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Edwin Montagu

Edwin Montagu



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Edwin Montagu was born on 6th February 1879, at 12 Kensington Palace Gardens, London. He was the second son of Samuel Montagu and Ellen Cohen Montagu. His father was a millionaire banker and his mother came from a prominent Jewish banking family of Liverpool. (1)

Samuel was a long-term financial backer of the Liberal Party and in the 1885 General Election he was elected to represent Whitechapel. A great supporter of William Gladstone, in the House of Commons he argued in favour of Jewish colonisation in Palestine. In 1888 he was a member of the select committee on alien immigration, an issue on which he opposed over-restriction and spoke for the interests of persecuted Jews. (2)

In 1891 Edwin Montague was sent to a boarding-school, Clifton College, "where he did not settle, suffering from frequent bouts of homesickness, especially missing his mother, to whom he was very close". In April 1893 he was moved to the City of London School. (3)

In December 1895 Edwin Montagu entered University College, specializing in biology. After briefly attending University College Hospital as a medical student, he began studying at Trinity College, in October 1898. Montagu was an undistinguished student, but developed a reputation for political debating and was praised for his use of "delightful satire". (4)

In 1902 Montagu was elected as President of the Cambridge Union. During this period he became friends with Raymond Asquith, the son of H. Asquith, a senior figure in the Liberal Party. Asquith was impressed with the young man and he was recruited to speak at "meetings throughout the country, earning a reputation as an up-and-coming Liberal of radical opinions". It was during this period he became known as Asquith's protégé. (5)

In 1903 he started work with Messrs Coward Hawksley and Chance, solicitors, at 30 Mincing Lane, London. In November 1905 he passed the constitutional law section of the bar examination but his main interest was in politics. He was adopted as the Liberal candidate for the Chesterton constituency, and was elected to parliament as part of the Liberal landslide in the 1906 General Election. Asquith, was appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer, by the new prime minister, Henry Campbell-Bannerman. Asquith immediately asked Montagu to be his parliamentary private secretary and became part of the family "inner circle". (6)

Henry Campbell-Bannerman suffered a severe stroke in November, 1907. He returned to work following two months rest but it soon became clear that the 71 year-old prime minister was unable to continue. On 27th March, 1908, he asked to see Asquith. According to Margot Asquith: "Henry came into my room at 7.30 p.m. and told me that Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman had sent for him that day to tell him that he was dying... He began by telling him the text he had chosen out of the Psalms to put on his grave, and the manner of his funeral... Henry was deeply moved when he went on to tell me that Campbell-Bannerman had thanked him for being a wonderful colleague." (7)

Campbell-Bannerman suggested to Edward VII that Asquith should replace him as Prime Minister. However, the King with characteristic selfishness was reluctant to break his holiday in Biarritz and ordered him to continue. On 1st April, the dying Campbell-Bannerman, sent a letter to the King seeking his permission to give up office. He agreed as long as Asquith was willing to travel to France to "kiss hands". Colin Clifford has argued that "Campbell-Bannerman.. for all his defects, was probably the most decent man ever to hold the office of Prime Minister. Childless and a widower since the death of his beloved wife the year before, he was now facing death bravely, with no family to comfort him." Campbell-Bannerman died later that month. (8)

In 1910 Asquith appointed Montagu as the under-secretary of state at the India Office. His first speech in the post "was a tour de force and marked him out for a considerable political future... Montagu concerned himself with political matters, particularly the growing unrest in India. While acknowledging that demands for increasing political participation emanated from a small section of the educated intelligentsia, he nevertheless asserted the importance of responding to the challenging nationalist climate constructively in order to avoid major conflagration." (9)

Some members of the establishment disapproved of Montagu because of his Jewish faith. Raymond Asquith defended Montagu to his friend Conrad Russell: "I agree that he has not a drop of European blood, but then neither has he a drop of American. I don't agree that he is a wet-blanket in Society. He is moody certainly, but is capable of being extremely amusing... He is broadminded, minded, free from cant, open to new impressions, tolerant of new people. " (10)

This brought him even closer to Asquith and in 1912 he joined the family on a trip to Sicily in 1912. Also on holiday with them was Asquith's daughter, Violet Asquith and her friend Venetia Stanley. Over the next two weeks both men fell in love with Venetia. Asquith, was 59 years old at the time and in a letter to her later he described the holiday as "the first stage in our intimacy... we had together one of the most interesting and delightful fortnights in all our lives... the scales dropped from my eyes… and I dimly felt… that I had come to a turning point in my life". (11)

On their return from holiday Asquith invited Venetia Stanley to a house party, following this up with invitations to 10 Downing Street. However, he was unaware that Edwin Montagu was also besotted with Venetia. He wrote to her regularly and took her out whenever he could. It seems that Asquith was totally unaware of this developing relationship. In August 1912 he asked her to marry him. At first she accepted the proposal and later changed her mind. (12)

If Venetia accepted his proposal he would have lost his inheritance as his father, Samuel Montagu, 1st Baron Swaythling, who had died in 1911, had stipulated in his will that he had to marry a Jewish woman. "Although Venetia, physically repelled by his huge head and course pock-marked face, refused him, she lapped up the waspish political gossip at which he excelled, and they continued to see a great deal of one another, with Montagu a regular house guest at the Stanley family homes at Alderley and Penrhos." (13)

Violet Asquith had mixed feelings about her father's friend: "Montagu's physical repulsiveness to me is such that I would lightly leap from the top story of Queen Anne's Mansions - or the Eiffel Tower itself to avoid the lightest contact - the thought of any erotic amenities with him is enough to freeze one's blood. Apart from this he is not only very unlike and Englishman - or indeed a European - but also extraordinarily unlike a man... He has no robustness, virility, courage, physical competency - he is devoured by hypochondria - which if it does not spring from a diseased body must indicate a very unhealthy mind. As against this he has imagination, ambition, fire in his stomach (my favourite quality!) and real generosity and powers of devotion. A better friend than lover I should say." (14)

Edwin Montagu continued to try to persuade Venetia to marry him. Both his brother, Louis Montagu, 2nd Baron Swaythling, and his sister, Lilian Montagu, put pressure on him to stop seeing Venetia. He was told that "Christians are all so totally unlike the Jews". Venetia's sister, Sylvia Henley, thought that she was fond of Montagu and liked his company but did not love him. "After all, she could hardly even bare to kiss him. And if she was not in love with him, what would happen if she really fell in love with someone else?" (15)

During this period H. Asquith was writing to Venetia explaining how she had become her "pole-star" who had rescued him "from sterility, impotence, despair" and his love for her enabled him "in the daily stress of almost intolerable burdens and anxieties, to see visions and dreams". Despite his passionate love letters, according to Venetia's friend, Diana Cooper, the relationship remained platonic. However, Bobbie Neate, the author of Conspiracy of Secrets (2012) believes that Venetia gave birth to Asquith's child in August 1911. From the evidence available this seems very unlikely. (16)

In February 1914 Montagu became financial secretary to the Treasury. The following year he joined the cabinet as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. John Grigg has pointed out: "Still only in his middle thirties, he had risen in politics as Asquith's protégé but was far from being a mere hanger-on... Rich and privileged, intellectually a late-developer, sensitive and emotional yet capable of a certain ruthlessness, he was now becoming a rather important figure." (17)

Montagu now had status as well as money. Venetia Stanley decided to accept Edwin Montagu's proposal of marriage. "For Montagu, religion was a purely personal affair; he had no formal religious beliefs, was anti-Zionist, and constantly emphasized his foremost identity as a Briton". However, in order that Montagu could continue to receive an annual income of £10,000 from his father's estate, Venetia was compelled to convert to Judaism. (18)

On 12th May 1915, Asquith was shocked to receive her letter announcing her engagement to Montagu. Asquith replied that this news "breaks my heart" and that he "couldn't bear to come and see you". On the day he heard the news Asquith wrote three letters to Venetia's sister, Sylvia Henley, about the proposed marriage. In the second letter he pointed out: "I had never any illusions, and often told Venetia: and she also was always most frank about her someday getting married. But this. We have always treated it as a kind of freakish, but unimaginable venture. I don't believe there are two living people who, each in their separate ways, are more devoted to me than she and Montagu: and it is the way of fortune that they two should combine to deal a death-blow to me."

Asquith then went on to assess Venetia's choice as husband including: "I am really fond of him, recognise his intellectual merits, find him excellent company and have always been able to reckon on his loyalty and devotion. Anything but this! It is not merely the prohibitive physical side (bad as that is) - I won't say anything about race and religion though they are not quite negligible factors. But he is not a man: a shamble of words and nerves and symptoms, intensely self absorbed, and - but I won't go on with the dismal catalogue." (19)

Violet Asquith was also upset by the news: "Curious and disturbing news reached us on Wednesday evening of Montagu's engagement to Venetia... Montagu's physical repulsiveness to me is such that I would lightly leap from the top story of Queen Anne's Mansions - or the Eiffel Tower itself to avoid the lightest contact - the thought of any erotic amenities with him is enough to freeze one's blood. He has no robustness, virility, courage, physical competency - he is devoured by hypochondria - which if it does not spring from a diseased body must indicate a very unhealthy mind." (20)

Margot Asquith was pleased the relationship was over. She told her daughter: "That want of candour in Venetia is what has hurt him but she has suffered tortures of remorse poor darling and I feel sorry for her... He is wonderful over it all - courageous, convinced and very humble. They were both old enough to know their own minds and no one must tease them now. There's a good deal of bosh in the religion campaign, though superficially it takes one in... It is Montagu's physique that I could never get over not his religion". (21)

The marriage between Edwin Montagu and Venetia Stanley took place on 26th July 1915, a few days after she had been received into the Jewish faith. Montagu's old friend from university, Raymond Asquith, defended the marriage: "I am entirely in favour of the Stanley/Montagu match. (i) Because for a woman any marriage is better than perpetual virginity, which after a certain age (not very far distant in Venetia's case) becomes insufferably absurd. (ii) Because, as you say yourself, she has had a fair chance of conceiving a romantic passion for someone or other during the last 12 years and has not done so and is probably incapable of doing so. This being so I think she is well advised to make a marriage of convenience. (iii) Because, in my opinion, this is a marriage of convenience. If a man has private means and private parts (specially if both are large) he is a convenience to a woman. (iv) Because it annoys Lord and Lady Sheffield. (v) Because it profoundly shocks the entire Christian community." (22)

It was not a happy marriage as their "relationship lacked passion". It has been claimed that Venetia had lesbian tendencies. According to Sylvia Henley, Venetia had told Montagu that "sex would only take place on her terms, should she want it, but that she should also be free to seek it elsewhere". (23) This resulted in several affairs. Edwin Montagu was almost certainly not the father of Venetia's daughter, Judith, who was born on 6th February 1923. It is believed that the man responsible was William Ward, 3rd Earl of Dudley. (24)

Duff Cooper wrote that: "The relations of Edwin and Venetia are very distressing. She seems hardly to be able to bear him - she cannot help showing it and he cannot help seeing it." Cooper, who was a Conservative Party MP, had little sympathy for Montagu: "I no longer like and cannot pity him... He is a man incapable of inspiring trust, confidence or lasting love. He has no friends or followers either in politics or in private life. He has great qualities of charm and intellect but they are all warped by something, which I believe to be a mixture of cowardice, jealousy and suspicion." (25)

Venetia Stanley's conversion to Judaism rankled with society hostesses, for it seemed to some she had "deserted her class" and this apparent disloyalty caused "continued sniping behind her back". Despite this she "could still hook and reel in some of the most influential men in the country". This included a sexual relationship with Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of The Daily Express. (26)

In November 1916, David Lloyd George came to the conclusion that the present structure of command and direction of policy could not win the war and might well lose it. Lloyd George agreed with Maurice Hankey, secretary of the Imperial War Cabinet, that he should talk to Andrew Bonar Law, the leader of the Conservative Party, about the situation. Bonar Law remained loyal to Asquith and so Lloyd George contacted Max Aitken instead and told him about his suggested reforms.

Lord Northcliffe joined with Lloyd George in attempting to persuade Asquith and several of his cabinet, including Sir Edward Grey, Arthur Balfour, Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe and Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, to resign. It was reported that Lloyd George was trying to encourage Asquith to establish a small War Council to run the war and if he did not agree he would resign. (27)

Tom Clarke, the news editor of The Daily Mail, claims that Lord Northcliffe told him to take a message to the editor, Thomas Marlowe, that he was to run an article on the political crisis with the headline, "Asquith a National Danger". According to Clarke, Marlowe "put the brake on the Chief's impetuosity" and instead used the headline "The Limpets: A National Danger". He also told Clarke to print pictures of Lloyd George and Asquith side by side: "Get a smiling picture of Lloyd George and get the worst possible picture of Asquith." Clarke told Northcliffe that this was "rather unkind, to say the least". Northcliffe replied: "Rough methods are needed if we are not to lose the war... it's the only way." (28)

On 4th December, 1916, The Times praised Lloyd George's stand against the present "cumbrous methods of directing the war" and urged Asquith to accept the "alternative scheme" of the small War Council, that he had proposed. Asquith should not be a member of the council and instead his qualities were "fitted better... to preserve the unity of the Nation". (29) Even the Liberal Party supporting Manchester Guardian, referred to the humiliation of Asquith, whose "natural course would be either to resist the demand for a War Council, which would partly supersede him as Premier, or alternatively himself to resign." (30)

At a Cabinet meeting the following day, Asquith refused to form a new War Council that did not include him. Edwin Montagu suggested that King George V should be asked to call Asquith, Lloyd George, Andrew Bonar Law (leader of the Conservative Party) and Arthur Henderson (leader of the Labour Party) together to find a solution. Lloyd George refused and instead resigned. (31)

Lloyd George announced: "It is with great personal regret that I have come to this conclusion.... Nothing would have induced me to part now except an overwhelming sense that the course of action which has been pursued has put the country - and not merely the country, but throughout the world the principles for which you and I have always stood throughout our political lives - is the greatest peril that has ever overtaken them. As I am fully conscious of the importance of preserving national unity, I propose to give your Government complete support in the vigorous prosecution of the war; but unity without action is nothing but futile carnage, and I cannot be responsible for that." (32)

Conservative members of the coalition made it clear that they would no longer be willing to serve under Asquith. At 7 p.m. he drove to Buckingham Palace and tendered his resignation to King George V. Apparently, he told J. Thomas, that on "the advice of close friends that it was impossible for Lloyd George to form a Cabinet" and believed that "the King would send for him before the day was out." Thomas replied "I, wanting him to continue, pointed out that this advice was sheer madness." (33)

Edwin Montagu resigned from the government over this issue but in January 1917, David Lloyd George, the new prime minister, offered him a cabinet post as minister without portfolio in charge of reconstruction. Montagu accepted, much to the annoyance of the Asquithian Liberals. In July, he received further promotion when he was appointed Secretary of State for India. Chandrika Kaul has pointed out that "Montagu was the last Liberal and only Jew" to hold this post. (34)

Montagu was soon in conflict with Lloyd George over his decision to favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. Montagu wrote to Lloyd George: "I appreciate your motives - your generosity and desire to take up the cudgels for the oppressed... I believe firmly that if you make a statement about Palestine as the national home for Jews, every anti-Semitic organisation and newspaper will ask what right a Jewish Englishman, with the status at best of a naturalised foreigner, has to take a foremost part of the Government of the British Empire. The country for which I have worked ever since I left the University - England - the country for which my family have fought, tells me that my national home, if I desire to go there... is Palestine." (35)

In 1917 Edwin Montagu and Frederic Thesiger, 1st Viscount Chelmsford, produced a report which recommended a limited measure of self-government. These ideas were incorporated in the 1919 Government of India Act. On the 14th April, 1919, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer ordered his troops to open fire on a crowd of protesters in Amritsar's Jallinwala Bagh. The official statement, reported 379 dead and 1,208 injured. However, it was later estimated that over 1,000 people were killed.

