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Decolonization and the Struggle for National Liberation in India (1909–1971)

Historical, Political, Economic, Religious and Architectural Aspects

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Edited By Thierry Di Costanzo and Guillaume Ducœur

At the end of the First World War, the Raj remained economically or even strategically more central than ever in the general colonial architecture of the British Empire. Yet, between the two World Wars, the colonial regime hung only by a thread when confronted with the rising popularity of the nationalist movements. As a result, independence was granted in 1947 to this major component of the Empire, a truly cataclysmic event for the remainder of the world. This reality conflicts with the idea that a well-managed, peaceful decolonization process was launched by the British authorities. The independence of British India proceeded at the same speed as the Partition of British India which had both immediate and distant, but surely terrible, consequences like the 1971 war with Pakistan over Bangladesh.
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Decolonization or the Last Phase of Colonialism?

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1

Introduction

This paper will focus on the last phase of colonialism in India particularly since the First World War. The period saw some growth of indigenous industry and a substantial growth of the indigenous capitalist class. Apart from this the period witnessed several other ‘positive’ developments which diverge from the classical colonial pattern that had got established in India2. This has led to one group of colonial writers seeing these as the result of colonialism and its policies,3 which created conditions for rapid economic advance later4. Morris D. Morris too sees the period after 1914 as one during which “rather substantial structural modifications occurred” when “the base was laid for a renewed upward surge after independence”; unfortunately, despite all the “growth benefits of nineteenth century” the “nineteenth century as a period was too brief to achieve all the structural changes needed to provide the preconditions for an industrial revolution.”5 The implication in their writings is that the impetus of the changes during 1914–1947 remained colonial and post-Independence India could just build on them, without involving any fundamental break from colonialism. Other colonial scholars see this period as one of ‘decolonization’ where colonialism was gradually pulling out, handing over to Indian interests.6 ← 25 | 26 → Some even see this period as one where England was being exploited by India!7 I shall question this range of colonial views8.

Before I do a critique of the colonial view of this period let me...

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