The Road to Independence: India, 1914-48

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British Governance in India Pre-1914

  • East India Company ran much of India until 1858
  • 1857: The Indian Mutiny
  • Britain, concerned with the power of the EIC and the Indian Mutiny, passed the Government of India Act, transferring all the powers of the EIC to the British Crown
  • 1885: First annual meeting of the INC, a forum for discussion dominated by high-caste Hindus
  • 1906: The All-Indian Muslin League founded
  • Independence not an aim at the time
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The Impact of WW1

India's Response to the Outbreak of WW1

  • INC & ML declared support
  • Gandhi urged Indians to volunteer

India's Military & Economic Contribution to the War

  • 1.5 million recruited by Nov. 1918
  • 60,000 casualties
  • £146 million contributed to the Allied war effort
  • Many fought in the Middle East, aginst the Ottoman Turks - politically important

Economic impact on India

  • Increased taxation, fuel shortages & rising prices
  • Manufacturing expanded to replace imports (import costs up 190%)
  • Famines & grain shortages due to drought
  • Minor unrest
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The Lucknow Pact, 1916


  • 1913: ML see the annulment of the Bengal partition as a British loss of interest in separate electorates. They add separation from the Raj to their list of demands, which brings them closer to Congress.
  • The declaration of war against Turkey in 1914 caused resentment among those Muslims who saw the Sultan as their Caliph.
  • Jinnah, the ML's chief spokesman, did not like separate electorates (he was secular)


  • Agrees the no. of Muslim delegates in provincial legislatures should be laid down province by province & that there should be separate electorates unless a joint one is requested
  • Strengthens Congress by healing divisions, but was only an agreement so could not be imposed by either organisation
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Home Rule Leagues, 1916-17

  • Tilak's Home Rule League - national; grows rapidly
  • Annie Besant's All-India Home Rule League - grassroots; grows more slowly
  • Use rallies, pamphlets, speeches, petitions & newspapers
  • Politicise apathetic provinces
  • Arguably satisfied by the Govt. of India Act 1919 - not asking for independence / dominion status. Happy for Britain to maintain control of defence, economy, foreign policy, etc
  • Provincial assemblies & the Raj become concerned with the rapid growth of the HRL's - Tilak is arrested & Besant interned. This is counter-productive as it only causes the INC & ML to throw their support behind the HRL's. Key theme throughout.
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The Montagu Declaration, August 1917

  • Edwin Montagu, Sec. of State for India
  • Implicitly committed the British govt. to granting some sort of self-govt. to India
  • No timescale
  • Montagu found the Raj to be slow, complex & reluctant to accept reform
  • Particularly critical of Michael O'Dwyer, Governor of the Punjab
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The Rowlatt Acts, 1919

  • Defence of India Act (1915) - a temporary measure designed to maintain order during WW1
  • 1918: Rowlatt Report isolated Bengal, Bombay & the Punjab as centres of revolutionary activity & recommended extension of the Act in these areas
  • Recommendations incorporated into the Anarchical & Revolutionary Crimes Act 1919 (the Rowlatt Act)
  • Montagu reluctant
  • Oppsed by the Indian members of the Indian Legislative Council, who were out-voted anyway 
  • Repealed in 1922
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The Amritsar Massacre, 1919


  • Hartals (protests) turn to rioting in Amritsar. Marcia Sherwood, a Britihs lady, is brutally assaulted. British women & children forced to take refuge in Gobindgarh Fort.
  • Dyer heads up a "show of force" in Amritsar. Curfew established & meetings / assemblies banned.
  • Dyer sends infantrymen into the Jallianwala Bagh & opened fire on a crowd that had gathered there. 400 killed.
  • Dyer establishes the Crawling Order - designed to humiliate


  • Divides public opinion. Commons against Dyer; Lords supported
  • Montagu launches the Hunter Commission, which finds no evidence of a conspiracy to overtrow the Raj
  • INC publishes its own inquiry. Its report heavily criticises the Raj & arouses anger among Indians
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The Government of India Act, 1919

  • Establishes a dyarchy - dividing power between the British & the Indians
  • Aims to push power away from the centre & towards the provinces
  • Provincial & central legislative assemblies enlarged
  • Devolution of education, agriculutre, local govt. & public works
  • Franchise extended to 10% of the male population
  • Reserved seats for minorities in provincial assemblies


  • Arguably does not satisfy anyone
  • Left wing see it as too conservative
  • Right wing see it as having gone too far
  • Congress not happy about reserved seats
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Mohandas Gandhi

