending more details from the Game Authors. Reacting Consortium Members can download game materials below.

Deciding the fate of the diverse peoples of the Indian subcontinent

Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence, 1945 is set at Simla, in the foothills of the Himalayas, where the British viceroy has invited leaders of various religious and political constituencies to work out the future of Britain’s largest colony. Will the British transfer power to the Indian National Congress, which claims to speak for all Indians? Or will the British create a separate Muslim state—Pakistan—as the Muslim League proposes? And what will happen to the vulnerable minorities—such as the Sikhs and untouchables—or to the hundreds of small states ruled by hereditary monarchs?

As British authority wanes, smoldering tensions among Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Communists and others increasingly flare into violent riots that threaten to engulf all India. Towering above it all is the frail but formidable figure of Gandhi, whom some revere as an apostle of non-violence and others regard as a conniving Hindu politician.

Students struggle to reconcile religious identity with nation building—perhaps the most intractable issue of the modern world. Texts include the literature of Hindu revival (Tilak and Sarvarkar); the Qur’an and the literature of Islamic nationalism (Iqbal); and the writings of Gandhi, Ambedkar, Nehru, Jinnah, and Marx—among others.



History, Political Science, Religion, Philosophy

20th Century; Contemporary History

In a Few Words

Gandhi; Civil Disobedience; Hinduism; Islam; Imperialism; Colonialism; Communism; Nehru & Jinnah

South Asia

Themes and Issues 

What constitutes a nation? How can a democracy ensure the rights of minorities? What are the best means to achieve political ends?

Sample Class Titles
Challenges of Democracy in the Modern World; Comparative Revolutions

Published Level 5 game (what's that mean?


Divided Spaces; Rolling Dice; Differentiated Voting; Formal Podium Role

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
The game has a clear and simple structure for the first four sessions, but the last two sessions entail substantial freedom of action and outcome. Fairly  demanding.

Primary Source Highlights

Bhagavad Gita (excerpted in gamebook) 

Qur'an (excerpted in gamebook)

Writings of Gandhi (in gamebook and also in role sheets)




Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability 
This game is recommended for classes with 11-35 students.

Class Time  
For this game, 4 to 5 setup sessions, 6 game sessions, and 1 debrief session are recommended.

Possible Reacting Game Pairings
This game can be used on its own, or with other games. These pairings are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or prescriptive. Defining a Nation may pair well with:


Traditional Paper/Research/Thesis-driven writing; Journalism; Criticism; Creative Writing; Formal Speeches


Confirmed instructors who are not yet members can access basic instructor materials. Reacting Consortium members can access all downloadable materials (including expanded and updated materials) below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading. 


Students need a Gamebook, which includes directions, resources, and historical content. The India Gamebook is published by UNC Press.

 Papaerback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7079-9
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4696-7229-8

Published July 2022

 Available wherever books are sold.

Role Sheets and Add'l Materials

Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, role-specific resources or assignments, and their character's secret victory objectives. 

.zip file of .pdf files.

.zip file of .pdf and .docx files.

Instructor's Manual

The Instructor's Manual includes guidance for assigning roles, presenting historical context, assignments, activities and discussion topics, and more.   

Updated 2017 .docx file.


Ainslie T. Embree

Ainslie T. Embree is professor of history emeritus at Columbia University and former president of the American Institute of Asian Studies and of the Association of Asian Studies. He also served as Counselor for Cultural Affairs at the American Embassy in Delhi. His books include India’s Search for National Identity, Imagining India, and Utopias in Conflict: Religion and Nationalism in India. He was also editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Asian History.

Mark C. Carnes

Mark C. Carnes is professor of history at Barnard College and creator of Reacting to the Past. He is the author of many books in American history and general editor of the 26-volume American National Biography, published by the ACLS and Oxford University Press.


Members can contact game authors directly

We invite instructors join our Facebook Faculty Lounge, where you'll find a wonderful community eager to help and answer questions. We also encourage you to submit your question for the forthcoming FAQ, and to check out our upcoming events


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