Edwin Montagu, described Dyer's action as "a grave error in judgement". In a debate in the House of Commons, he asked, "Are you going to keep your hold on India by terrorism, racial humiliation, subordination and frightfulness, or are you going to rest it upon the goodwill and the growing goodwill of the people of your Indian Empire?" (36) A significant section of the Conservative-dominated House of Commons, were furious with Montagu over these comments, and he was "heckled with openly racist comments about his race and religion". (37)

Thesiger was replaced by Rufus Isaacs, Lord Reading, who agreed with Montagu that Britain should move towards Indian independence. In a telegram sent on 1st March, 1922, Reading proposed that in order to placate Muslim opinion, Allied troops should be withdrawn from Constantinople. The telegram was leaked to the press and George Curzon, the Foreign Secretary, who disapproved of the liberal views of Montagu and Reading, attacked them in the House of Commons. Montagu failed to get support from Lloyd George and he resigned on 9th March. (38)

Two days later, Montagu commented on the style of Lloyd George's leadership. "We have been governed by a great genius - a dictator who has called together from time to time conferences of Ministers, men who had access to him day and night, leaving all those who, like myself, found it impossible to get to him for days together. He has come to epoch-making decisions, over and over again. It is notorious that members of the Cabinet had no knowledge of those decisions." (39)

Montagu was now political isolated from both David Lloyd George and the former Liberal prime minister, H. Asquith, and it was no surprise when in the 1922 General Election he lost his seat in the landslide victory for the Conservative Party, who won 344 seats.

Edwin Montagu died of arteriosclerosis on 15th November, 1924. A public memorial service, was held on 21st November in the West London Synagogue, which Venetia Stanley Montagu did not attend. He left his property equally divided between Venetia and her daughter Judith. (40)

Venetia wrote to Asquith on her husband's death: "I know it is is not necessary for me to tell you how deeply he loved you and what a lasting grief your political separation was. He always used to say that though he was still absorbingly interested in his work after he left you, it was no longer any fun." (41 )

If he (Asquith) wins (secures agreement over Ulster) you first will share his triumph, if he loses you alone can make it tolerable... Don't you know what you are to him? How amused you can afford to be at his relaxation. Those who know you both would laugh at a comparison between your relations with him and those of any other woman in the world.

So show him you acknowledge his right to any amusement he chooses in order that he may give every ounce of himself for the struggle. Show him how confident you are of him and yourself and you will prove to be once again the big minded great loving Margot, who has no more loyal admirer and friend.

Since I wrote to you this morning I have gone through a Cabinet, a luncheon with Prince Paul of Serbia and Sir R. McBride of British Columbia and a rather searching question time at the House and I hope I got through them all without any sign of disquietude or impotence. All the same, I don't suppose there is in the kingdom at this moment a much more unhappy man.

I had never any illusions, and often told Venetia: and she also was always most frank about her someday getting married. I don't believe there are two living people who, each in their separate ways, are more devoted to me than she and Montagu: and it is the way of fortune that they two should combine to deal a death-blow to me... I am really fond of him, recognise his intellectual merits, find him excellent company and have always been able to reckon on his loyalty and devotion. Anything but this!

It is not merely the prohibitive physical side (bad as that is) - I won't say anything about race and religion though they are not quite negligible factors. But he is not a man: a shamble of words and nerves and symptoms, intensely self absorbed, and - but I won't go on with the dismal catalogue...

She says at the end of a sadly meagre letter: "I can't help feeling, after all the joy you've given me, that mine is a very treacherous return". Poor darling: I wouldn't have put it like that. But in essence it is true: and it leaves me sore and humiliated.

Dearest Sylvia, I am almost ashamed to write to you like this, and I know you won't say a word to her of what I have written. But whom have I but you to turn to? in this searching trial, which comes upon me, when I am almost overwhelmed with every kind and degree of care and responsibility. Don't think that I am blaming her: I shall love her with all my heart to my dying day; she has given me untold happiness. I shall always bless her. But - I know you will understand. Send me a line of help and sympathy.

Curious and disturbing news reached us on Wednesday evening of Montagu's engagement to Venetia... A better friend than lover I should say.

I asked Montagu about the religious difficulty - he replied "we can get round that". I have since learned that by getting round it - he meant Venetia going through it. This shocked me to the marrow. To renounce England and Christianity - even if one has never held it - at the dead bidding of foul old Lord Swaythling and to secure his filthy £10,000 a year - for that to renounce one's religion and take on a new one - become a Jew - seems to me the most impossibility, squalidly cynical antic.

It is true that Venetia believes nothing - has no spiritual "apprehension" whatever - but she then is not entitled to masquerade as a believing of the case. She seemed quite calm - rather cheerful than happy - admitted she felt no "glow" about it and used one phrase which haunted me "there was nothing else much there". I cannot help feeling she would have done anything else if there had been.

Father is happier over Venetia's marriage though not converted - he thinks he would mind less were it anyone else but I tell him whoever she married he would mind deeply as he has been very much in love - he says if she had only told him he would have felt it less. That want of candour in Venetia is what has hurt him but she has suffered tortures of remorse poor darling and I feel sorry for her... It is Montagu's physique that I could never get over not his religion.

Your letter is a powerful indictment, and though I don't agree with it I am glad to see that a year of soldiering has not blunted the edge of your pen. It has turned mine into a ploughshare... I am entirely in favour of the Stanley/Montagu match. (v) Because it profoundly shocks the entire Christian community.

Of course I see your point when you say you wouldn't like to go to bed with Edwin. I don't mind admitting that I shouldn't myself. But you must remember that women are not refined, sensitive delicate-minded creatures like you and me: none of them have much physical squeamishness and Venetia far less than most. You say she must have weighed the consequences and so she did, quite carefully: but what frightened her most was not the prospect of the bed being too full but of the board being too empty. She was afraid that her friends might give her up in disgust; but after sounding a few of them - Katharine e.g. and Diana - she concluded that it would be all right and decided to flout the interested disapproval of Mr. and the idiotic indignation of Miss V. Asquith.

Your character sketch of Edwin is done in much too dark colours. You are obviously prejudiced against him by the fact (if fact it be) that he steals birds' eggs, a vice utterly immaterial in a bride-groom. I agree that he has not a drop of European blood, but then neither has he a drop of American. He is moody certainly, but is capable of being extremely amusing and (specially during the last year) has succeeded in attracting some very critical and some very beautiful women. I do not think he will be either a dull or a tyrannical husband, and I understand that the terms of alliance permit a wide licence to both parties to indulge such extra conjugal conjugal caprices as either may be lucky enough to conceive.

We have been governed by a great genius (David Lloyd George) - a dictator who has called together from time to time conferences of Ministers, men who had access to him day and night, leaving all those who, like myself, found it impossible to get to him for days together. It is notorious that members of the Cabinet had no knowledge of those decisions.

While there’s no proof that they had a physical relationship, Venetia and Violet constantly professed undying love for one another, as well as sending each other little presents. "I’ve sent you a tiny and very humble gift which you must wear always (in your bath and in your bed)," wrote Violet, "and if you think it too ugly you may tuck it in under your combies."

So who was Venetia Stanley, the object of not only the Prime Minister’s affections, but his daughter’s, too? On the surface, she came from an impeccably conventional aristocratic family. Peer a little more closely, though, and what emerges is anything but conventional.

It seems quite possible that Venetia’s uncle may also have been her father. Certainly there were lots of rumours to that effect and her mother was known to have had an affair with her husband’s brother. Despite Venetia possessing what one friend of hers called "a gruff baritone voice", Asquith thought her the most alluring woman he’d ever met..

When Venetia announced her engagement to an extremely drippy man called Edwin Montagu - Secretary of State for India - the Prime Minister was heartbroken.

However, he didn’t repine for long, swiftly transferring his attentions to Venetia’s younger sister, Sylvia. Initially flattered, Sylvia soon discovered that if she was alone with Asquith, "it was safest to sit either side of the fire... or to make sure there was a table between them."

Not that she was the only object of his attentions. By today’s standards, Asquith was a serial groper. One woman recalled an incident when "the Prime Minister had his head jammed down in to my shoulder and all my fingers in his mouth"...

When Edwin died in 1924, Venetia literally took to the air, buying herself an airplane and whizzing around the Middle East with yet another of her lovers. By now some of her old friends, appalled by all this conjugal carnage, had given her up as a bad lot.

But not Winston Churchill and his wife, Clementine, who had always been fond of Venetia - she’d been a bridesmaid at their wedding. During World War II they regularly invited her to their weekend retreat at Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire.

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(1) Chandrika Kaul, Edwin Montague: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(2) Edwin Green, Samuel Montague: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(3) Chandrika Kaul, Edwin Montague: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(4) Isis Magazine (27th January, 1900)

(5) Chandrika Kaul, Edwin Montague: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(6) Colin Clifford, The Asquiths (2002) page 165

(7) Margot Asquith, The Autobiography of Margot Asquith (1962) page 247

(8) Colin Clifford, The Asquiths (2002) page 134

(9) Chandrika Kaul, Edwin Montague: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(10) Raymond Asquith, letter to Conrad Russell (24th July, 1915)

(11) Michael Brock, H.H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley (1982) page 532

(12) Jonathan Walker, The Blue Beast: Power and Passion in the Great War (2012) page 138

(13) Colin Clifford, The Asquiths (2002) page 190

(14) Violet Asquith, diary entry (14th May, 1915)

(15) Jonathan Walker, The Blue Beast: Power and Passion in the Great War (2012) page 147

(16) Bobbie Neate, Conspiracy of Secrets (2012) page 190

(17) John Grigg, Lloyd George, From Peace To War 1912-1916 (1985) page 240

(18) Chandrika Kaul, Edwin Montague: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(19) H. Asquith, letter to Sylvia Henley (12th May, 1915)

(20) Violet Bonham Carter, diary entry (14th May, 1915)

(21) Margot Asquith, letter to Violet Asquith (7th June, 1915)

(22) Raymond Asquith, letter to Conrad Russell (24th July, 1915)

(23) Jonathan Walker, The Blue Beast: Power and Passion in the Great War (2012) page 148

(24) Chandrika Kaul, Edwin Montague: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(25) John Julius Norwich, The Duff Cooper Diaries (2005) pages 85 and 97

(26) Jonathan Walker, The Blue Beast: Power and Passion in the Great War (2012) page 178

(27) The Times (2nd December, 1916)

(28) Tom Clarke, My Northcliffe Diary (1931) pages 105-107

(29) The Times (4th December, 1916)

(30) The Manchester Guardian (4th December, 1916)

(31) John Grigg, Lloyd George, From Peace To War 1912-1916 (1985) page 466

(32) David Lloyd George, letter to H. Asquith (5th December, 1916)

(33) J. Thomas, My Story (1937) page 43

(34) Chandrika Kaul, Edwin Montague: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(35) Robert Lloyd George, David & Winston: How a Friendship Changed History (2005) page 177

(36) Nigel Collett, The Butcher of Amritsar: General Reginald Dyer (2006) page 380

(37) Roy Hattersley, David Lloyd George (2010) page 548

(38) Chandrika Kaul, Edwin Montague: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(39) Edwin Montagu, speech at the Cambridge University Liberal Club (11th March, 1922)

(40) Michael Brock, Venetia Stanley Montague: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(41) Venetia Stanley, letter to H. Asquith (18th November, 1924)


Britain’s acknowledgement and support of Zionism, and Zionism’s focus on establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine, emerged from growing concerns about the direction of World War I.

By mid-1917, Britain and France were mired in a virtual stalemate with Germany on the Western Front, while efforts to defeat Turkey on the Gallipoli Peninsula had failed spectacularly.

On the Eastern Front, the fate of one ally, Russia, was uncertain: The Russian Revolution in March had toppled Czar Nicholas II, and the Russian government was struggling against widespread opposition to the country’s disintegrating war effort against Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Although the United States had just entered the war on the Allied side, a sizable infusion of American troops was not scheduled to arrive on the continent until the following year.


Contents

The British Raj extended over almost all present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, except for small holdings by other European nations such as Goa and Pondicherry. [13] This area is very diverse, containing the Himalayan mountains, fertile floodplains, the Indo-Gangetic Plain, a long coastline, tropical dry forests, arid uplands, and the Thar Desert. [14] In addition, at various times, it included Aden (from 1858 to 1937), [15] Lower Burma (from 1858 to 1937), Upper Burma (from 1886 to 1937), British Somaliland (briefly from 1884 to 1898), and Singapore (briefly from 1858 to 1867). Burma was separated from India and directly administered by the British Crown from 1937 until its independence in 1948. The Trucial States of the Persian Gulf and the states under the Persian Gulf Residency were theoretically princely states as well as presidencies and provinces of British India until 1947 and used the rupee as their unit of currency. [16]

Among other countries in the region, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) was ceded to Britain in 1802 under the Treaty of Amiens. Ceylon was part of Madras Presidency between 1793 and 1798. [17] The kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan, having fought wars with the British, subsequently signed treaties with them and were recognised by the British as independent states. [18] [19] The Kingdom of Sikkim was established as a princely state after the Anglo-Sikkimese Treaty of 1861 however, the issue of sovereignty was left undefined. [20] The Maldive Islands were a British protectorate from 1887 to 1965, but not part of British India.

The British Indian Empire and surrounding countries in 1909

Aftermath of the Rebellion of 1857: Indian critiques, British response

Although the rebellion had shaken the British enterprise in India, it had not derailed it. After the war, the British became more circumspect. Much thought was devoted to the causes of the rebellion and three main lessons were drawn. First, at a practical level, it was felt that there needed to be more communication and camaraderie between the British and Indians—not just between British army officers and their Indian staff but in civilian life as well. [21] The Indian army was completely reorganised: units composed of the Muslims and Brahmins of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, who had formed the core of the rebellion, were disbanded. New regiments, like the Sikhs and Baluchis, composed of Indians who, in British estimation, had demonstrated steadfastness, were formed. From then on, the Indian army was to remain unchanged in its organisation until 1947. [22] The 1861 Census had revealed that the English population in India was 125,945. Of these only about 41,862 were civilians as compared with about 84,083 European officers and men of the Army. [23] In 1880, the standing Indian Army consisted of 66,000 British soldiers, 130,000 Natives, and 350,000 soldiers in the princely armies. [24]

Second, it was also felt that both the princes and the large land-holders, by not joining the rebellion, had proved to be, in Lord Canning's words, "breakwaters in a storm". [21] They too were rewarded in the new British Raj by being officially recognised in the treaties each state now signed with the Crown. [25] [ failed verification ] At the same time, it was felt that the peasants, for whose benefit the large land-reforms of the United Provinces had been undertaken, had shown disloyalty, by, in many cases, fighting for their former landlords against the British. Consequently, no more land reforms were implemented for the next 90 years: Bengal and Bihar were to remain the realms of large land holdings (unlike the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh). [26]

Third, the British felt disenchanted with Indian reaction to social change. Until the rebellion, they had enthusiastically pushed through social reform, like the ban on sati by Lord William Bentinck. [27] It was now felt that traditions and customs in India were too strong and too rigid to be changed easily consequently, no more British social interventions were made, especially in matters dealing with religion, [25] even when the British felt very strongly about the issue (as in the instance of the remarriage of Hindu child widows). [28] This was exemplified further in Queen Victoria's Proclamation released immediately after the rebellion. The proclamation stated that 'We disclaim alike our Right and Desire to impose Our Convictions on any of Our Subjects' [29] demonstrating official British commitment to abstaining from social intervention in India.

Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi, one of the principal leaders of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, who earlier had lost her kingdom as a result of Lord Dalhousie's Doctrine of Lapse

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan founder of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, later the Aligarh Muslim University, wrote one of the early critiques, The Causes of the Indian Mutiny.

An 1887 souvenir portrait of Queen Victoria as Empress of India, 30 years after the war

Viceroy, Lord Canning, meets the ruler of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, Ranbir Singh, 9 March 1860. Kashmir, like Hyderabad, Mysore, and the states of the Rajputana, supported the British during the Rebellion of 1857.