Gandhi's Aims & Objectives

  • Based on the "search for truth". Violence would inhibit the search for truth
  • Satyagraha - peaceful protest
  • Could be considered to be an anarchist - sought a return to small, self-contained communities
  • Popular among the peasantry - adopted a peasant lifestyle

Gandhi as Leader of Congress

  • Was not anti-Raj to start with. Rowlatt Acts, the Amritsar Massacre & the outcomes of the Paris Peace Conference changed his mind
  • Britain no longer had the moral right to rule India
  • Won mass support
  • 1920: Made leader of Congress
  • Rapport with many different areas due to early involvement in local disputes
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Gandhi as Leader of Congress

Attitude to the Raj

  • Not anti-Raj to start with
  • Supported the British during WW1
  • Rowlatt Acts, Amritsar Massare & outcomes of the Paris Peace Conferences changed his mind

Gandhi as leader of Congress\

  • Britain no longer had the moral right to rule India
  • Won mass support
  • 1920: Made leader of Congress
  • No real opposition
  • Rapport with many different aras due to early involvement in local disputes
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Congress's Non-Cooperation Campaign, 1920-22

  • Focused on making the Raj ungovernable (boycotting elections, exams, social events run by the Raj & the courts. Refusing to pay taxes & buy imported goods. Leaving govt. posts removing children from schools)
  • Some did not wish to participate fully e.g. parents did not want children to lose out on education & professionals did not want to leave lucrative jobs working from the Raj
  • Gandhi tried to avoid the campaign from turning violent & targeted areas that were unlikely to bring protestors into conflict with the police
  • Turned violent in many areas (Bombay, Rangpur, Malaba & Punjab
  • Ended in 1922 when a police station was torched by a mob
  • Hindu-Muslim alliance began to disintegrate
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Gandhi's Imprisonment

  • Congress given time to gain a better undeerstanding of peasants' needs & aspirations
  • Congress began to exploit local grievances & use them to campaign for swaraj
  • Members of Congress allowed to stand for election & the m/c returned
  • The Raj returned to its policy of attempting to balance the need to maintain control while making concessions
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The Young Hooligans

  • Bose, Nehru & Narayan
  • Radical - attracted to socialism
  • Strongly opposed dominion status - full independence was their ultimalte goal
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The Nehru Report, 1928

  • Produced by Nehru Snr.
  • Essentially a 1st draft of an Indian Constitution
  • Reccommended dominion status
  • No further devolution
  • Permenant Hindi majority in central govt.
  • Vague promises of protection of minority rights & creation of separate Muslim states
  • Angred Muslims
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The Lahore Congress, 1929

  • Congress divided over the Raj & independence
  • Many groups were gaining a voice, meaning the Raj could play them off against eachother
  • The Young Hooligans were gaining traction
  • Gandhi & Congress support purna swaraj (full independence)
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Salt March, 1930

  • Opposition to the Salt Tax - relatively minor issue that affected all Indians, making it a good way of challenging the Raj
  • Gandhi marched to the coast, accompanied by thousands of others & picked up a piece of natural salt. He declared that he had just broken the law & urged others to do the same
  • Hundreds were arrested, including Gandhi & Congress leaders
  • Congress authorised provincial groups to conduct their own protests, making the movement more flexible & making it harder for the Raj to deal with
  • Unrest broke out on a large scale, but the Raj re-gained control by 1931
  • Stalemate between the Raj & Congress
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The Khilafat Movement

  • Emerged in response to the treatment of Turkey post-WW1 & the removal of the Sultan
  • Endorsed by Gandhi - used to support 1920-21 civil disobedience
  • Opposed by Jinnah (who was secular)
  • Collapsed in 1923 as Turkey rejected the caliphate & became secular
  • Alienated more western-oriented politicians (Jinnah resigned from Congress)
  • Muslims became uncomfortable with Gandhi's leadership
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The Simon Commission

  • Sent to investigate the working of the Government of India Act, 1919
  • Boycotted by Congerss, which later passed a resolution backing purna swaraj (The Nehru Report & The Lahore Congress)
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The Irwin Declaration (1929) & the Gandhi-Irwin Pa

The Irwin Declaration

  • Reiterated the Montagu Declaration
  • Added that dominion status would be a natural development of this
  • Indian reps. invited to a Round Table Conference to negotiate a new Indian Constitution
  • Congress officially welcomed the declaration & asked for a prisoner amnesty - Irwin refused

