Churchill's views abou the Empire and India

Before 1857 India was part if the British Empire but was ruled by East India company ( British company)

Churchill was determined not to let India have their independence

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Churchill' views clashed with his own party and th

  • Lord Halifax proposed there should be a round table Conference to discuss giving India Dominion satus within the empire, allowing it to self govern. Churchill strongly opposed this view.
  • This proposal followed a parliamentary report of a committee under Sir John Simon, it was in line with the constitutional reforms of 1909 and 1919 which had put measures of self governence in India.
  • Since then, there had been an active movement for greater independance led by the Indian Congress Party and their leader Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Ghandi and his Party protested peacefully but Churchill hated him and the whole idea of making concessions for India. 
  • September 1930 Churchill became the figurehead of a determined oppostition to change in India- Churchill spoke at the Indian Empire Society, a reactionary imperialist organisation set up to oppose the reforms.
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India- consensus politics

Churchill made himslef look out of touch with the mainstream parties by not accepting the middle ground.

Ghandi was released from jail in order to attend the Round Table Conference by the Viceroy. This horified Churchill.

1933 a white paper propsed an elected federal government in Indi, Churchill had the support of two main newspapers and founded the India Defence League. It gained the support of 57 Conservative MP's.

1935 Churchill stood as an independant Conservative in a by-election, and this split the Conservative vote so Labour won the seat- Churchill was even more unpopular.His campaign was ineffective and outdated.

The government had two options:

  • offer concessions
  • rely on a force to repress a massive popular protest movement in India
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Government of India Act 1935

This provided forestablishment of an India Federation:

  • seperated Burma from India
  • set up rival assemblies whivh were elected on wider choice
  • direct elections introduced

Britain kept overall control and didnot consult the Indians in 1939 when the Viceroy declared war on their behalf.

The Congress Party was able to manage internal policy though India remained under British control in all vital aspects.

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India after 1939

Churchill became less interested in India and German rearmament became more of a pressing issue until he became PM in 1940.

The declarations of belief in freedom, such as the Atlantic Charter, were seen as essentially white freedom by Churchill.

Consitiutional experiment in India was not extensive and only 8 provinces had formed any sort of local self government under the Government Act. They were then dominated by the Congress Party.

The Cabinet rejected Congress demands for a constituition for India after the war and the Congress Party resigned from all the provisional governments- ended the power sharing.

Churchill agreed to Indian representation on a national defence committee, however he felt that self-government would mean the end of Indian troops fighting for the Empire.

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The Cripps Mission

Collapse of British power in Malaya and Japan threatening India in 1942, there had to be concessions.

Atlee proposed a post-war constitution to stop a revolt in India and to please America.

Churchill agreed (reluctantly) to Cripps ( Labour) going to India 1942 to discuss giving control over most of the administration over to the Indians.

Churchill did not agree with Cripps and did not want to Viceroy controlled. He got the cabinet to reject an agreement that Cripps had made about Indian control of defence.

Failure to the mission led to a "Quit India" campaign. Churchill felt there should be no apology or weakening

August 1942 the Congress Party was made illegal and its leaders, inc Ghandi, were arrested.

Huge unrest which required British military presence

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The Bengal Famine

1942-1943- The most controversial episode.

Took 3 million livees.

Wavell, The Viceroy and Leo Amery were critical of Churchill's government's failure to send enough relief.

There is evidence of racial contempt for Indians on Churchill's behalf but also a desire to avoid religious strife between Muslims and Hinduism.

Churchill believed that this sepreations between religions would make it impossible for them to rule their own country.

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Was Churchill Right?

He understood the division between Hindu and Muslim and pointed out the dangers if India was in conflict.

1947 massacres that took place when Indian independance was granted and millions were killed in religous riots show that his fears were justified.

The areas of poverty, extreme caste issues etc were a huge problem for self government.

After 1947 India sustained democratic government- highly educated middle class.

Indian forces were loyal in the World Wars and so should have deserved regonition.

Baldwin felt Churchill was motivated by nostlagia rather than reason.

Churchill's speeches were too extreme to meet the mood of the time and his impatience alienated many MP's.

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