The British Left and India

Metropolitan Anti-Imperialism, 1885-1947
Author(s): 
Owen, Nicholas
ISBN: 
9780199233014
Date published: 
October 2007
Hardback
Price: 
£60.00

From the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 to the winning of independence in 1947, this book traces the complex and often troubled relationship between anti-imperialist campaigners in Britain and in India. Nicholas Owen traces the efforts of British Radicals and socialists to identify forms of anti-imperialism in India which fitted comfortably with their existing beliefs and their sense of how authentic progressive movements were supposed to work. On the other side of the relationship, he charts the trajectory of the Indian National Congress, as it shifted from appeals couched in language familiar to British progressives to the less familiar vocabulary and techniques of Mahatma Gandhi. The new Gandhian methods of self-reliance had unwelcome implications for the work that the British supporters of Congress had traditionally undertaken, leading to the collapse of their main organisation, and the precipitation of anti-imperialist work into the turbulent cross-currents of left-wing British politics. Metropolitan anti-imperialism became largely a function of other commitments, whether communist, theosophical, pacifist, socialist or anti-fascist. Revealing the strengths and weaknesses of these connections, The British Left and India looks at the ultimate failure to create the durable alliance between anti-imperialists which the British Empire's governors had always feared.