1860s–1890s: Rise of the Indian National Congress

By 1880, a new middle class had arisen in India and spread thinly across the country. Moreover, there was a growing solidarity among its members, created by the "joint stimuli of encouragement and irritation". [30] The encouragement felt by this class came from its success in education and its ability to avail itself of the benefits of that education such as employment in the Indian Civil Service. It came too from Queen Victoria's proclamation of 1858 in which she had declared, "We hold ourselves bound to the natives of our Indian territories by the same obligation of duty which bind us to all our other subjects." [31] Indians were especially encouraged when Canada was granted dominion status in 1867 and established an autonomous democratic constitution. [31] Lastly, the encouragement came from the work of contemporaneous Oriental scholars like Monier Monier-Williams and Max Müller, who in their works had been presenting ancient India as a great civilisation. Irritation, on the other hand, came not just from incidents of racial discrimination at the hands of the British in India, but also from governmental actions like the use of Indian troops in imperial campaigns (e.g. in the Second Anglo-Afghan War) and the attempts to control the vernacular press (e.g. in the Vernacular Press Act of 1878). [32]

It was, however, Viceroy Lord Ripon's partial reversal of the Ilbert Bill (1883), a legislative measure that had proposed putting Indian judges in the Bengal Presidency on equal footing with British ones, that transformed the discontent into political action. [33] On 28 December 1885, professionals and intellectuals from this middle-class—many educated at the new British-founded universities in Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras, and familiar with the ideas of British political philosophers, especially the utilitarians assembled in Bombay. The seventy men founded the Indian National Congress Womesh Chunder Bonerjee was elected the first president. The membership comprised a westernised elite and no effort was made at this time to broaden the base. [ citation needed ]

During its first twenty years, the Congress primarily debated British policy toward India however, its debates created a new Indian outlook that held Great Britain responsible for draining India of its wealth. Britain did this, the nationalists claimed, by unfair trade, by the restraint on indigenous Indian industry, and by the use of Indian taxes to pay the high salaries of the British civil servants in India. [34]

Thomas Baring served as Viceroy of India 1872–1876. Baring's major accomplishments came as an energetic reformer who was dedicated to upgrading the quality of government in the British Raj. He began large scale famine relief, reduced taxes, and overcame bureaucratic obstacles in an effort to reduce both starvation and widespread social unrest. Although appointed by a Liberal government, his policies were much the same as Viceroys appointed by Conservative governments. [35]

Social reform was in the air by the 1880s. For example, Pandita Ramabai, poet, Sanskrit scholar, and a champion of the emancipation of Indian women, took up the cause of widow remarriage, especially of Brahmin widows, later converted to Christianity. [36] By 1900 reform movements had taken root within the Indian National Congress. Congress member Gopal Krishna Gokhale founded the Servants of India Society, which lobbied for legislative reform (for example, for a law to permit the remarriage of Hindu child widows), and whose members took vows of poverty, and worked among the untouchable community. [37]

By 1905, a deep gulf opened between the moderates, led by Gokhale, who downplayed public agitation, and the new "extremists" who not only advocated agitation, but also regarded the pursuit of social reform as a distraction from nationalism. Prominent among the extremists was Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who attempted to mobilise Indians by appealing to an explicitly Hindu political identity, displayed, for example, in the annual public Ganapati festivals that he inaugurated in western India. [38]

1905–1911: Partition of Bengal, rise of the Muslim League

The viceroy, Lord Curzon (1899–1905), was unusually energetic in pursuit of efficiency and reform. [39] His agenda included the creation of the North-West Frontier Province small changes in the civil services speeding up the operations of the secretariat setting up a gold standard to ensure a stable currency creation of a Railway Board irrigation reform reduction of peasant debts lowering the cost of telegrams archaeological research and the preservation of antiquities improvements in the universities police reforms upgrading the roles of the Native States a new Commerce and Industry Department promotion of industry revised land revenue policies lowering taxes setting up agricultural banks creating an Agricultural Department sponsoring agricultural research establishing an Imperial Library creating an Imperial Cadet Corps new famine codes and, indeed, reducing the smoke nuisance in Calcutta. [40]

Trouble emerged for Curzon when he divided the largest administrative subdivision in British India, the Bengal Province, into the Muslim-majority province of Eastern Bengal and Assam and the Hindu-majority province of West Bengal (present-day Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, and Odisha). Curzon's act, the Partition of Bengal, had been contemplated by various colonial administrations since the time of Lord William Bentinck, but was never acted upon. Though some considered it administratively felicitous, it was communally charged. It sowed the seeds of division among Indians in Bengal, transforming nationalist politics as nothing else before it. The Hindu elite of Bengal, among them many who owned land in East Bengal that was leased out to Muslim peasants, protested fervidly. [41]

Following the Partition of Bengal, which was a strategy set out by Lord Curzon to weaken the nationalist movement, Tilak encouraged the Swadeshi movement and the Boycott movement. [42] The movement consisted of the boycott of foreign goods and also the social boycott of any Indian who used foreign goods. The Swadeshi movement consisted of the usage of natively produced goods. Once foreign goods were boycotted, there was a gap which had to be filled by the production of those goods in India itself. Bal Gangadhar Tilak said that the Swadeshi and Boycott movements are two sides of the same coin. The large Bengali Hindu middle-class (the Bhadralok), upset at the prospect of Bengalis being outnumbered in the new Bengal province by Biharis and Oriyas, felt that Curzon's act was punishment for their political assertiveness. The pervasive protests against Curzon's decision took the form predominantly of the Swadeshi ("buy Indian") campaign led by two-time Congress president, Surendranath Banerjee, and involved boycott of British goods. [43]

The rallying cry for both types of protest was the slogan Bande Mataram ("Hail to the Mother"), which invoked a mother goddess, who stood variously for Bengal, India, and the Hindu goddess Kali. Sri Aurobindo never went beyond the law when he edited the Bande Mataram magazine it preached independence but within the bounds of peace as far as possible. Its goal was Passive Resistance. [44] The unrest spread from Calcutta to the surrounding regions of Bengal when students returned home to their villages and towns. Some joined local political youth clubs emerging in Bengal at the time, some engaged in robberies to fund arms, and even attempted to take the lives of Raj officials. However, the conspiracies generally failed in the face of intense police work. [45] The Swadeshi boycott movement cut imports of British textiles by 25%. The swadeshi cloth, although more expensive and somewhat less comfortable than its Lancashire competitor, was worn as a mark of national pride by people all over India. [46]

The Hindu protests against the partition of Bengal led the Muslim elite in India to organise in 1906 the All India Muslim League. The League favoured the partition of Bengal, since it gave them a Muslim majority in the eastern half. In 1905, when Tilak and Lajpat Rai attempted to rise to leadership positions in the Congress, and the Congress itself rallied around the symbolism of Kali, Muslim fears increased. The Muslim elite, including Dacca Nawab and Khwaja Salimullah, expected that a new province with a Muslim majority would directly benefit Muslims aspiring to political power. [47]

The first steps were taken toward self-government in British India in the late 19th century with the appointment of Indian counsellors to advise the British viceroy and the establishment of provincial councils with Indian members the British subsequently widened participation in legislative councils with the Indian Councils Act of 1892. Municipal Corporations and District Boards were created for local administration they included elected Indian members.

The Indian Councils Act 1909, known as the Morley-Minto Reforms (John Morley was the secretary of state for India, and Minto was viceroy)—gave Indians limited roles in the central and provincial legislatures. Upper class Indians, rich landowners and businessmen were favoured. The Muslim community was made a separate electorate and granted double representation. The goals were quite conservative but they did advance the elective principle. [48]

The partition of Bengal was rescinded in 1911 and announced at the Delhi Durbar at which King George V came in person and was crowned Emperor of India. He announced the capital would be moved from Calcutta to Delhi. This period saw an increase in the activities of revolutionary groups, which included Bengal's Anushilan Samiti and the Punjab's Ghadar Party. The British authorities were, however, able to crush violent rebels swiftly, in part because the mainstream of educated Indian politicians opposed violent revolution. [49]

1909 Prevailing Religions, map of British India, 1909, showing the majority religions based on the Census of 1901

Hakim Ajmal Khan, a founder of the Muslim League, became the president of the Indian National Congress in 1921.

Lord Minto, the Conservative viceroy met with the Muslim delegation in June 1906. The Minto-Morley Reforms of 1909 called for separate Muslim electorates.

1914–1918: First World War, Lucknow Pact

The First World War would prove to be a watershed in the imperial relationship between Britain and India. Shortly before the outbreak of war, the Government of India had indicated that they could furnish two divisions plus a cavalry brigade, with a further division in case of emergency. [50] Some 1.4 million Indian and British soldiers of the British Indian Army took part in the war, primarily in Iraq and the Middle East. Their participation had a wider cultural fallout as news spread of how bravely soldiers fought and died alongside British soldiers, as well as soldiers from dominions like Canada and Australia. [51] India's international profile rose during the 1920s, as it became a founding member of the League of Nations in 1920 and participated, under the name "Les Indes Anglaises" (British India), in the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp. [52] Back in India, especially among the leaders of the Indian National Congress, the war led to calls for greater self-government for Indians. [51]

At the onset of World War I, the reassignment of most of the British army in India to Europe and Mesopotamia, had led the previous viceroy, Lord Harding, to worry about the "risks involved in denuding India of troops". [51] Revolutionary violence had already been a concern in British India consequently, in 1915, to strengthen its powers during what it saw was a time of increased vulnerability, the Government of India passed the Defence of India Act 1915, which allowed it to intern politically dangerous dissidents without due process, and added to the power it already had—under the 1910 Press Act—both to imprison journalists without trial and to censor the press. [53] It was under the Defence of India act that the Ali brothers were imprisoned in 1916, and Annie Besant, a European woman, and ordinarily more problematic to imprison, was arrested in 1917. [53] Now, as constitutional reform began to be discussed in earnest, the British began to consider how new moderate Indians could be brought into the fold of constitutional politics and, simultaneously, how the hand of established constitutionalists could be strengthened. However, since the Government of India wanted to ensure against any sabotage of the reform process by extremists, and since its reform plan was devised during a time when extremist violence had ebbed as a result of increased governmental control, it also began to consider how some of its wartime powers could be extended into peacetime. [53]

After the 1906 split between the moderates and the extremists in the Indian National Congress, organised political activity by the Congress had remained fragmented until 1914, when Bal Gangadhar Tilak was released from prison and began to sound out other Congress leaders about possible reunification. That, however, had to wait until the demise of Tilak's principal moderate opponents, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Pherozeshah Mehta, in 1915, whereupon an agreement was reached for Tilak's ousted group to re-enter the Congress. [51] In the 1916 Lucknow session of the Congress, Tilak's supporters were able to push through a more radical resolution which asked for the British to declare that it was their "aim and intention . to confer self-government on India at an early date". [51] Soon, other such rumblings began to appear in public pronouncements: in 1917, in the Imperial Legislative Council, Madan Mohan Malaviya spoke of the expectations the war had generated in India, "I venture to say that the war has put the clock . fifty years forward . (The) reforms after the war will have to be such, . as will satisfy the aspirations of her (India's) people to take their legitimate part in the administration of their own country." [51]

The 1916 Lucknow Session of the Congress was also the venue of an unanticipated mutual effort by the Congress and the Muslim League, the occasion for which was provided by the wartime partnership between Germany and Turkey. Since the Turkish Sultan, or Khalifah, had also sporadically claimed guardianship of the Islamic holy sites of Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem, and since the British and their allies were now in conflict with Turkey, doubts began to increase among some Indian Muslims about the "religious neutrality" of the British, doubts that had already surfaced as a result of the reunification of Bengal in 1911, a decision that was seen as ill-disposed to Muslims. [54] In the Lucknow Pact, the League joined the Congress in the proposal for greater self-government that was campaigned for by Tilak and his supporters in return, the Congress accepted separate electorates for Muslims in the provincial legislatures as well as the Imperial Legislative Council. In 1916, the Muslim League had anywhere between 500 and 800 members and did not yet have the wider following among Indian Muslims that it enjoyed in later years in the League itself, the pact did not have unanimous backing, having largely been negotiated by a group of "Young Party" Muslims from the United Provinces (UP), most prominently, two brothers Mohammad and Shaukat Ali, who had embraced the Pan-Islamic cause [54] however, it did have the support of a young lawyer from Bombay, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was later to rise to leadership roles in both the League and the Indian independence movement. In later years, as the full ramifications of the pact unfolded, it was seen as benefiting the Muslim minority élites of provinces like UP and Bihar more than the Muslim majorities of Punjab and Bengal nonetheless, at the time, the "Lucknow Pact" was an important milestone in nationalistic agitation and was seen as such by the British. [54]

During 1916, two Home Rule Leagues were founded within the Indian National Congress by Tilak and Annie Besant, respectively, to promote Home Rule among Indians, and also to elevate the stature of the founders within the Congress itself. [55] Besant, for her part, was also keen to demonstrate the superiority of this new form of organised agitation, which had achieved some success in the Irish home rule movement, over the political violence that had intermittently plagued the subcontinent during the years 1907–1914. [55] The two Leagues focused their attention on complementary geographical regions: Tilak's in western India, in the southern Bombay presidency, and Besant's in the rest of the country, but especially in the Madras Presidency and in regions like Sind and Gujarat that had hitherto been considered politically dormant by the Congress. [55] Both leagues rapidly acquired new members—approximately thirty thousand each in a little over a year—and began to publish inexpensive newspapers. Their propaganda also turned to posters, pamphlets, and political-religious songs, and later to mass meetings, which not only attracted greater numbers than in earlier Congress sessions, but also entirely new social groups such as non-Brahmins, traders, farmers, students, and lower-level government workers. [55] Although they did not achieve the magnitude or character of a nationwide mass movement, the Home Rule leagues both deepened and widened organised political agitation for self-rule in India. The British authorities reacted by imposing restrictions on the Leagues, including shutting out students from meetings and banning the two leaders from travelling to certain provinces. [55]

1915–1918: Return of Gandhi

The year 1915 also saw the return of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to India. Already known in India as a result of his civil liberties protests on behalf of the Indians in South Africa, Gandhi followed the advice of his mentor Gopal Krishna Gokhale and chose not to make any public pronouncements during the first year of his return, but instead spent the year travelling, observing the country at first hand, and writing. [56] Earlier, during his South Africa sojourn, Gandhi, a lawyer by profession, had represented an Indian community, which, although small, was sufficiently diverse to be a microcosm of India itself. In tackling the challenge of holding this community together and simultaneously confronting the colonial authority, he had created a technique of non-violent resistance, which he labelled Satyagraha (or Striving for Truth). [57] For Gandhi, Satyagraha was different from "passive resistance", by then a familiar technique of social protest, which he regarded as a practical strategy adopted by the weak in the face of superior force Satyagraha, on the other hand, was for him the "last resort of those strong enough in their commitment to truth to undergo suffering in its cause". [57] Ahimsa or "non-violence", which formed the underpinning of Satyagraha, came to represent the twin pillar, with Truth, of Gandhi's unorthodox religious outlook on life. [57] During the years 1907–1914, Gandhi tested the technique of Satyagraha in a number of protests on behalf of the Indian community in South Africa against the unjust racial laws. [57]

Also, during his time in South Africa, in his essay, Hind Swaraj, (1909), Gandhi formulated his vision of Swaraj, or "self-rule" for India based on three vital ingredients: solidarity between Indians of different faiths, but most of all between Hindus and Muslims the removal of untouchability from Indian society and the exercise of swadeshi—the boycott of manufactured foreign goods and the revival of Indian cottage industry. [56] The first two, he felt, were essential for India to be an egalitarian and tolerant society, one befitting the principles of Truth and Ahimsa, while the last, by making Indians more self-reliant, would break the cycle of dependence that was perpetuating not only the direction and tenor of the British rule in India, but also the British commitment to it. [56] At least until 1920, the British presence itself was not a stumbling block in Gandhi's conception of swaraj rather, it was the inability of Indians to create a modern society. [56]

Gandhi made his political debut in India in 1917 in Champaran district in Bihar, near the Nepal border, where he was invited by a group of disgruntled tenant farmers who, for many years, had been forced into planting indigo (for dyes) on a portion of their land and then selling it at below-market prices to the British planters who had leased them the land. [58] Upon his arrival in the district, Gandhi was joined by other agitators, including a young Congress leader, Rajendra Prasad, from Bihar, who would become a loyal supporter of Gandhi and go on to play a prominent role in the Indian independence movement. When Gandhi was ordered to leave by the local British authorities, he refused on moral grounds, setting up his refusal as a form of individual Satyagraha. Soon, under pressure from the Viceroy in Delhi who was anxious to maintain domestic peace during wartime, the provincial government rescinded Gandhi's expulsion order, and later agreed to an official enquiry into the case. Although the British planters eventually gave in, they were not won over to the farmers' cause, and thereby did not produce the optimal outcome of a Satyagraha that Gandhi had hoped for similarly, the farmers themselves, although pleased at the resolution, responded less than enthusiastically to the concurrent projects of rural empowerment and education that Gandhi had inaugurated in keeping with his ideal of swaraj. The following year Gandhi launched two more Satyagrahas—both in his native Gujarat—one in the rural Kaira district where land-owning farmers were protesting increased land-revenue and the other in the city of Ahmedabad, where workers in an Indian-owned textile mill were distressed about their low wages. The satyagraha in Ahmedabad took the form of Gandhi fasting and supporting the workers in a strike, which eventually led to a settlement. In Kaira, in contrast, although the farmers' cause received publicity from Gandhi's presence, the satyagraha itself, which consisted of the farmers' collective decision to withhold payment, was not immediately successful, as the British authorities refused to back down. The agitation in Kaira gained for Gandhi another lifelong lieutenant in Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who had organised the farmers, and who too would go on to play a leadership role in the Indian independence movement. [59] Champaran, Kaira, and Ahmedabad were important milestones in the history of Gandhi's new methods of social protest in India.