The Gandhi-Irwin Pact

  • Gandhi & Nehru in prison
  • Irwin feared violence from Congress
  • Wanted to free Gandhi to allow him to attend the Round Table Conferences, but did not want to be seen to be negotiating with a terrorist
  • Gandhi's civil disobedience campaign was suspended, and he promised to attend the Second Round Table Conference. 19,000 prisoners & confiscated property were released
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The Round Table Conferences

The First Round Table Conference, Nov. 1930

  • Opened by Viceroy Irwin & chaired by Labour PM Ramsay MacDonald
  • 16 British delegates, 58 Indian delegates (except Congress)
  • India would be granted dominion status
  • Would be a federation, with 11 princely states & British provinces
  • Indian participation at all levels

The Second Round Table Conference, Sept. - Dec. 1931

  • Similar makeup, except Gandhi was present as the sole rep. of Congress
  • Conference unravelled over separate electorates

The Third Round Table Conference, Dec. 1932

  • British political situation meant that the Lab. govt. had been replaced by a Tory-led coalition. Internal disputes meant Lab. didn't send any delagates
  • Other issues were more pressing than India
  • Jinnah supported separate electorates, as did the British govt. Gandhi stood firm
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The Communal Award, 1932

  • Given by PM Ramsey MacDonald
  • Gave separate electorates to minorities / special interest groups
  • Provoked Gandhi's "fast unto death"
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The Yeravda (Poona) Pact, 1932

  • Hindus & Untouchables met to make a pact regarding separate eectorates
  • Needed to satisfy Gandhi, who had threatened to fast until death, which put immense pressure on all involved
  • Settled on  the number of provincial assembly seats to be awarded to Untouchables
  • Accepted by the British Government, which did not want to be held responsible for Gandhi dying
  • Incorporated into the Government of India Act
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Support / Opposition in Britain for Constitutional

  • Labour generally more progressive & suportive of dominion status & devolution, whilst the Conservatives generally held the opposite view
  • The India Defence League was formed by those in Parliament who were opposed to change (ex-military commanders, civil servants, conservative MPs & peers)
  • Winston Churchill was always against independence
  • The Daily Mail launched a series of articles exaggeratng the issue & claiming that India could not run itself
  • PM Stanley Baldwin argued that the British Empire had to either change & adapt or die
  • Government of India Act passed in 1935
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The Government of India Act, 1935

  • The final British-written constitution to be imposed on India by the British government
  • India divided in 11 provinces, each with a legislative assembly & a provincial govt. The provinces would control everything except defence & foreign affairs
  • Each province would have a governor
  • Dyarchy was abolished
  • Sate electorates remained the same
  • Burma separated from India & given its own govt.
  • Sindh & Orissa states created
  • Viceroy remained in place, but would have to follow the advice of the Executive Committee
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1937 Elections

  • Both Congress & the League decided to take part
  • Congress was highly successful
  • The Muslim League fared babdly, partly due to lack of strong leadership until 1935
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Reaction to the Outbreak of WW2


  • Shock & horror at the Raj taking India to war with no consultation
  • Sympathy with need the defeat facism
  • Gandhi urged the British govt. to negotiate with Hitler
  • Later supported the British people once it became clear that negotiation was impossible
  • Were not prepared to fight unless they were granted immediate swaraj
  • Withdrew from provinces where it had a majority in order to disassociate India from the war
  • This led to the provinces coming back under the control of the British government

The Muslim League:

  • Jinnah sought to take advantage of Congress effectively leaving the political scene
  • Jinnah designated the day that Congress abandoned its posts as the "Day of Deliverance"
  • The League was able to work with the Raj directly, strengthening its position
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Lahore Resolution, March 1940

  • March 1940: Jinnah called a meeting fot eh Muslim League to decide on constitutional goals
  • Two main proposals: Separate Muslims state made up of those areas in which Muslims were in the majority & the protection of minorities
  • It is not certain that the Muslim League invisaged that two separate Muslim states would emerge
  • Protests broke out in opposition to the Lahore Resolution. The Raj acted swiftly & many were jailed
  • Hindus & Muslims began preparing for conflict between the two
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Bose & the Axis Powers

  • 1939: Bose left Congress & formed the Forward Bloc
  • Anti-British terrorist organisation aimed at forcing the British out of India
  • Escaped from jail & went to the USSR and then Germany to gain support for his cause
  • The Raj attempted to quash the Forward Bloc
  • Hitler sent Bose to Japan to assist with a possible land invasion. This was unsuccessful & many of the Indians enlisted to help either deserted to the British or surrendered.
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The Cripps Mission

