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The British Empire Challenged: Britain and India

Although the topic officially begins in 1900 we begin with the Mutiny and the establishment of the Raj. We think about reasons for Indian discontent and changing British attitudes towards reform culminating in the Morley-Minto Acts. We look at the impact of the First World War on Britain and on Nationalist Movements within India. We then move into the 1920s and study, the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, The Amritsar Massacre, the role of Gandhi, Nehru and other leading nationalists and the significance of the civil disobedience. We evaluate the British responses, culminating in the Round Table Conferences and the 1935 Government of India Act. Finally we investigate the impact of the Second World War on Britain and India, the appointment of Mountbatten as Viceroy, the final plans for Independence and the partition. Although the topic ends in 1947 we finish by considering the wider process of decolonization and Britain’s contemporary relationship with its former colonies. This Unit is source based so students will have access to a wide range of sources and plenty of opportunities to develop their source evaluation skills.

India – Government of India Acts made simple

Colony

Before 1908 India was a colony of Britain.   It was run by a Viceroy appointed by the Crown and assisted by a Council of Twelve.  It was divided into provinces each run by a Governor. They were assisted by the army and the Indian Civil Service.  Laws for India were debated and passed in the Westminster Parliament in London.  A Secretary of State for India represented Indian affairs in London.

There were also a number of Princely States.  The Princes who ran those states had made individual treaties with the British.

Morley Minto  1908

Provincial Councils are made larger so that they can include a majority of representatives elected by Indians.   This means Indians will dominate the Provincial Councils

There are separate electorates for minority groups.  This means that minority groups will have a seats reserved for them in these Provincial councils.

There will be some Indian representatives on the Viceroy’s executive council.

Montagu-Chelmsford 1919

The Provincial councils are enlarged and given control over Indian education, agriculture, health, local self-government and public works.  This means that Indians dominated councils have control over these areas at local level.

Separate electorates are preserved.

More Indians are given the vote.

The viceroy retains control of military matters, foreign affairs, currency, communications and criminal law.  He can also enforce laws passed by the provincial council.

This system is called dyarchy

1931 – The Round Table Conference

The British and Indians from various groups are discussing the following proposal;

India would get dominion status – this means it runs its own domestic affairs but  Britain controls its foreign policy and has emergency powers.

India would be a Federal State.  The Provinces will run affairs such as local agriculture, education, local transport.  The Central government (which will be elected by Indians) will be in charge of such things as currency, infrastructure.

Separate electorates would not exist.

BUT

Minority groups want to retain their separate electorates.

The Princely states fear the idea of a federal state and the idea of elections.

No agreement can be reached.

1935 Government of India Act

The idea of federal government had to abandoned

India was divided into eleven provinces.  The provinces would control everything except foreign affairs and defence.

Each province retained the governor, who had the power to act in an emergency.   The Viceroy also retained the power to act in an emergency

This is HOME RULE but there is no central government

Congress and the Muslim League object.  They want full independence

1942 – The Cripps Mission

This was an offer to come into force after the war on the condition the Indians helped Britain to win it.

India would get full dominion status and the chance to elect an assembly and frame their own constitution, leading to full independence.

Congress see this as a bribe.  They start the Quit India campaign

In the meantime the Muslim League have become attracted to the idea of having their own state; Pakistan

Plans for Independence –

The Simla Conference of May 1946 contained three representatives from the British Cabinet, and four representatives each from Congress and the Muslim League.  They discussed the following proposal;

Independence for India

An all India-Union responsible for defence, foreign policy and internal communication, together with powers to raise finances to fund these three elements  This would have a legislature and executive.

There would be 3 clusters of provincial governments

(A)          mainly Hindu

(B)          Mainly Muslim

(C)           Balance slightly in favour of Muslims

Each of these provincial groups would elect its own representatives who would run provincial affairs and would also elect representatives to serve on the All-India legislature

Nehru predicted this would not work.   Jinnah and the Muslim League feared what would happen to them if it did not work.  Plan rejected

Plan Balkan – suggested by Mountbatten in 1947

India and Pakistan to be created as separate states

Provinces and princely states would decide their own future.  They could either join India or Pakistan or decide to set up on their own.

This was rejected!

The Final Plan

India will get Independence.

A new state of Pakistan will be set up.  The Boundary Commission is to decide where its borders should be.

The Princely States will have to join either India or Pakistan, depending on which they are nearest to.  If they are near both the relevant Prince will have to decide which is most appropriate to join

India and Pakistan will each have a Governor General and belong to the Commonwealth.

This is established on midnight of the 14 August 1947.

India and Pakistan are established as two independent states, within the British Commonwealth.

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