1916–1919: Montagu-Chelmsford reforms

In 1916, in the face of new strength demonstrated by the nationalists with the signing of the Lucknow Pact and the founding of the Home Rule leagues, and the realisation, after the disaster in the Mesopotamian campaign, that the war would likely last longer, the new viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, cautioned that the Government of India needed to be more responsive to Indian opinion. [60] Towards the end of the year, after discussions with the government in London, he suggested that the British demonstrate their good faith—in light of the Indian war role—through a number of public actions, including awards of titles and honours to princes, granting of commissions in the army to Indians, and removal of the much-reviled cotton excise duty, but, most importantly, an announcement of Britain's future plans for India and an indication of some concrete steps. After more discussion, in August 1917, the new Liberal secretary of state for India, Edwin Montagu, announced the British aim of "increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration, and the gradual development of self-governing institutions, with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire". [60] Although the plan envisioned limited self-government at first only in the provinces—with India emphatically within the British Empire—it represented the first British proposal for any form of representative government in a non-white colony.

Montagu and Chelmsford presented their report in July 1918 after a long fact-finding trip through India the previous winter. [61] After more discussion by the government and parliament in Britain, and another tour by the Franchise and Functions Committee for the purpose of identifying who among the Indian population could vote in future elections, the Government of India Act 1919 (also known as the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms) was passed in December 1919. [61] The new Act enlarged both the provincial and Imperial legislative councils and repealed the Government of India's recourse to the "official majority" in unfavourable votes. [61] Although departments like defence, foreign affairs, criminal law, communications, and income-tax were retained by the Viceroy and the central government in New Delhi, other departments like public health, education, land-revenue, local self-government were transferred to the provinces. [61] The provinces themselves were now to be administered under a new diarchical system, whereby some areas like education, agriculture, infrastructure development, and local self-government became the preserve of Indian ministers and legislatures, and ultimately the Indian electorates, while others like irrigation, land-revenue, police, prisons, and control of media remained within the purview of the British governor and his executive council. [61] The new Act also made it easier for Indians to be admitted into the civil services and the army officer corps.

A greater number of Indians were now enfranchised, although, for voting at the national level, they constituted only 10% of the total adult male population, many of whom were still illiterate. [61] In the provincial legislatures, the British continued to exercise some control by setting aside seats for special interests they considered cooperative or useful. In particular, rural candidates, generally sympathetic to British rule and less confrontational, were assigned more seats than their urban counterparts. [61] Seats were also reserved for non-Brahmins, landowners, businessmen, and college graduates. The principal of "communal representation", an integral part of the Minto-Morley Reforms, and more recently of the Congress-Muslim League Lucknow Pact, was reaffirmed, with seats being reserved for Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, and domiciled Europeans, in both provincial and Imperial legislative councils. [61] The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms offered Indians the most significant opportunity yet for exercising legislative power, especially at the provincial level however, that opportunity was also restricted by the still limited number of eligible voters, by the small budgets available to provincial legislatures, and by the presence of rural and special interest seats that were seen as instruments of British control. [61] Its scope was unsatisfactory to the Indian political leadership, famously expressed by Annie Besant as something "unworthy of England to offer and India to accept". [62]

1917–1919: Rowlatt Act

In 1917, as Montagu and Chelmsford were compiling their report, a committee chaired by a British judge, Sidney Rowlatt, was tasked with investigating "revolutionary conspiracies", with the unstated goal of extending the government's wartime powers. [60] The Rowlatt Committee presented its report in July 1918 and identified three regions of conspiratorial insurgency: Bengal, the Bombay presidency, and the Punjab. [60] To combat subversive acts in these regions, the committee recommended that the government use emergency powers akin to its wartime authority, which included the ability to try cases of sedition by a panel of three judges and without juries, exaction of securities from suspects, governmental overseeing of residences of suspects, [60] and the power for provincial governments to arrest and detain suspects in short-term detention facilities and without trial. [63]

With the end of World War I, there was also a change in the economic climate. By the end of 1919, 1.5 million Indians had served in the armed services in either combatant or non-combatant roles, and India had provided £146 million in revenue for the war. [64] The increased taxes coupled with disruptions in both domestic and international trade had the effect of approximately doubling the index of overall prices in India between 1914 and 1920. [64] Returning war veterans, especially in the Punjab, created a growing unemployment crisis, [65] and post-war inflation led to food riots in Bombay, Madras, and Bengal provinces, [65] a situation that was made only worse by the failure of the 1918–19 monsoon and by profiteering and speculation. [64] The global influenza epidemic and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 added to the general jitters the former among the population already experiencing economic woes, [65] and the latter among government officials, fearing a similar revolution in India. [66]

To combat what it saw as a coming crisis, the government now drafted the Rowlatt committee's recommendations into two Rowlatt Bills. [63] Although the bills were authorised for legislative consideration by Edwin Montagu, they were done so unwillingly, with the accompanying declaration, "I loathe the suggestion at first sight of preserving the Defence of India Act in peacetime to such an extent as Rowlatt and his friends think necessary." [60] In the ensuing discussion and vote in the Imperial Legislative Council, all Indian members voiced opposition to the bills. The Government of India was, nevertheless, able to use of its "official majority" to ensure passage of the bills early in 1919. [60] However, what it passed, in deference to the Indian opposition, was a lesser version of the first bill, which now allowed extrajudicial powers, but for a period of exactly three years and for the prosecution solely of "anarchical and revolutionary movements", dropping entirely the second bill involving modification the Indian Penal Code. [60] Even so, when it was passed, the new Rowlatt Act aroused widespread indignation throughout India, and brought Gandhi to the forefront of the nationalist movement. [63]

1919–1939: Jallianwala Bagh, non-cooperation, Government of India Act

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre or "Amritsar massacre", took place in the Jallianwala Bagh public garden in the predominantly Sikh northern city of Amritsar. After days of unrest Brigadier-General Reginald E.H. Dyer forbade public meetings and on Sunday 13 April 1919 fifty British Indian Army soldiers commanded by Dyer began shooting at an unarmed gathering of thousands of men, women, and children without warning. Casualty estimates vary widely, with the Government of India reporting 379 dead, with 1,100 wounded. [67] The Indian National Congress estimated three times the number of dead. Dyer was removed from duty but he became a celebrated hero in Britain among people with connections to the Raj. [68] Historians consider the episode was a decisive step towards the end of British rule in India. [69]

In 1920, after the British government refused to back down, Gandhi began his campaign of non-cooperation, prompting many Indians to return British awards and honours, to resign from the civil services, and to again boycott British goods. In addition, Gandhi reorganised the Congress, transforming it into a mass movement and opening its membership to even the poorest Indians. Although Gandhi halted the non-cooperation movement in 1922 after the violent incident at Chauri Chaura, the movement revived again, in the mid-1920s.

The visit, in 1928, of the British Simon Commission, charged with instituting constitutional reform in India, resulted in widespread protests throughout the country. [70] Earlier, in 1925, non-violent protests of the Congress had resumed too, this time in Gujarat, and led by Patel, who organised farmers to refuse payment of increased land taxes the success of this protest, the Bardoli Satyagraha, brought Gandhi back into the fold of active politics. [70]

Mahatma Gandhi with Annie Besant en route to a meeting in Madras in September 1921. Earlier, in Madurai, on 21 September 1921, Gandhi had adopted the loin-cloth for the first time as a symbol of his identification with India's poor.

An early 1920s poster advertising a Congress non-co-operation "Public Meeting" and a "Bonfire of Foreign Clothes" in Bombay, and expressing support for the "Karachi Khilafat Conference"

Hindus and Muslims, displaying the flags of both the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, collecting clothes to be later burnt as a part of the non-cooperation movement initiated by Gandhi

Photograph of the staff and students of the National College, Lahore, founded in 1921 by Lala Lajpat Rai for students preparing for the non-co-operation movement. Standing, fourth from the right, is future revolutionary Bhagat Singh.

At its annual session in Lahore, the Indian National Congress, under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru, issued a demand for Purna Swaraj (Hindustani language: "complete independence"), or Purna Swarajya. The declaration was drafted by the Congress Working Committee, which included Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, and Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari. Gandhi subsequently led an expanded movement of civil disobedience, culminating in 1930 with the Salt Satyagraha, in which thousands of Indians defied the tax on salt, by marching to the sea and making their own salt by evaporating seawater. Although, many, including Gandhi, were arrested, the British government eventually gave in, and in 1931 Gandhi travelled to London to negotiate new reform at the Round Table Conferences.

In local terms, British control rested on the Indian Civil Service (ICS), but it faced growing difficulties. Fewer and fewer young men in Britain were interested in joining, and the continuing distrust of Indians resulted in a declining base in terms of quality and quantity. By 1945 Indians were numerically dominant in the ICS and at issue was loyal divided between the Empire and independence. [71] The finances of the Raj depended on land taxes, and these became problematic in the 1930s. Epstein argues that after 1919 it became harder and harder to collect the land revenue. The Raj's suppression of civil disobedience after 1934 temporarily increased the power of the revenue agents but after 1937 they were forced by the new Congress-controlled provincial governments to hand back confiscated land. Again the outbreak of war strengthened them, in the face of the Quit India movement the revenue collectors had to rely on military force and by 1946–47 direct British control was rapidly disappearing in much of the countryside. [72]

In 1935, after the Round Table Conferences, Parliament passed the Government of India Act 1935, which authorised the establishment of independent legislative assemblies in all provinces of British India, the creation of a central government incorporating both the British provinces and the princely states, and the protection of Muslim minorities. The future Constitution of independent India was based on this act. [73] However, it divided the electorate into 19 religious and social categories, e.g., Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Depressed Classes, Landholders, Commerce and Industry, Europeans, Anglo-Indians, etc., each of which was given separate representation in the Provincial Legislative Assemblies. A voter could cast a vote only for candidates in his own category.

The 1935 Act provided for more autonomy for Indian provinces, with the goal of cooling off nationalist sentiment. The act provided for a national parliament and an executive branch under the purview of the British government, but the rulers of the princely states managed to block its implementation. These states remained under the full control of their hereditary rulers, with no popular government. To prepare for elections Congress built up its grass roots membership from 473,000 in 1935 to 4.5 million in 1939. [74]

In the 1937 elections Congress won victories in seven of the eleven provinces of British India. [75] Congress governments, with wide powers, were formed in these provinces. The widespread voter support for the Indian National Congress surprised Raj officials, who previously had seen the Congress as a small elitist body. [76]

British prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald, three places to the right of Gandhi (to the viewer's left) at the 2nd Round Table Conference. Samuel Hoare is two places to Gandhi's right. Foreground, fourth from left, is B. R. Ambedkar representing the "Depressed Classes"

A second-day cancellation of the series "Inauguration of New Delhi", 27 February 1931, commemorating the new city designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker

A first-day cover issued on 1 April 1937 commemorating the separation of Burma from the British Indian Empire

1939–1945: World War II

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, declared war on India's behalf without consulting Indian leaders, leading the Congress provincial ministries to resign in protest. The Muslim League, in contrast, supported Britain in the war effort and maintained its control of the government in three major provinces, Bengal, Sind and the Punjab. [77]

While the Muslim League had been a small elite group in 1927 with only 1300 members, it grew rapidly once it became an organisation that reached out to the masses, reaching 500,000 members in Bengal in 1944, 200,000 in Punjab, and hundreds of thousands elsewhere. [78] Jinnah now was well positioned to negotiate with the British from a position of power. [79] Jinnah repeatedly warned that Muslims would be unfairly treated in an independent India dominated by the Congress. On 24 March 1940 in Lahore, the League passed the "Lahore Resolution", demanding that, "the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign." [80] Although there were other important national Muslim politicians such as Congress leader Ab'ul Kalam Azad, and influential regional Muslim politicians such as A. K. Fazlul Huq of the leftist Krishak Praja Party in Bengal, Fazl-i-Hussain of the landlord-dominated Punjab Unionist Party, and Abd al-Ghaffar Khan of the pro-Congress Khudai Khidmatgar (popularly, "red shirts") in the North West Frontier Province, [81] the British, over the next six years, were to increasingly see the League as the main representative of Muslim India.

The Congress was secular and strongly opposed to having any religious state. [78] It insisted there was a natural unity to India, and repeatedly blamed the British for "divide and rule" tactics based on prompting Muslims to think of themselves as alien from Hindus. [ citation needed ] Jinnah rejected the notion of a united India, and emphasised that religious communities were more basic than an artificial nationalism. He proclaimed the Two-Nation Theory, [82] stating at Lahore on 23 March 1940:

[Islam and Hinduism] are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are, in fact, different and distinct social orders and it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality . The Hindu and Muslim belong to two different religions, philosophies, social customs and literature [sic]. They neither intermarry nor interdine together and indeed they belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. Their aspects on life and of life are different . To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the government of such a state. [83]

While the regular Indian army in 1939 included about 220,000 native troops, it expanded tenfold during the war, [84] and small naval and air force units were created. Over two million Indians volunteered for military service in the British Army. They played a major role in numerous campaigns, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. Casualties were moderate (in terms of the world war), with 24,000 killed 64,000 wounded 12,000 missing (probably dead), and 60,000 captured at Singapore in 1942. [85]

London paid most of the cost of the Indian Army, which had the effect of erasing India's national debt it ended the war with a surplus of £1,300 million. In addition, heavy British spending on munitions produced in India (such as uniforms, rifles, machine-guns, field artillery, and ammunition) led to a rapid expansion of industrial output, such as textiles (up 16%), steel (up 18%), and chemicals (up 30%). Small warships were built, and an aircraft factory opened in Bangalore. The railway system, with 700,000 employees, was taxed to the limit as demand for transportation soared. [86]

The British government sent the Cripps mission in 1942 to secure Indian nationalists' co-operation in the war effort in exchange for a promise of independence as soon as the war ended. Top officials in Britain, most notably Prime Minister Winston Churchill, did not support the Cripps Mission and negotiations with the Congress soon broke down. [87]

Congress launched the Quit India Movement in July 1942 demanding the immediate withdrawal of the British from India or face nationwide civil disobedience. On 8 August the Raj arrested all national, provincial and local Congress leaders, holding tens of thousands of them until 1945. The country erupted in violent demonstrations led by students and later by peasant political groups, especially in Eastern United Provinces, Bihar, and western Bengal. The large wartime British Army presence crushed the movement in a little more than six weeks [88] nonetheless, a portion of the movement formed for a time an underground provisional government on the border with Nepal. [88] In other parts of India, the movement was less spontaneous and the protest less intensive, however it lasted sporadically into the summer of 1943. It did not slow down the British war effort or recruiting for the army. [89]

Earlier, Subhas Chandra Bose, who had been a leader of the younger, radical, wing of the Indian National Congress in the late 1920s and 1930s, had risen to become Congress President from 1938 to 1939. [90] However, he was ousted from the Congress in 1939 following differences with the high command, [91] and subsequently placed under house arrest by the British before escaping from India in early 1941. [92] He turned to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan for help in gaining India's independence by force. [93] With Japanese support, he organised the Indian National Army, composed largely of Indian soldiers of the British Indian Army who had been captured by the Japanese in the Battle of Singapore. As the war turned against them, the Japanese came to support a number of puppet and provisional governments in the captured regions, including those in Burma, the Philippines and Vietnam, and in addition, the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, presided by Bose. [93]

Bose's effort, however, was short lived. In mid-1944 the British Army first halted and then reversed the Japanese U-Go offensive, beginning the successful part of the Burma Campaign. Bose's Indian National Army largely disintegrated during the subsequent fighting in Burma, with its remaining elements surrendering with the recapture of Singapore in September 1945. Bose died in August from third degree burns received after attempting to escape in an overloaded Japanese plane which crashed in Taiwan, [94] which many Indians believe did not happen. [95] [96] [97] Although Bose was unsuccessful, he roused patriotic feelings in India. [98]

Mahatma Gandhi (centre-right) and Rajendra Prasad (centre-left) on their way to meet the viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, on 13 October 1939, after the outbreak of World War II

Chaudhari Khaliquzzaman (left) seconding the 1940 Lahore Resolution of the Muslim League with Jinnah (right) presiding, and Liaquat Ali Khan (centre)

