There is no doubt that the unavoidable sense of Indian nationalism towards the end of the period (c.1950) was a notable factor in influencing the granting of Indian independence on the 14th of August 1947. Most of the historiographical source viewing the period 1857-947 came to the conclusion that the irrepressible nationalistic nature of Indians led to purna swaraj (complete independence, bloodshed became a regular occurrence, for example, Direct Action Day 1946 and the British struggled to keep Indian safety. Nevertheless, this essay will display and assess all the significant factors which led to the eventual collapse of British authority in India.
To answer the question it was more a cocktail of several ingredients rather than it being achieved by one singular reason. The evolution of nationalism came through the struggles and the hard work of the few to unite the many in a “sheep-like” sense and was not apparent through the whole ninety year period. A perfect illustration of this would be the 1857 mutiny where huge parts of India were untouched by rebellion and some were even loyally defending the British whom they worked for, showing their blatant unconcern for a united India. To an extent, nationalism contributed heavily to the decline of the British rule, as it forced Britain into cooperation and eventual independence. India had also become a burden economically and Britain did not have the financial might to hold on. “The long-run growth potential of the economy was the fact that a large part of its potential savings was siphoned abroad” 1.
Britain went from owning India economically to being in debt to them and were forced to leave. Because Britain was weak financially this allowed Indian parties such as Congress to take advantage of them to achieve independence such as Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience marches, the Quit India (1942) and etc. Socially Britain’s hold on India withered due to the backlash they faced because of previous British repression. There are many cases of British repression through the given period for instance the Amritsar Massacre (13th April 1919) the mauling of innocent Indians, the countless Bengal famines (1866, 1873, 1892, 1897 and 1943-44) which was the result of the constant requests to increase crop rate at a point where the producers couldn’t feed themselves. “After the advent of British rule, most of the famines were a consequence of monsoonal delays along with the exploitation of the country’s natural resources by the British for their own financial gain” 2. These atrocities led to violent unrest leading to unmanageable circumstances for even the British to control.
With an increasing belief of equality worldwide the subject of empire and holding a country against its will would start being questioned. The combination of pressure from Britain’s main ally the United States who held a self-rule stance and was pressuring every empire worldwide to give up its dominion over other nations, the governing United Kingdom party, labour, was sympathetic to the idea of Indian independence gave Britain the right climate to leave India without anyone raising eyebrows regarding their international status as Britain wanted to avoid at any cost looking weak. The Cambridge school of thought, in its essence, regards the release of India to “as an elite-driven event that developed from the selfish desires of its political leadership (Sarkar, 6)” 3. This relates to the argument about how nationalism was about the struggles of the elite and political few struggling to unite the many.
Despite this agreement, Cambridge historians such as Dr. John Gallagher believe that the motives of Indian national leaders like Gandhi and Nehru were guided by “personal desires” 3 and not for the concept of one collective India. However, the question at hand covers the topic of tow which extent was nationalism a factor of Britain’s demise in India and to that Cambridge historians simply believe it was a major reason due to their greedy appetite for political leadership created nationalism and the eventual cause of independence. Nevertheless, they do acknowledge that nationalism did come of the “devolution” of British power encouraged Indians to play a more active role in politics”.Chapter 1British loss of India was the culmination of the hundred year struggle by a resilient ‘united India’. Nevertheless, it is a fact that nationalism was not apparent during the whole near hundred year period, but came to existence due to the hardships of the elite few who had a voice and platform to unify the Indian people.
You could argue that the sense of an Indian identity was always present but hadn’t materialized and was waiting for a medium to express it. Be that as it may be the answer to this question lies with how nationalism affected Britain’s grasp on India in comparison to other factors.The riots and satyagrahas of the early 20th century were not the only examples of Indian rebellion; Indian dissent also occurred during the 1850’s such as the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Also, the lack of rebellions or key nationalistic events during the late 19th century till 1910 showed the lack of leaders emerging which birthed inspiration for a stand and need for leaders. On the other hand, it could suggest the firm grip Britain had on India restricting anything that negatively affects political and economic interests in India throughout that time period. Problems started to emerge because of the increasing attitude for an independent India, which eventually stacked up because of their reactionary approach such as the Salt March (March-April 1930) disrupting the heavy taxes implemented in turn affecting business, the only reason Britain controlled India – financial gain. Without a doubt, the most influential nationalist event which led to the end of British control happened in the late 19th century.
When Britain allowed the formation, saw and supervised the growth of the Indian National Congress (1885). The INC gave Indians a platform to talk about India and how it could progress and gave them a sense of power however imaginary, that ultimately came to existence and oversaw the evolution of Indian leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, and Mahatma Gandhi which would ironically eventually topple British power in India. A quote taken by Sir Michael O’Dwyer Lieutenant Governor of Punjab (1912-1919) characterizes this argument perfectly on nationalist movements ” it is clear the demands come from not the masses of the people… but from an educated and self-interested few”.He depicts links of herd mentality towards nationalism, which in essence is a valid and understandable point considering most Civil disobedience marches led to getting jailed or even worse death such as the Quit India movement, “from 9 August 1942 to 21 September 1942, the Quit India movement attacked 550 post offices, 250 railway stations, damaged many rail lines, destroyed 70 police stations, and burned or damaged 85 other government buildings.
There were about 2,500 instances of telegraph wires being cut.The greatest level of violence occurred in Bihar” 4. You could extract the fact that it was up to the those few who had the opportunity to express their views for a single integrated India and they had the power to “demand”.
This source is plentiful in providing insight into the Britain’s attitude towards not only Punjab but India as a whole and them sizing up nationalist demands especially as it’s by Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, which helps display the views of the upper echelons and tone towards the Indians which seems very authoritarian yet gives off the impression that they foresee a future where the “educated” few use their power to overpower them, which frightens them very much. The source is limited in that it doesn’t elaborate whether it’s a private or public statement. “Those aims were soon to change. It was the Congress, under the leadership of Gandhi and Nehru, that led India to independence.
” 5 To phrase it simply the administration of Gandhi and Nehru led India to independence through their nationalistic regimes whether it be Gandhi who acts on them or Nehru who approves and appeals them with Gandhi to Congress. Regardless of the similarities with the arguments, the source suggests that Gandhi and Nehru’s Leadership in Congress led to independence, not nationalism which is senseless as without the people influenced and acting on the sense of nationalism they wouldn’t have caused the many complications causing Britain’s departure.