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Indian Nationalism and the Early Congress

Indian Nationalism and the Early Congress

John R. McLane
Copyright Date: 1977
Pages: 418
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  • Book Info
    Indian Nationalism and the Early Congress
    Book Description:

    Tracing the history of the Indian National Congress from its founding in 1885 until about 1905, Professor McLane analyzes its efforts to build a national community and to obtain fundamental reforms from the British. In so doing, he extends our understanding of the dynamics of Indian pluralism.

    In its first two decades of existence, the Congress failed to inspire sacrifices from its members or to attract Muslims or Indians without an English education. The author explains this early stagnation in terms of developments within the Congress as well as outside in Indian society.

    Originally published in 1978.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7023-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Glossary
    (pp. xi-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    This is a study of an early stage of the movement to build a national political community in British India. It focuses on the Indian National Congress, the party founded in 1885 to agitate for a larger role for Indians in governing their country. The Congress began modestly, without militancy and with a retired English civil servant as its chief organizer. Its membership came largely, and its leadership almost exclusively, from the graduates of colleges whose curriculum and language of instruction were English. The graduates constituted a tiny but rapidly expanding national community of their own. As many Congress leaders...

  7. PART I

    • Chapter One THE RULERS
      (pp. 21-49)

      A majority of the leaders of the early Indian National Congress had been educated in England, most had had English teachers, most drew their main political ideas from English traditions. All spoke English and used it to communicate with nationalist colleagues from other linguistic regions. In their professions, many of them had English superiors as well as English rivals. When Indians sought administrative change or constitutional reform, they had to ask English officials or English politicians. And in seeking reform, they looked for allies both in England and among the small band of sympathetic editors, missionaries, administrators, and other European...

    • Chapter Two CONGRESS LEADERS
      (pp. 50-86)

      Nationalist politics were a full-time activity for only a few Indians before 1905. In most years between 1885 and 1905, all-Indian political activity was concentrated in the months of November and December. First, informal and usually uncontested elections were held to select delegates for the annual session of the Indian National Congress. In the final week of the year, delegates from different parts of India converged on the host city for three or four days of meetings.

      The formal Congress meetings were devoted to speeches and resolutions on many key political issues of the day, such as volunteering, Indianization of...

  8. PART II

      (pp. 89-129)

      The Indians who helped found the Indian National Congress relied heavily upon Allan Octavian Hume for guidance. Hume had a knowledge of the British bureaucratic mind and British politics which seemed invaluable to men who hoped to persuade their rulers of the reasonableness of their demands rather than to mobilize their countrymen for political activism. Moreover, there is reason to believe that many Congress members felt easier with Hume at the helm than if the leadership had been vested more exclusively with the anglicized Bengalis and Parsis who were his chief collaborators. The early Congress lacked well-defined procedures and it...

      (pp. 130-151)

      Hume’s departure did less to solve the Congress’s problem of finding its own direction and identity than to remove a distraction from that process. Congressmen were now freer from the erratic, unpredictable, and domineering influence of a paternal Englishman. Hume’s leadership had become a problem in itself; now Congressmen could concentrate on defining India’s national interests and on the means of realizing them. Hume had contributed to the process of definition or discovery in a negative way by revealing the limits of the movement’s appeal among Muslims and peasants. His stewardship had also shown that few Congress founders were prepared...

      (pp. 152-176)

      The Congress represented a broad consensus behind the objective of increasing Indian power over Indian affairs. But there was no consensus about how that power could be achieved. The sluggish performance of the Congress in its second decade resulted from disillusionment with the early failures and from uncertainty about how to proceed. The initial tactical efforts to move the British had scarcely dented the Raj’s armor. The attempt to recruit Muslims had not only failed, it had revealed a hollowness in Congress claims to speak for the whole nation. Hume’s effort to arouse peasant interest in the Congress was disowned...


      (pp. 179-210)

      The abstention of almost all titled landowners from the Congress, dominated as it was by lawyers, suggests a sharp political division between the hereditary landed classes and the achievement-oriented university graduates of the cities. Landholder associations generally disapproved of the anti-British attitudes of Congress partisans, and they disagreed with many Congressmen over specific issues, particularly agrarian legislation and Legislative Council reform. Inherent in the Congress movement was a threat to reduce the influence of landholders in Indian life. Yet in examining disputes between landholders and urban professionals during the first two decades of the Congress, it becomes apparent that numerous...

      (pp. 211-242)

      The limited integration of educated elites was tending to provide an all-Indian political consciousness, a common political idiom, and a greater awareness of the benefits of organization for the promotion of specific interests. On the other hand, the deeper men were drawn into the modern organizational life of British India, with its common forms and language, the more likely they were to differentiate between their specific interests. Educated men were gaining a sharper appreciation of the multiple or plural character of their interests. Here lies a seeming paradox in modern political development. With greater integration of economic and political systems,...

      (pp. 243-268)

      Congress supporters believed that they spoke on behalf of the cultivating classes when they advocated a permanent and lower settlement of the land revenue demand, a policy of flexible collections in years of scarcity, and a cheaper, more representative form of government, administered by Indians. As suggested earlier, nationalists generally attributed the crushing poverty of the lower classes to the misguided policies of their alien rulers rather than to defects in indigenous values and social structure. They assumed that without the kinship of race, British officials lacked the understanding and natural sympathy necessary for wise government.

      British officials were particularly...

  10. PART IV

      (pp. 271-308)

      The last two decades of the nineteenth century witnessed a growing reaction against religious reform movements among Hindu and Muslim groups. Organizations for the defense of traditional religions were founded in every province in India. In addition, reformist groups split as moderate factions charged that radical reformers had become denationalized or too extreme in their rejection of community customs. Hindus who had previously been unorganized now openly defended idol worship, caste, the sanctity of the Puranas and cows, and the legitimacy of customary marriage practices. Muslims stressed Pan-Islamic identification with the interests of non-Indian Muslims, a revived role for the...

      (pp. 309-331)

      The heart of the protection movement in the Gangetic districts which experienced rioting in 1893 was neither the occasional Congress lawyer or zamindar nor the wandering sadhus but rather the local gaurakshini sabhas. The sabhas were an expression of Hindu revival and anxiety. By focusing people’s attention on the status of the cow, they communicated a concern for the preservation of one of Hinduism’s oldest, commonest, and most reassuring symbols. At the same time, by giving Hindus concrete economic goals to fulfill in protecting cattle, the sabhas were appealing to sentiments in favor of modern material improvements and philanthropy. The...

      (pp. 332-358)

      In the decade following the 1893 riots, evidence of ferment among Hindu revivalists continued to accumulate. Generally, Hindu revitalization movements were more interested in the comparisons and relations between Hinduism and the West than between Hinduism and Islam. Nevertheless, the 1893 communal disturbances were one of the factors which encouraged the critical self-examination occurring in the Indian National Congress, in orthodox Hindu groups, and in Hindu reformist societies. This chapter is concerned with one aspect of that self-examination: Hindu attitudes toward physical courage and violence. It attempts to show how nationalists with diverse backgrounds came to share an interest in...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 359-370)

    The Indian National Congress in its first two decades had distinguished itself by bringing together nationalists from all regions of India and by concentrating solely on those demands for reform about which the vast majority of English-speaking nationalists could agree. The very survival of the Congress in a society of loose, shifting political alliances had been a substantial achievement. However, the Congress’s rational intellectual analyses of India’s relationship with its British rulers had not spoken to the more emotional sides of Indian patriotism. The careful, measured speeches and resolutions sounded as if they were intended to persuade an English jurist...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 371-390)
  13. Index
    (pp. 391-404)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 405-405)