Newly arrived Indian troops on the quayside in Singapore, November 1941

Indian Army troops in action during Operation Crusader in the Western Desert Campaign in North Africa in November/December 1941

1946–1947: Independence, Partition

In January 1946, a number of mutinies broke out in the armed services, starting with that of RAF servicemen frustrated with their slow repatriation to Britain. [99] The mutinies came to a head with mutiny of the Royal Indian Navy in Bombay in February 1946, followed by others in Calcutta, Madras, and Karachi. Although the mutinies were rapidly suppressed, they had the effect of spurring the new Labour government in Britain to action, and leading to the Cabinet Mission to India led by the secretary of state for India, Lord Pethick Lawrence, and including Sir Stafford Cripps, who had visited four years before. [99]

Also in early 1946, new elections were called in India. Earlier, at the end of the war in 1945, the colonial government had announced the public trial of three senior officers of Bose's defeated Indian National Army who stood accused of treason. Now as the trials began, the Congress leadership, although ambivalent towards the INA, chose to defend the accused officers. [100] The subsequent convictions of the officers, the public outcry against the convictions, and the eventual remission of the sentences, created positive propaganda for the Congress, which only helped in the party's subsequent electoral victories in eight of the eleven provinces. [101] The negotiations between the Congress and the Muslim League, however, stumbled over the issue of the partition. Jinnah proclaimed 16 August 1946, Direct Action Day, with the stated goal of highlighting, peacefully, the demand for a Muslim homeland in British India. The following day Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Calcutta and quickly spread throughout British India. Although the Government of India and the Congress were both shaken by the course of events, in September, a Congress-led interim government was installed, with Jawaharlal Nehru as united India's prime minister. [102]

Later that year, the British Exchequer exhausted by the recently concluded World War II, and the Labour government conscious that it had neither the mandate at home, the international support, nor the reliability of native forces for continuing to control an increasingly restless British India, [103] [104] decided to end British rule of India, and in early 1947 Britain announced its intention of transferring power no later than June 1948. [77]

As independence approached, the violence between Hindus and Muslims in the provinces of Punjab and Bengal continued unabated. With the British army unprepared for the potential for increased violence, the new viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, advanced the date for the transfer of power, allowing less than six months for a mutually agreed plan for independence. [105] In June 1947, the nationalist leaders, including Sardar Patel, Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad on behalf of the Congress, Jinnah representing the Muslim League, B. R. Ambedkar representing the Untouchable community, and Master Tara Singh representing the Sikhs, agreed to a partition of the country along religious lines in stark opposition to Gandhi's views. [77] The predominantly Hindu and Sikh areas were assigned to the new nation of India and predominantly Muslim areas to the new nation of Pakistan the plan included a partition of the Muslim-majority provinces of Punjab and Bengal. [106]

On 15 August 1947, the new Dominion of Pakistan (later Islamic Republic of Pakistan), with Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the governor-general and the Dominion of India, (later Republic of India) with Jawaharlal Nehru as the prime minister, and the viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, staying on as its first governor-general came into being with official ceremonies taking place in Karachi on 14 August and New Delhi on 15 August. This was done so that Mountbatten could attend both ceremonies. [107]

The great majority of Indians remained in place with independence, but in border areas millions of people (Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu) relocated across the newly drawn borders. In Punjab, where the new border lines divided the Sikh regions in half, there was much bloodshed in Bengal and Bihar, where Gandhi's presence assuaged communal tempers, the violence was more limited. In all, somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 people on both sides of the new borders, among both the refugee and resident populations of the three faiths, died in the violence. [108] Other estimates of the number of deaths are as high as 1,500,000. [109]

Timeline of major events, legislation, public works

    The reigning British monarchs during the period of the British Raj, 1858–1947, in silver one-rupee coins.

Two silver one rupee coins used in India during the British Raj, showing Victoria, Queen, 1862 (left) and Victoria, Empress, 1886 (right)

Silver one rupee coins showing Edward VII, King-Emperor, 1903 (left) and 1908 (right)

Silver one rupee coins used in India during the British Raj, showing George V, King-Emperor, 1913 (left) and 1919 (right)

One rupee coins showing George VI, King-Emperor, 1940 (left) and just before India's independence in 1947 (right) [b]

India during the British Raj was made up of two types of territory: British India and the Native States (or Princely States). [121] In its Interpretation Act 1889, the British Parliament adopted the following definitions in Section 18:

(4.) The expression "British India" shall mean all territories and places within Her Majesty's dominions which are for the time being governed by Her Majesty through the Governor-General of India or through any governor or other officer subordinates to the Governor-General of India.

(5.) The expression "India" shall mean British India together with any territories of any native prince or chief under the suzerainty of Her Majesty exercised through the Governor-General of India, or through any governor or other officer subordinates to the Governor-General of India. [1]

In general, the term "British India" had been used (and is still used) to refer also to the regions under the rule of the British East India Company in India from 1600 to 1858. [122] The term has also been used to refer to the "British in India". [123]

The terms "Indian Empire" and "Empire of India" (like the term "British Empire") were not used in legislation. The monarch was officially known as Empress or Emperor of India and the term was often used in Queen Victoria's Queen's Speeches and Prorogation Speeches. In addition, an order of knighthood, the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire, was set up in 1878.

Suzerainty over 175 princely states, some of the largest and most important, was exercised (in the name of the British Crown) by the central government of British India under the viceroy the remaining approximately 500 states were dependents of the provincial governments of British India under a governor, lieutenant-governor, or chief commissioner (as the case might have been). [124] A clear distinction between "dominion" and "suzerainty" was supplied by the jurisdiction of the courts of law: the law of British India rested upon the laws passed by the British Parliament and the legislative powers those laws vested in the various governments of British India, both central and local in contrast, the courts of the Princely States existed under the authority of the respective rulers of those states. [124]

Major provinces

At the turn of the 20th century, British India consisted of eight provinces that were administered either by a governor or a lieutenant-governor.

Areas and populations (excluding the dependent Native States) c. 1907 [125]
Province of British India
(and present-day territories)
Total area in km 2
(sq mi)
Population in 1901
(millions)
Chief administrative
officer
Assam
(Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland)
130,000
(50,000)
6 Chief Commissioner
Bengal
(Bangladesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha)
390,000
(150,000)
75 Lieutenant-Governor
Bombay
(Sindh and parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka)
320,000
(120,000)
19 Governor-in-Council
Burma
(Myanmar)
440,000
(170,000)
9 Lieutenant-Governor
Central Provinces and Berar
(Madhya Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha)
270,000
(100,000)
13 Chief Commissioner
Madras
(Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and parts of Kerala, Karnataka, Odisha and Telangana)
370,000
(140,000)
38 Governor-in-Council
Punjab
(Punjab Province, Islamabad Capital Territory, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and the National Capital Territory of Delhi)
250,000
(97,000)
20 Lieutenant-Governor
United Provinces
(Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand)
280,000
(110,000)
48 Lieutenant-Governor

During the partition of Bengal (1905–1913), the new provinces of Assam and East Bengal were created as a Lieutenant-Governorship. In 1911, East Bengal was reunited with Bengal, and the new provinces in the east became: Assam, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. [125]

Minor provinces

In addition, there were a few minor provinces that were administered by a chief commissioner: [126]

Minor province of British India
(and present day territories)
Total area in km 2
(sq mi)
Population in 1901
(in thousands)
Chief administrative
officer
Ajmer-Merwara
(parts of Rajasthan)
7,000
(2,700)
477 ex officio Chief Commissioner
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
(Andaman and Nicobar Islands)
78,000
(30,000)
25 Chief Commissioner
British Baluchistan
(Balochistan)
120,000
(46,000)
308 ex officio Chief Commissioner
Coorg Province
(Kodagu district)
4,100
(1,600)
181 ex officio Chief Commissioner
North West Frontier Province
(Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
41,000
(16,000)
2,125 Chief Commissioner

Princely states

A Princely State, also called a Native State or an Indian State, was a British vassal state in India with an indigenous nominal Indian ruler, subject to a subsidiary alliance. [127] There were 565 princely states when India and Pakistan became independent from Britain in August 1947. The princely states did not form a part of British India (i.e. the presidencies and provinces), as they were not directly under British rule. The larger ones had treaties with Britain that specified which rights the princes had in the smaller ones the princes had few rights. Within the princely states external affairs, defence and most communications were under British control. [ citation needed ] The British also exercised a general influence over the states' internal politics, in part through the granting or withholding of recognition of individual rulers. Although there were nearly 600 princely states, the great majority were very small and contracted out the business of government to the British. Some two hundred of the states had an area of less than 25 square kilometres (10 square miles). [127]

The states were grouped into agencies and residencies.

Organisation

Following the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (usually called the Indian Mutiny by the British), the Government of India Act 1858 made changes in the governance of India at three levels:

  1. in the imperial government in London,
  2. in the central government in Calcutta, and
  3. in the provincial governments in the presidencies (and later in the provinces). [128]

In London, it provided for a cabinet-level Secretary of State for India and a fifteen-member Council of India, whose members were required, as one prerequisite of membership, to have spent at least ten years in India and to have done so no more than ten years before. [129] Although the secretary of state formulated the policy instructions to be communicated to India, he was required in most instances to consult the Council, but especially so in matters relating to spending of Indian revenues. The Act envisaged a system of "double government" in which the Council ideally served both as a check on excesses in imperial policy-making and as a body of up-to-date expertise on India. However, the secretary of state also had special emergency powers that allowed him to make unilateral decisions, and, in reality, the Council's expertise was sometimes outdated. [130] From 1858 until 1947, twenty-seven individuals served as Secretary of State for India and directed the India Office these included: Sir Charles Wood (1859–1866), the Marquess of Salisbury (1874–1878 later British prime minister), John Morley (1905–1910 initiator of the Minto–Morley Reforms), E. S. Montagu (1917–1922 an architect of the Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms), and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence (1945–1947 head of the 1946 Cabinet Mission to India). The size of the Advisory Council was reduced over the next half-century, but its powers remained unchanged. In 1907, for the first time, two Indians were appointed to the Council. [131] They were K.G. Gupta and Syed Hussain Bilgrami.

In Calcutta, the governor-general remained head of the Government of India and now was more commonly called the viceroy on account of his secondary role as the Crown's representative to the nominally sovereign princely states he was, however, now responsible to the secretary of state in London and through him to Parliament. A system of "double government" had already been in place during the Company's rule in India from the time of Pitt's India Act of 1784. The governor-general in the capital, Calcutta, and the governor in a subordinate presidency (Madras or Bombay) was each required to consult his advisory council executive orders in Calcutta, for example, were issued in the name of "Governor-General-in-Council" (i.e. the Governor-General with the advice of the Council). The Company's system of "double government" had its critics, since, from the time of the system's inception, there had been intermittent feuding between the governor-general and his Council still, the Act of 1858 made no major changes in governance. [131] However, in the years immediately thereafter, which were also the years of post-rebellion reconstruction, Viceroy Lord Canning found the collective decision making of the Council to be too time-consuming for the pressing tasks ahead, so he requested the "portfolio system" of an Executive Council in which the business of each government department (the "portfolio") was assigned to and became the responsibility of a single council member. [131] Routine departmental decisions were made exclusively by the member, but important decisions required the consent of the governor-general and, in the absence of such consent, required discussion by the entire Executive Council. This innovation in Indian governance was promulgated in the Indian Councils Act 1861.

If the Government of India needed to enact new laws, the Councils Act allowed for a Legislative Council—an expansion of the Executive Council by up to twelve additional members, each appointed to a two-year term—with half the members consisting of British officials of the government (termed official) and allowed to vote, and the other half, comprising Indians and domiciled Britons in India (termed non-official) and serving only in an advisory capacity. [132] All laws enacted by Legislative Councils in India, whether by the Imperial Legislative Council in Calcutta or by the provincial ones in Madras and Bombay, required the final assent of the secretary of state in London this prompted Sir Charles Wood, the second secretary of state, to describe the Government of India as "a despotism controlled from home". [131] Moreover, although the appointment of Indians to the Legislative Council was a response to calls after the 1857 rebellion, most notably by Sayyid Ahmad Khan, for more consultation with Indians, the Indians so appointed were from the landed aristocracy, often chosen for their loyalty, and far from representative. [133] Even so, the ". tiny advances in the practice of representative government were intended to provide safety valves for the expression of public opinion, which had been so badly misjudged before the rebellion". [134] Indian affairs now also came to be more closely examined in the British Parliament and more widely discussed in the British press. [135]

With the promulgation of the Government of India Act 1935, the Council of India was abolished with effect from 1 April 1937 and a modified system of government enacted. The secretary of state for India represented the Government of India in the UK. He was assisted by a body of advisers numbering from 8–12 individuals, at least half of whom were required to have held office in India for a minimum of 10 years, and had not relinquished office earlier than two years prior to their appointment as advisers to the secretary of state. [136]

The viceroy and governor-general of India, a Crown appointee, typically held office for five years though there was no fixed tenure, and received an annual salary of Rs. 2,50,800 p.a. (£18,810 p.a.). [136] [137] He headed the Viceroy's Executive Council, each member of which had responsibility for a department of the central administration. From 1 April 1937, the position of Governor-General in Council, which the viceroy and governor-general concurrently held in the capacity of representing the Crown in relations with the Indian princely states, was replaced by the designation of "HM Representative for the Exercise of the Functions of the Crown in its Relations with the Indian States", or the "Crown Representative". The Executive Council was greatly expanded during the Second World War, and in 1947 comprised 14 members (secretaries), each of whom earned a salary of Rs. 66,000 p.a. (£4,950 p.a.). The portfolios in 1946–1947 were:

  • External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations
  • Home and Information and Broadcasting
  • Food and transportation
  • Transport and Railways
  • Labour
  • Industries and Supplies
  • Works, Mines and Power
  • Education
  • Defence
  • Finance
  • Commerce
  • Communications
  • Health
  • Law

Until 1946, the viceroy held the portfolio for External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations, as well as heading the Political Department in his capacity as the Crown representative. Each department was headed by a secretary excepting the Railway Department, which was headed by a Chief Commissioner of Railways under a secretary. [138]

The viceroy and governor-general was also the head of the bicameral Indian Legislature, consisting of an upper house (the Council of State) and a lower house (the Legislative Assembly). The viceroy was the head of the Council of State, while the Legislative Assembly, which was first opened in 1921, was headed by an elected president (appointed by the Viceroy from 1921–1925). The Council of State consisted of 58 members (32 elected, 26 nominated), while the Legislative Assembly comprised 141 members (26 nominated officials, 13 others nominated and 102 elected). The Council of State existed in five-year periods and the Legislative Assembly for three-year periods, though either could be dissolved earlier or later by the Viceroy. The Indian Legislature was empowered to make laws for all persons resident in British India including all British subjects resident in India, and for all British Indian subjects residing outside India. With the assent of the King-Emperor and after copies of a proposed enactment had been submitted to both houses of the British Parliament, the Viceroy could overrule the legislature and directly enact any measures in the perceived interests of British India or its residents if the need arose. [139]

Effective from 1 April 1936, the Government of India Act created the new provinces of Sind (separated from the Bombay Presidency) and Orissa (separated from the Province of Bihar and Orissa). Burma and Aden became separate Crown Colonies under the Act from 1 April 1937, thereby ceasing to be part of the Indian Empire. From 1937 onwards, British India was divided into 17 administrations: the three Presidencies of Madras, Bombay and Bengal, and the 14 provinces of the United Provinces, Punjab, Bihar, the Central Provinces and Berar, Assam, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Orissa, Sind, British Baluchistan, Delhi, Ajmer-Merwara, Coorg, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Panth Piploda. The Presidencies and the first eight provinces were each under a governor, while the latter six provinces were each under a chief commissioner. The viceroy directly governed the chief commissioner provinces through each respective chief commissioner, while the Presidencies and the provinces under governors were allowed greater autonomy under the Government of India Act. [140] [141] Each Presidency or province headed by a governor had either a provincial bicameral legislature (in the Presidencies, the United Provinces, Bihar and Assam) or a unicameral legislature (in the Punjab, Central Provinces and Berar, NWFP, Orissa and Sind). The governor of each presidency or province represented the Crown in his capacity, and was assisted by a ministers appointed from the members of each provincial legislature. Each provincial legislature had a life of five years, barring any special circumstances such as wartime conditions. All bills passed by the provincial legislature were either signed or rejected by the governor, who could also issue proclamations or promulgate ordinances while the legislature was in recess, as the need arose. [141]