  • Sent by Winston Churchill to secure full Indian cooperation & support for the war effort
  • An offer of some form of independence was needed
  • Did not offer enough
  • Suggested that all Indian parties form an interim govt. of national unity under the Viceroy & his council until the end of the war & allowed states to opt out of a united India
  • Open to the idea of interim govt., but wanted more involvement of Indians, which was rejected
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The Quit India Campaign

  • Linlithgow's plan to arrest Congress leagers & deport them to Uganda fell through - indicative of level of panic within the British Government. Press censorship stepped up as a result of threat of a new independence campaign
  • Gandhi argued that an independent India could make peace with Japan. Nehru disagreed
  • August 1942: Quit India campaign began. 
  • Calls to make India ungovernable
  • Thousands imprisoned
  • Gandhi encouraged individual action. Thousands killed & injured; railway lines, police stations & govt. buildings destroyed
  • Largely unsuccessful - the Raj resisted & the army remained loyal
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The Bengal Famine, 1943-44

  • Run of poor harvests & distribution failures; loss of imports; wartime price inflation & severe weather conditions caused famine
  • Disease spread rapidly & was made worse by malnutrition
  • Thousands feld to Calcutta to beg for food
  • British & American fear of damaging their own war efforts meant they refused to help
  • Jinnah blamed the British govt. & Viceroy Wavell battled with Whitehall for more food to be sent to Bengal
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The Simla Conference, 1945

  • 1945: Viceroy Wavell travelled to London to meet with Cabinet ministers & form a new constitutional settlement
  • Executive Council was to be all-Indian, bar the Viceroy & Commander-in-Chief
  • Indian political leaders met in Simla to discuss the proposals
  • Ended in deadlock regarding how Muslim members of the council would be chosen i.e by the League or by Congress & the League
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The Cabinet Mission

  • Attlee sent a three-man cabinet mission to try to resolve India's constitutional problems
  • Expected that the Labour govt. would implement independence as promised
  • Attlee was determined to maintain a united India, appearing to rule out a separate Pakistan
  • Aimed to create positive desire for a speedy transfer of power
  • Stayed in India for 3 months, determined to break the deadlock between Congress & the League
  • Second Simla Conference in 1946 proposed an All-India Union with 3 clusters of provincial govts. & states would be allowed to secede & become independent
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The Interim Government Under Nehru?

  • September 1946: Nehru became PM
  • Huge unrest & violence between Muslims & Hindus
  • Viceroy & the Raj sidelined as Congress gained more control over India
  • Jinnah became finance minister
  • Viceroy Wavell requested that British citizens & military personnel be moved to highly secure safe zones & evacuated from Calcutta & Karachi. Attlee refused & instead contemplated replacement viceroys
  • January 1947: Wavell replaced with Mountbatten
  • Power was to be handed over no later than 30 June 1948
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Mountbatten & the Decision to Withdraw

  • Strong pro-Congress sympathies. Got on well with gandhi & Nehru
  • Didn't get on with Jinnah
  • Charismatic & charming with left-leaning tendencies
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Reasons for Partition

  • Mountbatten saw Partition as the only solution to the Hindu-Muslim divide
  • Rioting in the Punjab (Muslim majority but governed by an alliance of Hindus, Sikhs & non-League Muslims)
  • Gandhi realised his dream of a united independent India was ruined
  • Indian subcontinent partitioned into India & Pakistan. East Pakistan later gained independence & became Bangladesh
  • Lots of disputes regarding the boundary
  • Princely states forced to accede to either India or Pakistan
  • British property divided between India & Pakistan
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  • Desparate & violent scramble for Indians to reach the "right" side of the border. 1 million killed in the process
  • British military evacuated
  • Mountbatten became Governor-General of India
  • Jinnah became Governor-General of Pakistan
  • Gandhi left for Bengal
  • Indian & pakistani constitutions based on the 1935 Government of india Act
  • IAS took over from the ICS
  • Major displacement caused by partition
  • January 1948: Gandhi assassinated
  • Divisions between Hindi-speaking Muslims in Bengal & Urdu-speakers in Pakistan
  • 1951: Pakistan's 1st PM, Liaquat Ali Khan, assassinated
  • Conflicts between Pakistan & India over Kashmir
  • Both pakistan & India later became republics
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