Each province or presidency comprised a number of divisions, each headed by a commissioner and subdivided into districts, which were the basic administrative units and each headed by a district magistrate, collector or deputy commissioner in 1947, British India comprised 230 districts. [141]

Singha argues that after 1857 the colonial government strengthened and expanded its infrastructure via the court system, legal procedures, and statutes. New legislation merged the Crown and the old East India Company courts and introduced a new penal code as well as new codes of civil and criminal procedure, based largely on English law. In the 1860s–1880s the Raj set up compulsory registration of births, deaths, and marriages, as well as adoptions, property deeds, and wills. The goal was to create a stable, usable public record and verifiable identities. However, there was opposition from both Muslim and Hindu elements who complained that the new procedures for census-taking and registration threatened to uncover female privacy. Purdah rules prohibited women from saying their husband's name or having their photograph taken. An all-India census was conducted between 1868 and 1871, often using total numbers of females in a household rather than individual names. Select groups which the Raj reformers wanted to monitor statistically included those reputed to practice female infanticide, prostitutes, lepers, and eunuchs. [142]

Murshid argues that women were in some ways more restricted by the modernisation of the laws. They remained tied to the strictures of their religion, caste, and customs, but now with an overlay of British Victorian attitudes. Their inheritance rights to own and manage property were curtailed the new English laws were somewhat harsher. Court rulings restricted the rights of second wives and their children regarding inheritance. A woman had to belong to either a father or a husband to have any rights. [143]

Economic trends

The Indian economy grew at about 1% per year from 1880 to 1920, and the population also grew at 1%. [144] All three sectors of the economy—agriculture, manufacturing, and services—accelerated in the postcolonial India. In agriculture a "green revolution" took place in the 1870s. The most important difference between colonial and postcolonial India was the utilisation of land surplus with productivity-led growth by using high-yielding variety seeds, chemical fertilizers and more intensive application of water. All these three inputs were subsidised by the state. [145] The result was, on average, no long-term change in per capita income levels, though cost of living had grown higher. Agriculture was still dominant, with most peasants at the subsistence level. Extensive irrigation systems were built, providing an impetus for switching to cash crops for export and for raw materials for Indian industry, especially jute, cotton, sugarcane, coffee and tea. [146] India's global share of GDP fell drastically from above 20% to less than 5% in the colonial period. [147] Historians have been bitterly divided on issues of economic history, with the Nationalist school (following Nehru) arguing that India was poorer at the end of British rule than at the beginning and that impoverishment occurred because of the British. [148]

Mike Davis writes that much of the economic activity in British India was for the benefit of the British economy and was carried out relentlessly through repressive British imperial policies and with negative repercussions for the Indian population. This is reified in India's large exports of wheat to Britain: despite a major famine that claimed between 6 and 10 million lives in the late 1870s, these exports remained unchecked. A colonial government committed to laissez-faire economics refused to interfere with these exports or provide any relief. [149]

Industry

With the end of the state-granted monopoly of the East India Trading Company in 1813, the importation into India of British manufactured goods, including finished textiles, increased dramatically, from approximately 1 million yards of cotton cloth in 1814 to 13 million in 1820, 995 million in 1870, to 2050 million by 1890. The British imposed "free trade" on India, while continental Europe and the United States erected stiff tariff barriers ranging from 30% to 70% on the importation of cotton yarn or prohibited it entirely. As a result of the less expensive imports from more industrialized Britain, India's most significant industrial sector, textile production, shrank, such that by 1870–1880 Indian producers were manufacturing only 25%–45% of local consumption. Deindustrialization of India's iron industry was even more extensive during this period. [150]

The entrepreneur Jamsetji Tata (1839–1904) began his industrial career in 1877 with the Central India Spinning, Weaving, and Manufacturing Company in Bombay. While other Indian mills produced cheap coarse yarn (and later cloth) using local short-staple cotton and cheap machinery imported from Britain, Tata did much better by importing expensive longer-stapled cotton from Egypt and buying more complex ring-spindle machinery from the United States to spin finer yarn that could compete with imports from Britain. [151]

In the 1890s, he launched plans to move into heavy industry using Indian funding. The Raj did not provide capital, but, aware of Britain's declining position against the US and Germany in the steel industry, it wanted steel mills in India. It promised to purchase any surplus steel Tata could not otherwise sell. [152] The Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO), now headed by his son Dorabji Tata (1859–1932), opened its plant at Jamshedpur in Bihar in 1908. It used American technology, not British, [153] and became the leading iron and steel producer in India, with 120,000 employees in 1945. TISCO became India's proud symbol of technical skill, managerial competence, entrepreneurial flair, and high pay for industrial workers. [154] The Tata family, like most of India's big businessmen, were Indian nationalists but did not trust the Congress because it seemed too aggressively hostile to the Raj, too socialist, and too supportive of trade unions. [155]

Railways

British India built a modern railway system in the late 19th century, which was the fourth largest in the world. At first the railways were privately owned and operated. They were run by British administrators, engineers and craftsmen. At first, only the unskilled workers were Indians. [156]

The East India Company (and later the colonial government) encouraged new railway companies backed by private investors under a scheme that would provide land and guarantee an annual return of up to 5% during the initial years of operation. The companies were to build and operate the lines under a 99-year lease, with the government having the option to buy them earlier. [157] Two new railway companies, the Great Indian Peninsular Railway (GIPR) and the East Indian Railway Company (EIR) began to construct and operate lines near Bombay and Calcutta in 1853–54. The first passenger railway line in North India, between Allahabad and Kanpur, opened in 1859. Eventually, five British companies came to own all railway business in India, [158] and operated under a profit maximization scheme. [159] Further, there was no government regulation of these companies. [160]

In 1854, Governor-General Lord Dalhousie formulated a plan to construct a network of trunk lines connecting the principal regions of India. Encouraged by the government guarantees, investment flowed in and a series of new rail companies were established, leading to rapid expansion of the rail system in India. [161] Soon several large princely states built their own rail systems and the network spread to the regions that became the modern-day states of Assam, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. The route mileage of this network increased from 1,349 to 25,495 kilometres (838 to 15,842 mi) between 1860 and 1880, mostly radiating inland from the three major port cities of Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta. [162]

After the Sepoy Rebellion in 1857, and subsequent Crown rule over India, the railways were seen as a strategic defense of the European population, allowing the military to move quickly to subdue native unrest and protect Britons. [163] The railway thus served as a tool of the colonial government to control India as they were "an essential strategic, defensive, subjugators and administrative 'tool'" for the Imperial Project. [164]

Most of the railway construction was done by Indian companies supervised by British engineers. [165] The system was heavily built, using a broad gauge, sturdy tracks and strong bridges. By 1900 India had a full range of rail services with diverse ownership and management, operating on broad, metre and narrow gauge networks. In 1900, the government took over the GIPR network, while the company continued to manage it. [165] During the First World War, the railways were used to transport troops and grain to the ports of Bombay and Karachi en route to Britain, Mesopotamia, and East Africa. With shipments of equipment and parts from Britain curtailed, maintenance became much more difficult critical workers entered the army workshops were converted to making artillery some locomotives and cars were shipped to the Middle East. The railways could barely keep up with the increased demand. [166] By the end of the war, the railways had deteriorated for lack of maintenance and were not profitable. In 1923, both GIPR and EIR were nationalised. [167] [168]

Headrick shows that until the 1930s, both the Raj lines and the private companies hired only European supervisors, civil engineers, and even operating personnel, such as locomotive engineers. The hard physical labor was left to the Indians. The colonial government was chiefly concerned with the welfare of European workers, and any Indian deaths were "either ignored or merely mentioned as a cold statistical figure." [169] [170] The government's Stores Policy required that bids on railway contracts be made to the India Office in London, shutting out most Indian firms. [168] The railway companies purchased most of their hardware and parts in Britain. There were railway maintenance workshops in India, but they were rarely allowed to manufacture or repair locomotives. TISCO steel could not obtain orders for rails until the war emergency. [171]

The Second World War severely crippled the railways as rolling stock was diverted to the Middle East, and the railway workshops were converted into munitions workshops. [172] After independence in 1947, forty-two separate railway systems, including thirty-two lines owned by the former Indian princely states, were amalgamated to form a single nationalised unit named the Indian Railways.

India provides an example of the British Empire pouring its money and expertise into a very well-built system designed for military purposes (after the Mutiny of 1857), in the hope that it would stimulate industry. The system was overbuilt and too expensive for the small amount of freight traffic it carried. Christensen (1996), who looked at colonial purpose, local needs, capital, service, and private-versus-public interests, concluded that making the railways a creature of the state hindered success because railway expenses had to go through the same time-consuming and political budgeting process as did all other state expenses. Railway costs could therefore not be tailored to the current needs of the railways or of their passengers. [173]

Irrigation

The British Raj invested heavily in infrastructure, including canals and irrigation systems in addition to railways, telegraphy, roads and ports. [174] [175] [176] The Ganges Canal reached 560 kilometres (350 miles) from Haridwar to Cawnpore (now Kanpur), and supplied thousands of kilometres of distribution canals. By 1900 the Raj had the largest irrigation system in the world. One success story was Assam, a jungle in 1840 that by 1900 had 1,600,000 hectares (4,000,000 acres) under cultivation, especially in tea plantations. In all, the amount of irrigated land multiplied by a factor of eight. Historian David Gilmour says:

By the 1870s the peasantry in the districts irrigated by the Ganges Canal were visibly better fed, housed and dressed than before by the end of the century the new network of canals in the Punjab at producing even more prosperous peasantry there. [177]

Policies

In the second half of the 19th century, both the direct administration of India by the British Crown and the technological change ushered in by the industrial revolution had the effect of closely intertwining the economies of India and Great Britain. [178] In fact many of the major changes in transport and communications (that are typically associated with Crown rule of India) had already begun before the Mutiny. Since Dalhousie had embraced the technological revolution underway in Britain, India too saw rapid development of all those technologies. Railways, roads, canals, and bridges were rapidly built in India and telegraph links equally rapidly established in order that raw materials, such as cotton, from India's hinterland could be transported more efficiently to ports, such as Bombay, for subsequent export to England. [179] Likewise, finished goods from England, were transported back, just as efficiently, for sale in the burgeoning Indian markets. Massive railway projects were begun in earnest and government railway jobs and pensions attracted a large number of upper caste Hindus into the civil services for the first time. The Indian Civil Service was prestigious and paid well, but it remained politically neutral. [180] Imports of British cotton covered 55% of the Indian market by 1875. [181] Industrial production as it developed in European factories was unknown until the 1850s when the first cotton mills were opened in Bombay, posing a challenge to the cottage-based home production system based on family labour. [182]

Taxes in India decreased during the colonial period for most of India's population with the land tax revenue claiming 15% of India's national income during Mughal times compared with 1% at the end of the colonial period. The percentage of national income for the village economy increased from 44% during Mughal times to 54% by the end of colonial period. India's per capita GDP decreased from 1990 Int'l$550 in 1700 to $520 by 1857, although it later increased to $618, by 1947. [183]

Economic impact of the Raj

— Jawaharlal Nehru, on the economic effects of the British rule, in his book The Discovery of India [185]

Historians continue to debate whether the long-term intention of British rule was to accelerate the economic development of India, or to distort and retard it. In 1780, the conservative British politician Edmund Burke raised the issue of India's position: he vehemently attacked the East India Company, claiming that Warren Hastings and other top officials had ruined the Indian economy and society. Indian historian Rajat Kanta Ray (1998) continues this line of attack, saying the new economy brought by the British in the 18th century was a form of "plunder" and a catastrophe for the traditional economy of the Mughal Empire. [186] Ray accuses the British of depleting the food and money stocks and of imposing high taxes that helped cause the terrible Bengal famine of 1770, which killed a third of the people of Bengal. [187]

2018 research by Indian economist Utsa Patnaik estimated the resources taken by the British to amount to $45 trillion, taking India’s export surplus earnings over the 173 year rule and compounding at a 5 per cent rate of interest. [188]

P. J. Marshall shows that recent scholarship has reinterpreted the view that the prosperity of the formerly benign Mughal rule gave way to poverty and anarchy. [189] He argues the British takeover did not make any sharp break with the past, which largely delegated control to regional Mughal rulers and sustained a generally prosperous economy for the rest of the 18th century. Marshall notes the British went into partnership with Indian bankers and raised revenue through local tax administrators and kept the old Mughal rates of taxation.

The East India Company inherited an onerous taxation system that took one-third of the produce of Indian cultivators. [186] Instead of the Indian nationalist account of the British as alien aggressors, seizing power by brute force and impoverishing all of India, Marshall presents the interpretation (supported by many scholars in India and the West) that the British were not in full control but instead were players in what was primarily an Indian play and in which their rise to power depended upon excellent co-operation with Indian elites. [189] Marshall admits that much of his interpretation is still highly controversial among many historians. [190]

The population of the territory that became the British Raj was 100 million by 1600 and remained nearly stationary until the 19th century. The population of the Raj reached 255 million according to the first census taken in 1881 of India. [191] [192] [193] [194]

Studies of India's population since 1881 have focused on such topics as total population, birth and death rates, growth rates, geographic distribution, literacy, the rural and urban divide, cities of a million, and the three cities with populations over eight million: Delhi, Greater Bombay, and Calcutta. [195]

Mortality rates fell in the 1920–1945 era, primarily due to biological immunisation. Other factors included rising incomes and better living conditions, improved nutrition, a safer and cleaner environment, and better official health policies and medical care. [196]

Severe overcrowding in the cities caused major public health problems, as noted in an official report from 1938: [197]

In the urban and industrial areas . cramped sites, the high values of land and the necessity for the worker to live in the vicinity of his work . all tend to intensify congestion and overcrowding. In the busiest centres houses are built close together, eave touching eave, and frequently back to back . Space is so valuable that, in place of streets and roads, winding lanes provide the only approach to the houses. Neglect of sanitation is often evidenced by heaps of rotting garbage and pools of sewage, whilst the absence of latrines enhance the general pollution of air and soil.

Religion

Religion in British India (1921 census)
Religion Population Percentage
Hinduism 216,734,586 68.56%
Islam 68,735,233 21.74%
Buddhism 11,571,268 3.66%
Tribal 9,774,611 3.09%
Christianity 4,754,064 1.5%
Sikhism 3,238,803 1.02%
Jainism 1,178,596 0.37%
Zoroastrianism 101,778 0.03%
Judaism 21,778 0.01%
Others 18,004 0%
Total Population 316,128,721 100%

During the British Raj, India experienced some of the worst famines ever recorded, including the Great Famine of 1876–1878, in which 6.1 million to 10.3 million people died [210] and the Indian famine of 1899–1900, in which 1.25 to 10 million people died. [211] Recent research, including work by Mike Davis and Amartya Sen, [212] argue that famines in India were made more severe by British policies in India.

The first cholera pandemic began in Bengal, then spread across India by 1820. Ten thousand British troops and countless Indians died during this pandemic. [213] Estimated deaths in India between 1817 and 1860 exceeded 15 million. Another 23 million died between 1865 and 1917. [214] The Third Pandemic of plague started in China in the middle of the 19th century, spreading disease to all inhabited continents and killing 10 million people in India alone. [215] Waldemar Haffkine, who mainly worked in India, became the first microbiologist to develop and deploy vaccines against cholera and bubonic plague. In 1925 the Plague Laboratory in Bombay was renamed the Haffkine Institute.

Fevers ranked as one of the leading causes of death in India in the 19th century. [216] Britain's Sir Ronald Ross, working in the Presidency General Hospital in Calcutta, finally proved in 1898 that mosquitoes transmit malaria, while on assignment in the Deccan at Secunderabad, where the Centre for Tropical and Communicable Diseases is now named in his honour. [217]

In 1881 there were around 120,000 leprosy patients. The central government passed the Lepers Act of 1898, which provided legal provision for forcible confinement of leprosy sufferers in India. [218] Under the direction of Mountstuart Elphinstone a program was launched to propagate smallpox vaccination. [219] Mass vaccination in India resulted in a major decline in smallpox mortality by the end of the 19th century. [220] In 1849 nearly 13% of all Calcutta deaths were due to smallpox. [221] Between 1868 and 1907, there were approximately 4.7 million deaths from smallpox. [222]

Sir Robert Grant directed his attention to establishing a systematic institution in Bombay for imparting medical knowledge to the natives. [223] In 1860, Grant Medical College became one of the four recognised colleges for teaching courses leading to degrees (alongside Elphinstone College, Deccan College and Government Law College, Mumbai). [189]

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800–1859) presented his Whiggish interpretation of English history as an upward progression always leading to more liberty and more progress. Macaulay simultaneously was a leading reformer involved in transforming the educational system of India. He would base it on the English language so that India could join the mother country in a steady upward progress. Macaulay took Burke's emphasis on moral rule and implemented it in actual school reforms, giving the British Empire a profound moral mission to "civilise the natives".

Yale professor Karuna Mantena has argued that the civilising mission did not last long, for she says that benevolent reformers were the losers in key debates, such as those following the 1857 rebellion in India, and the scandal of Edward Eyre's brutal repression of the Morant Bay rebellion in Jamaica in 1865. The rhetoric continued but it became an alibi for British misrule and racism. No longer was it believed that the natives could truly make progress, instead, they had to be ruled by heavy hand, with democratic opportunities postponed indefinitely. As a result:

The central tenets of liberal imperialism were challenged as various forms of rebellion, resistance and instability in the colonies precipitated a broad-ranging reassessment. the equation of 'good government' with the reform of native society, which was at the core of the discourse of liberal empire, would be subject to mounting scepticism. [224]

English historian Peter Cain, has challenged Mantena, arguing that the imperialists truly believed that British rule would bring to the subjects the benefits of ‘ordered liberty’, thereby Britain could fulfil its moral duty and achieve its own greatness. Much of the debate took place in Britain itself, and the imperialists worked hard to convince the general population that the civilising mission was well under-way. This campaign served to strengthen imperial support at home, and thus, says Cain, to bolster the moral authority of the gentlemanly elites who ran the Empire. [225]

Universities in Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras were established in 1857, just before the Rebellion. By 1890 some 60,000 Indians had matriculated, chiefly in the liberal arts or law. About a third entered public administration, and another third became lawyers. The result was a very well educated professional state bureaucracy. By 1887 of 21,000 mid-level civil services appointments, 45% were held by Hindus, 7% by Muslims, 19% by Eurasians (European father and Indian mother), and 29% by Europeans. Of the 1000 top-level civil services positions, almost all were held by Britons, typically with an Oxbridge degree. [226] The government, often working with local philanthropists, opened 186 universities and colleges of higher education by 1911 they enrolled 36,000 students (over 90% men). By 1939 the number of institutions had doubled and enrolment reached 145,000. The curriculum followed classical British standards of the sort set by Oxford and Cambridge and stressed English literature and European history. Nevertheless, by the 1920s the student bodies had become hotbeds of Indian nationalism. [227]

In 1889, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury stated, "It is not only our duty but is in our interest to promote the diffusion of Christianity as far as possible throughout the length and breadth of India." [229]

The growth of the British Indian Army led to the arrival of many Anglican chaplains in India. [230] Following the arrival of the Church of England's Church Mission Society in 1814, the Diocese of Calcutta of the Church of India, Burma and Ceylon (CIBC) was erected, with its St. Paul's Cathedral being built in 1847. [231] By 1930, the Church of India, Burma and Ceylon had fourteen dioceses across the Indian Empire. [232]

Missionaries from other Christian denominations came to British India as well Lutheran missionaries, for example, arrived in Calcutta in 1836 and by "the year 1880 there were over 31,200 Lutheran Christians spread out in 1,052 villages". [229] Methodists began arriving in India in 1783 and established missions with a focus on "education, health ministry, and evangelism". [233] [234] In the 1790s, Christians from the London Missionary Society and Baptist Missionary Society, began doing missionary work in the Indian Empire. [235] In Neyoor, the London Missionary Society Hospital "pioneered improvements in the public health system for the treatment of diseases even before organised attempts were made by the colonial Madras Presidency, reducing the death rate substantially". [236]

Christ Church College (1866) and St. Stephen's College (1881) are two examples of prominent church-affiliated educational institutions founded during the British Raj. [237] Within educational institutions established during the British Raj, Christian texts, especially the Bible, were a part of the curricula. [238] During the British Raj, Christian missionaries developed writing systems for Indian languages that previously did not have one. [239] [240] Christian missionaries in India also worked to increase literacy and also engaged in social activism, such as fighting against prostitution, championing the right of widowed women to remarry, and trying to stop early marriages for women. [241] Among British women, zenana missions became a popular method to win converts to Christianity. [238]

The old consensus among historians held that British imperial authority was quite secure from 1858 to World War II. Recently, however, this interpretation has been challenged. For example Mark Condos and Jon Wilson argue that imperial authority was chronically insecure. Indeed the anxiety of generations of officials produced a chaotic administration with minimal coherence. Instead of a confident state capable of acting as it chose, these historians find a psychologically embattled one incapable of acting except in the abstract, small scale, or short term. Meanwhile, Durba Ghosh offers an alternative approach. [242]

Ideological impact

At independence and after the independence of India, the country has maintained such central British institutions as parliamentary government, one-person, one-vote and the rule of law through nonpartisan courts. [186] It retained as well the institutional arrangements of the Raj such as the civil services, administration of sub-divisions, universities and stock exchanges. One major change was the rejection of its former separate princely states. Metcalf shows that over the course of two centuries, British intellectuals and Indian specialists made the highest priority bringing peace, unity and good government to India. [243] They offered many competing methods to reach the goal. For example, Cornwallis recommended turning Bengali Zamindar into the sort of English landlords that controlled local affairs in England. [243] Munro proposed to deal directly with the peasants. Sir William Jones and the Orientalists promoted Sanskrit, while Macaulay promoted the English language. [244] Zinkin argues that in the long-run, what matters most about the legacy of the Raj is the British political ideologies which the Indians took over after 1947, especially the belief in unity, democracy, the rule of law and a certain equality beyond caste and creed. [243] Zinkin sees this not just in the Congress party but also among Hindu nationalists in the Bharatiya Janata Party, which specifically emphasises Hindu traditions. [245] [246]

Cultural impact

The British colonisation of United India influenced Indian culture noticeably. The most noticeable influence is the English language which emerged as the administrative and lingua franca of India followed by the blend of native and gothic/sarcenic architecture. Similarly, the influence of the languages of India and culture can be seen on Britain, too for example, many Indian words entering the English language, and also the adoption of Indian cuisine.


Edwin Montagu in United Kingdom

Liberal MP and advocate of Indian independence. Most famous for the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919. Resigned as Secretary of State for India in 1922 in protest over the slow pace of reform. An anti-Zionist who helped modify the ‘Balfour Declaration’ of 1917.

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Edwin Samuel Montagu

Montagu was born the second son and seventh child of Sir Samuel Montagu, 1st Baron Swaythling . In 1906 he was elected to the House of Commons as a member of the Chesterton constituency (until 1918) . From 1915 he belonged to the enlarged cabinet in the rather insignificant position as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster , which he had to vacate for Winston Churchill , but returned to this office in 1916 as the successor to Herbert Samuel . From 1918 to 1922 he represented the Cambridgeshire constituency .

Between 1917 and 1922 he was State Secretary for India . During his tenure, the Government of India Act of 1919 came into force , which installed a complicated system of dual rule over the provinces of British India : he challenged the previous British dogma that Indians were incapable of self-government: he gave up in August 1917 Pressure from Indian nationalists in the British House of Commons known: British policy in the future will be directed towards "increasing participation of Indians in every branch of administration and towards the gradual development of institutions of self-government with the aim of realizing a responsible government system" in India as an integral part of the British Empire . ”The result of these considerations were the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms (named after the viceroy at the time , Lord Chelmsford ), which were based on the intention of giving up as little power as possible to the Indian side, but at the same time the Claims of the Indian N ationalists to counter something effective, created a complicated system of decentralization with a delimitation of the competences of the central government and the provincial governments. The existing legislative councils have been converted into a real parliament . The central parliament consisted of a Council of State (Upper House), a Central Legislative Assembly (Lower House), and the Chamber of Princes , which met once a year . In addition to elected members of parliament, there were also appointed members of parliament, but the elected were at least in the majority. The viceroy had a right of veto against the decisions of the central parliament . Central decisions, such as the military budget, which was geared towards the needs of British warfare in Burma , Afghanistan or Balochistan , continued to be made by the British House of Commons and the London Cabinet. Here Montagu took into account the concerns of the former viceroy and current Conservative Minister of War, Lord Curzon , who had objected to Montagu's proposed self-government and called for the common language of responsible government . The system of dyarchy anchored in the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms found its special expression in the division of administration into reserved subjects and transferred subjects : the reserved departments, which included police and property tax , were subordinate to the governor and his executive councils, which were part of parliament London were responsible. The assigned departments, which included education , health , public work and agriculture , were transferred to Indian provincial ministers, who were responsible to the partially elected provincial parliaments. The British provincial governors also had a right of veto over the decisions of these parliaments. To further complicate the system, Montagu and Chelmsford had devised a franchise whereby Muslims and Hindus formed separate constituencies. In a report on the next constitutional reform, Montagu frankly admitted this, along with the remark that the separate electorate was now the political property of the Muslims.

He was the second Jew to serve in the British Cabinet but was a strong opponent of Zionism , which he viewed as a pernicious political conviction. He was against the Balfour Declaration , which he considered anti-Semitic . He feared that by the time allowed in this Declaration possibility other than the UK at a later date nationality , doubts about the purchase integrity would awakened by Jews and their loyalty to their country and gave an impassioned speech against the declaration in the Cabinet . He managed to modify the clauses of the Balfour Declaration so that it was now assured that the establishment of a “national Jewish home in Palestine” would not be at the expense of the civil rights of Jews in other states. His cousin Herbert Samuel was a moderate Zionist who served as Palestine's first high commissioner .


Edwin Samuel Montagu

Montagu was the second British Jew to enter the Cabinet, the inner circle of government. However, he was strongly opposed to Zionism, which he called "a mischievous political creed", and opposed the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which he considered anti-semitic and whose terms he managed to modify. In a memo to the Cabinet, he outlined his views on Zionism thus: ". I assume that it means that Mahommedans [Muslims] and Christians are to make way for the Jews and that the Jews should be put in all positions of preference and should be peculiarly associated with Palestine in the same way that England is with the English or France with the French, that Turks and other Mahommedans in Palestine will be regarded as foreigners, just in the same way as Jews will hereafter be treated as foreigners in every country but Palestine. Perhaps also citizenship must be granted only as a result of a religious test."[4] He was opposed by his cousin Herbert Samuel, a moderate Zionist who became the first High Commissioner of the British Mandate of Palestine.

Montagu was elected Member of Parliament for Chesterton in 1906, a seat he held until 1918, and then represented Cambridgeshire until 1922. He served under H. H. Asquith as Under-Secretary of State for India from 1910 to 1914, as Financial Secretary to the Treasury from 1914 to 1915 and again from 1915 to 1916 and as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (with a seat in the Cabinet) in 1915 and 1916. In 1915 he was sworn of the Privy Council. In 1916 he was promoted to Minister of Munitions. He was initially left out of David Lloyd George's coalition government, but in 1917 he was appointed Secretary of State for India, which he remained until March 1922, when he resigned. He was primarily responsible for the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms which led to the Government of India Act 1919, committing the British to the eventual evolution of India to dominion status.

Montagu led the Indian delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, where he opposed plans for dividing Turkey (including the Greek occupation of Smyrna and the projected removal of the Sultan from Constantinople). On this subject, at the Council of Four on 17 May 1919, he introduced representatives of Muslim India (including the Aga Khan) and urged that Muslim peoples were beginning to see the Conference as "taking sides against Islam".


The Zionist Uncle Who Changed the World

His Majesty&rsquos government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.

s Jews in England and around the world prepare to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, let us pause to ponder the respective legacies of Edwin Montagu and Lewis Dembitz. The names of these two Jews are largely unknown today, but they were, each in his own way, central players in the saga of the declaration, and therefore in one of the seminal moments in Jewish history. The former, a dedicated anti-Zionist, did everything he could to prevent this moment from occurring the latter made his home thousands of miles from Britain and went to his grave surely unaware that the honorable way he lived his life, every day, would one day help bring the Balfour Declaration, and thereby the Jewish State, into existence.

Edwin Montagu was born into the one of the wealthiest Jewish families in England. He was the son of Samuel Montagu, who had been raised to British peerage but was known first and foremost for his zealous observance of Jewish law and for his sympathies to Zionism. Edwin&rsquos life was lived in rebellion against his patrimony like many members of the Jewish aristocracy known as &ldquoThe Cousinhood,&rdquo he hated Zionism and its notion that Jews all around the world were one people and bound to one another. This, he believed, was not only false, but also raised the specter of dual loyalty for Jews seeking assimilation and aristocratic elevation in Britain. To Britain&rsquos prime minister, David Lloyd George, Montagu complained, &ldquoAll my life I have been trying to get out of the ghetto you want to force me back there.&rdquo

In 1917, Montagu received the India portfolio in George&rsquos cabinet he was known for his sympathy for the nationalist aspirations of the Indians but not for those of other Jews. As the only Jewish member of George&rsquos cabinet, Montagu participated in a public anti-Zionist statement asserting that Zionism &ldquoregards all the Jewish communities of the world as constituting one homeless nationality,&rdquo a notion that the statement &ldquostrongly and energetically protests.&rdquo Zionism, argued the statement, &ldquomust have the effect of stamping the Jews as strangers in their native lands.&rdquo

There were prominent British Jews favorable to the Zionist project, including Montagu&rsquos cousin Herbert Samuel. Yet as the British writer Chaim Bermant notes, Montagu was a &ldquoparticularly formidable opponent, arguing both from the standpoint of the assimilated Jew and as Secretary of State for India.&rdquo If the efforts of Montagu were ultimately in vain, it was because the most politically powerful Jew in England was foiled by the most politically powerful Jew in America: Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.

Brandeis had been raised with no Judaism at all and for much of his life approached Zionism in the same manner as Montagu. In 1905, he informed a Jewish audience that there was no place in the United States for &ldquohyphenated Americans,&rdquo adding as late as 1910 that &ldquohabits of living or of thought which tend to keep alive differences of origin or classify men according to the religious beliefs are inconsistent with the American ideal of brotherhood, and are disloyal.&rdquo Yet he did know of one Jew who clearly saw no contradiction between public Jewishness and patriotic Americanism. That was his mother&rsquos brother, a lawyer by the name of Lewis Dembitz.

Like Brandeis, Dembitz lived in Louisville and was revered there for his achievements in the law and for the way he lived his life. Yet he was also admired by Gentiles for his dedication to Judaism. &ldquoBusiness and pleasure never interfered with the lawyer-scholar&rsquos religious obligations,&rdquo a gushing obituary in the Louisville Courier Journal reflected, adding that &ldquoMr. Dembitz&rsquos doctrine prohibited work on the Sabbath day, and he never was known to violate the teaching.&rdquo Brandeis very much admired his uncle and changed his middle name from &ldquoDavid&rdquo to &ldquoDembitz&rdquo in memory of the man who had helped shaped his choice of career.

In 1914, Brandeis was visited by Jacob de Haas, former secretary to Theodore Herzl, ostensibly to be interviewed about insurance law. De Haas offhandedly inquired whether Brandeis was related to a &ldquonoble Jew&rdquo by the name of Lewis Dembitz, who was an ardent Zionist. As the writer Rick Richman has documented, this meeting alerted Brandeis to the possibility that Zionism was not irreconcilable with Americanism. Thereupon he rose in Zionist leadership in America even as he was elevated by President Wilson to the Supreme Court in 1916. The following year, when Montagu made his opposition to the declaration known, Chaim Weizmann cabled Brandeis to ask &ldquoif President Wilson and yourself would support [the] text.&rdquo Brandeis, Richman writes,

wired Weizmann that, based on his talks with Wilson, the President was in &ldquoentire sympathy&rdquo with the draft declaration and in mid-October, Wilson himself passed a private message to the British supporting the declaration. It was issued two weeks later. The message was, Weizmann wrote later, &ldquoone of the most important individual factors&rdquo in breaking the deadlock. Nahum Goldman, later president of the World Zionist Organization, wrote in his autobiography that without Brandeis&rsquos efforts, the Balfour Declaration &ldquowould probably never have been issued.&rdquo

Yet issued it was, and Montagu was crushed. &ldquoIt seems strange,&rdquo he reflected, &ldquoto be a member of a government which goes out of its way, as I think, for no conceivable purpose that I can see, to deal this blow at a colleague that is doing his best to be loyal to them, despite his opposition. The government has dealt an irreparable blow to Jewish Britons and they have endeavored to set up a people which does not exist.&rdquo

The irony&mdashor perhaps the providential nature&mdashof this moment is difficult to miss. One of the most important Jews in England had done all he could to deny Jewish peoplehood, only to be foiled by one of the most important Jews in America, who had only just ceased to think about his own Jewishness in the exact same way.

Montagu died in 1924, at the age of 45, never achieving the apex of political power, and with his assault on Zionism a failure. Yet Montagu&rsquos legacy lives on in the many Jews today who seem concerned for the nationalist aspirations of all other peoples except their own, and who raise the specter of dual loyalty. In this, Montagu brings to mind the criticism of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, who once wrote that the &ldquoemancipated modern Jew has been trying, for a long time, to do away with this twofold responsibility&hellipthe universal and the covenantal, which, in his opinion, are mutually exclusive.&rdquo This was true in the age of Edwin Montagu, and, alas, it remains true today.

Meanwhile, Dembitz may be as unknown as Montagu, if not more so. But one can rightly say that millions of Jews enjoy the fruits of his labor and his life, every day, in a vibrant and miraculous Jewish state. It is important that his legacy inspire Jewish Americans, that we be known for our dedication to this country and simultaneously for exercising our freedoms in defense of Jews, and in dedicated observance of the faith of our fathers. If we do so with integrity, we cannot fully imagine the extraordinary fruits that our lives, like that of Dembitz, might bear. May the memory of Lewis Dembitz be a blessing. On November 2, may we honor the full legacy of the man as we mark the hundredth anniversary of a day that his life helped bring about.


Edwin Samuel Montagu

Edwin Samuel Montagu (6. helmikuuta 1879 Lontoo – 15. marraskuuta 1924 Lontoo) [1] oli brittiläinen poliitikko, joka toimi Intian asioiden ministerinä 1917–1922 ja oli laatimassa vuonna 1919 toteutettua Intian hallinnon uudistusta.

Montagu syntyi Lontoon Cityssä vaikuttaneeseen juutalaiseen pankkiirisukuun. Hänen isänsä oli Swaythlingin paronin arvon saanut pankkiiri Samuel Montagu. [2] E. S. Montagu kuului vuodesta 1906 parlamentin alahuoneeseen liberaalien edustajana ja hänestä tuli pääministeri Herbert Henry Asquithin sihteeri. Vuosina 1910–1914 hän oli Intian asioiden ministeriön (India Office) parlamentaarisena alivaltiosihteerinä. Ensimmäisen maailmansodan aikana hän toimi useissa hallituksen alaisissa viroissa, kuten valtiovarainministeriön finanssisihteerinä ja vuodesta 1915 Lancasterin herttuakunnan kanslerina. Vuonna 1917 Montagu nimitettiin David Lloyd Georgen hallitukseen Intian asioiden valtiosihteeriksi ja hän ryhtyi valmistelemaan Intian hallinnon uudistamista. Johtaessaan talvella 1917–1918 Intiassa vieraillutta valtuuskuntaa hän laati yhdessä varakuninkaana toimineen lordi Chelmsfordin kanssa niin sanotun Montagu-Chelmsford-raportin, jonka pohjalta valmisteltiin vuonna 1919 annettu Government of India Act. Tällä lailla osa Intian hallinnosta siirtyi ensimmäisen kerran intialaisille ministereille, jotka olivat vastuussa vaaleille valituille parlamenteille. Montagu erosi Britannian hallituksesta maaliskuussa 1922 ajauduttuaan pääministerin sekä ulkoministeri George Curzonin kanssa erimielisyyksiin Turkkia koskevasta politiikasta. [1] [2]


The myths of British imperial benevolence and Palestine

Israel’s violence in Gaza is not merely self-defence but part of a longer story of settler colonialism dating from the heyday of European colonialism.

Last month, as Israeli artillery destroyed buildings in Gaza, one of two slivers of territory into which Palestinians have been squeezed over the last century, the British government was once again asserting the benevolence of its imperial past against those demanding a reckoning with its harms. #BritishEmpire trended on Twitter even as Gaza burned.

These phenomena are connected: the persistent whitewashing of British imperial history ensures that condemnations of Israel’s actions as “settler colonialism” fail to resonate morally in many quarters. Far from tainting Israel’s origins, the country’s British antecedents are held up as validating. The British government’s Balfour Declaration proclaiming support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” in 1917 is mythologised as having laid the foundation for a Jewish state in the Middle East and thus providing international legitimacy for the creation of the state of Israel. Awareness of the morally dubious origins and meaning of this declaration might help puncture the entangled myths of British imperial benevolence and Israel’s benign presence in Palestine.

The Balfour Declaration was one of several strategic “promises” the British made during the first world war concerning the territories of the Ottoman Empire, as the British busily dismembered it in the name of protecting the route to India and the oil-rich Gulf. To get the region’s Arab population on their side, they promised the Sharifian rulers of the Hejaz, in the Arabian Peninsula, an independent kingdom stretching through Palestine to Damascus. At the same time, in secret negotiations with the French and the Russians to divide the region, they promised to make Palestine an international territory. When Russia withdrew from the war in October 1917, they saw an urgent need to secure the British position in the Middle East with a fresh promise, this time to the Zionist movement. Palestine thus became a thrice-promised land – reason enough to doubt the sacredness of any one of the promises.

The new promise was officially authored by the British foreign secretary, leading Conservative Arthur James Balfour. Known as “Bloody Balfour” for his suppression of Irish demands for greater independence as chief secretary for Ireland, Balfour was a determined imperialist. He was also an amateur philosopher suspicious of reason and drawn to the occult – and the notion of the occult power of certain groups. The idea that a promise to the Zionists would secure the Middle East for them emerged partly out of his anti-Semitic assumption, which was shared by other influential British politicians, that Jews controlled public opinion and global finances. Balfour calculated that his propaganda statement would rally American and German Jewish opinion to the Allied cause, while also ending the flow of unwanted Eastern European Jews into Britain.

The declaration was in line with the type of British settler colonialism that shaped the history of violent dispossession in Kenya and other colonies. That the British thought Palestine was something they could promise to any group without consulting its population was typical imperial presumption. The difference here was that Jewish rather than British settlers would take on the “civilising mission”- and act as a loyal presence near the Suez Canal. The declaration implied Jews were racially and culturally superior to Palestine’s indigenous population, even as it implied that Jews did not properly belong in Europe and possessed conspiratorial powers.

Not everyone in the British government shared these views. The secretary of state for India, Edwin Montagu, was Jewish and considered the declaration highly anti-Semitic. “Jews will hereafter be treated as foreigners in every country but Palestine,” he feared. He insisted that the members of his family had no necessary “community of view” with Jewish families elsewhere: “It is no more true to say that a Christian Englishman and a Christian Frenchman are of the same nation.” Montagu feared that the declaration would mean that “Jews should be put in all positions of preference” in Palestine, and that Muslims and Christians would be made to “make way for the Jews”. He foresaw: “When the Jews are told that Palestine is their national home, every country will immediately desire to get rid of its Jewish citizens, and you will find a population in Palestine driving out its present inhabitants.”

Montagu was just then formulating the Montagu Declaration, promising Indians greater self-government to secure their wartime loyalty. Conservatives, especially Balfour, baulked at this concession to anti-colonialism, arguing that Indians were incapable of such self-government. That’s the kind of imperialist Balfour was.

After the war, the British reneged on all wartime promises about the Middle East: They first betrayed the arrangements with the French by letting the Sharifian Prince Faisal set up a government in Damascus, but then let the French push Faisal out, in exchange for a free hand in oil-rich Mosul. Faisal was instead crowned king of Iraq under British rule – despite wartime promises of independence to Iraqis. Britain took direct control of Palestine (no international territory) – confirming that the Balfour Declaration’s ambiguous promise about a national home implied nothing about Jewish political control. In 1921, Britain also carved Jordan out of Palestine without any sense of having violated the Jewish national home. A White Paper of 1930 backed away from the very idea of a Jewish national home. A Zionist outcry forced the British government to withdraw the paper.

As Hitler rose to power, hundreds of thousands of desperate European Jews who found doors closed in Britain and the US arrived in Palestine. Increasingly landless and impoverished, Palestinians revolted in 1936. The British drew on brutal, terrorising, and destructive counterinsurgency methods developed in Ireland and Iraq, which shaped the practices of the Israeli military later.

The British changed policy in 1937 and 1939, by turns favouring the Jews and the Arabs. It was in the course of advising Palestine policy that Winston Churchill uttered his eugenicist defence of settler colonialism in general in 1937: “I do not admit…that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia…by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race…has come in and taken their place.” He saw Jewish settlement of Palestine as analogous to these earlier cases, including their genocidal implication.

At this time, Hitler was also looking to the genocide of Native Americans as a model for his conception of Lebensraum and began to apply the violent logic of settler colonialism in Europe itself. Churchill admired Hitler, devoting a chapter to him in his 1937 book on Great Contemporaries. Though Britons today celebrate Churchill for defeating Nazism, they have still not unambiguously condemned the settler-colonial ideology on which Nazism was founded.

Apologists for British imperialism instead pour their energies into defending Cecil Rhodes, another promoter of settler colonialism, even after a careful commission has recommended the removal of his statue at Oriel College in Oxford. Rhodes contended: “We are the finest race in the world and…the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race.” His private company killed tens of thousands of the Matabele in founding the settler colony of Rhodesia. As prime minister of the Cape Colony, he also established the foundations of South African apartheid – to which the current Israeli regime is often compared – depriving non-white people of the vote and claiming their land. Even his British contemporaries were outraged by his actions.

Recently, after former US senator Rick Santorum claimed on CNN that settlers created the US “from nothing,…there was nothing here”, erasing not only the existence of Native American cultures and life but also the memory of massive settler violence against them, CNN parted ways with him, responding to intense pressure from the public, including the Native American Journalists Association.

Major British news outlets such as The Times, however, continue to allot generous space to apologists for settler colonialism. Last month, the Guardian formally regretted its support for the Balfour Declaration in 1917, when its editor wrote: “The existing Arab population of Palestine is…at a low stage of civilisation.” It is time for wider, unequivocal condemnation of its false promise and of the settler-colonial ideology on which it was based.

British wartime promises were not founded on principle but made for the sake of expedience and grounded in racist notions – hardly ground for the sacred. Moreover, the declaration included self-negating language assuring that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” Balfour’s Conservatism was all about avoiding radical change. The declaration was framed vaguely so that it might be broken, like the wartime promises to the Sharifians. There is little in its origins in expedience, colonial presumption, and anti-Semitism to give it the aura of legitimacy – much less sacredness – that it has in some quarters today.

The British launched settler colonialism in Palestine as carelessly and recklessly as they had in Australia and New Zealand and in Kenya and Rhodesia. Israel’s violence in Gaza is not merely self-defence but part of a longer story of settler colonialism dating from the heyday of European colonialism. Contrary to British myths, settler colonialism was an aggressive process of ethnic cleansing grounded in racism. The US’s support of Israeli encroachment into Palestinian territory is the support of one British-made settler-colonial nation to another. It is no coincidence that that support became especially generous during the Trump administration, which was also unapologetically proud of white supremacy in North America. Reckoning with the history of colonialism is essential to reckoning with colonialism itself.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.


Edwin Samuel Montagu

Montagu wurde als zweiter Sohn und siebtes Kind von Sir Samuel Montagu, 1. Baron Swaythling geboren. 1906 wurde er als Abgeordneter des Wahlkreises Chesterton (bis 1918) in das House of Commons gewählt. Ab 1915 gehörte er dem erweiterten Kabinett in der eher unbedeutenden Position als Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster an, die er für Winston Churchill räumen musste, kehrte aber in dieses Amt 1916 als Nachfolger von Herbert Samuel zurück. Von 1918 bis 1922 vertrat er den Wahlkreis Cambridgeshire.

Zwischen 1917 und 1922 war er Staatssekretär für Indien. In seine Amtszeit fiel das Inkrafttreten des Gesetzes über die Regierung Indiens von 1919, das ein kompliziertes System der Doppelherrschaft über die Provinzen Britisch-Indiens installierte: Er stellte das bisherige britische Dogma in Frage, Inder seien zur Selbstregierung unfähig: Im August 1917 gab er auf Druck der indischen Nationalisten im britischen Unterhaus bekannt: Die britische Politik wird in Zukunft gerichtet sein auf „zunehmende Beteiligung von Indern an jedem Zweige der Verwaltung und auf allmähliche Entwicklung von Einrichtungen der Selbstregierung mit dem Ziel der Verwirklichung eines verantwortlichen Regierungssystems („responsible government“) in Indien als einem integrierten Bestandteil des britischen Empire.“ [1] Resultat dieser Überlegungen waren die Montagu-Chelmsford-Reformen (benannt nach dem damaligen Vizekönig, Lord Chelmsford), die von der Absicht getragen, möglichst wenig Macht an die indische Seite abzugeben, aber gleichzeitig den Forderungen der indischen Nationalisten etwas Wirksames entgegenzusetzen, ein kompliziertes System der Dezentralisierung mit einer Abgrenzung der Zuständigkeiten der Zentralregierung und der Provinzregierungen schufen. Die bestehenden Legislativräte wurden zu einem wirklichen Parlament umgebaut. Das Zentralparlament bestand aus einem Council of State (Oberhaus), aus einer Central Legislative Assembly (Unterhaus), und der einmal jährlich tagenden Chamber of Princes. Neben gewählten gab es auch ernannte Parlamentsmitglieder, doch die gewählten waren zumindest in der Mehrheit. Gegen die Entscheidungen des Zentralparlaments besaß der Vizekönig ein Vetorecht. Zentrale Entscheidungen, wie der Militärhaushalt, der sich nach den Bedürfnissen der britischen Kriegsführung in Birma, Afghanistan oder Belutschistan richtete, wurden weiterhin vom britischen Unterhaus bzw. vom Londoner Kabinett getroffen. Hier berücksichtigte Montagu die Bedenken des ehemaligen Vizekönigs und aktuellen konservativen Kriegsministers, Lord Curzon, der gegen das von Montagu vorgeschlagene self-government Einspruch erhoben und die gemeinsame Sprachregelung responsible government gefordert hatte. Das in den Montagu-Chelmsford-Reformen verankerte System der Dyarchie fand seinen speziellen Ausdruck in der Aufteilung der Verwaltung in reserved subjects und transferred subjects: Die reservierten Ressorts, zu denen Polizei und Grundsteuer gehörten, unterstanden dem Gouverneur und seinen Exekutivräten, die dem Parlament in London verantwortlich waren. Die übertragenen Ressorts, zu denen Bildung, Gesundheit, öffentliche Arbeit und Landwirtschaft gehörten, wurden auf indische Provinzialminister übertragen, die sich gegenüber den teilweise gewählten Provinzparlamenten zu verantworten hatten. Die britischen Provinzgouverneure besaßen außerdem ein Vetorecht gegen die Entscheidungen dieser Parlamente. Um das System noch weiter zu verkomplizieren, hatten sich Montagu und Chelmsford ein Wahlrecht einfallen lassen, bei dem Moslems und Hindus separate Wählerschaften bildeten. In einem Bericht zur nächsten Verfassungsreform räumte Montagu dies auch unumwunden ein, verbunden mit dem Hinweis, die separaten Wählerschaften seien nun politischer Besitzstand der Muslime. [2]

Er war der zweite Jude, der dem britischen Kabinett angehörte, war jedoch ein starker Gegner des Zionismus, den er als eine verderbliche politische Überzeugung ansah. Er war Gegner der Balfour-Deklaration, die er als antisemitisch betrachtete. Er befürchtete, dass durch die in dieser Deklaration eingeräumte Möglichkeit, zu einem späteren Zeitpunkt eine andere als die britische Nationalität zu erwerben, Zweifel an der Integrität von Juden und ihrer Loyalität zu ihrem Land geweckt würde, und hielt im Kabinett eine leidenschaftliche Rede gegen die Deklaration. [3] Er schaffte es, die Klauseln der Balfour-Deklaration zu modifizieren, so dass nun versichert wurde, die Errichtung einer „nationalen jüdischen Heimstätte in Palästina“ gehe nicht zulasten der bürgerlichen Rechte der Juden in anderen Staaten. Sein Cousin Herbert Samuel war ein gemäßigter Zionist, der als erster Hochkommissar Palästinas fungierte.

Montagu heiratete 1915 Venetia Stanley. Diese hatte zuvor einen Heiratsantrag Montagues abgelehnt und ist bekannt für ihren umfangreichen Briefwechsel mit Herbert Henry Asquith. Aus der Ehe entstammt eine Tochter.


Watch the video: But can the Masks stop 50cal? (August 2022).