Untold lives blog

221 posts categorized "Politics"

13 July 2021

Peter Paul Zohrab: a ‘Secret and confidential Agent’ for the East India Company

Amongst the India Office Political and Secret Department miscellaneous papers are four items of correspondence from 1808-1809 relating to the appointment of Peter Paul Zohrab as a ‘Secret and confidential Agent’ to the East India Company.  His mission, according to the letters, was to travel to Ottoman territories ‘to gain a knowledge of the proceedings and intrigues of the French in Turkey with reference to any designs that Nation is supposed to entertain on the British Possessions in the East Indies’.  During the Napoleonic Wars the East India Company and the British Government were anxious with regard to French intentions towards India.

Instructions for a secret mission to the Ottoman Empire issued by the Secret Committee of the East India Company, to ZohrabIOR/L/PS/19/173, f.1 Original instructions for a secret mission to the Ottoman Empire issued by Edward Parry, Charles Grant and John Manship, Secret Committee of the East India Company, to Zohrab dated 12 January 1808. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Instructions dated 12 January 1808 directed Zohrab to travel to Constantinople (Istanbul) in the first instance.  His task was to associate himself with any French people and ‘accredited Agents’ of the French, observe them and gather information – particularly any possible plans to march troops towards India. In addition, the East India Company’s Secret Committee gave Zohrab authority to travel into Armenia and Persia if necessary for further gathering intelligence.  Of particular interest was the newly established French Embassy in Persia, established as part of a Franco-Persian accord between Napoleon and the Shah of Persia.  As Peter Paul Zohrab was a merchant, he was specifically instructed to carry out his travels and observations only under that guise.  The Secret Committee advised him not to make himself known to the British Minister at the Persian Court.  He was also warned not to commit anything in writing that might reveal the true nature of his travels.  Indeed, the original instructions were to be returned to the Secret Committee after Zohrab had ‘impressed the substance of them on your memory’.

Zohrab 2-1IOR/L/PS/19/173, f.3 Letter from Zohrab in London, to the Secret Committee of the East India Company dated 12 January 1808. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

For his intelligence gathering activities, Zohrab was given a salary of £500 per year, with an additional payment of £500 per year for travelling and other expenses.  He was appointed for two years.  A system was set up whereby payments and correspondence would be channelled through John Green, Zohrab’s agent in London.  Green was to forward Zohrab’s letters unopened to the Chairman of the East India Company if addressed in a particular way.  Zohrab’s letters to the Secret Committee appear to have not survived, though their receipt can be tracked in the Secret Committee Minutes.  We know he left for Malta on 20 February 1808, and travelled on to Constantinople.  His mission however was cut short due to the changing political landscape; a letter from the Secret Committee dated 11 April 1809 informed him that his appointment was to cease on 10 February 1810 as there was now peace between Britain and the Ottoman Empire.

We know little of Zohrab’s background and career.  He may have been the son of Paul Zohrab, dragoman (translator, guide) to the Danish Embassy in Constantinople.  The East India Company have him as Peter Paul Joseph Zohrab, other sources refer to him as Peter Paul John.  He married his first wife Elizabeth Hitchens in St Pancras, London, in September 1807 – five months before his expedition to Turkey.  He then appears as a merchant in Malta, where he married his second wife Frances Williams in September 1816.  By 1830 Zohrab and his family were living in Smyrna (now Izmir), when he was appointed as a dragoman to the consulate at Erzerum.  In 1844, he was appointed to the position of dragoman in the consulate at Trebizond (now Trabzon).

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/PS/19/173: Secret mission of Peter Paul Joseph Zohrab to the Ottoman Empire, Jan 1808-Apr 1809, 4 items
IOR/L/PS/1/10: Minutes of the Secret Committee, 10 Apr 1806-15 Apr 1824
List of Consular Officials in the Ottoman Empire and its former territories from the sixteenth century to about 1860 by David Wilson, July 2011

 

 

01 June 2021

The Development of Pakistan

The India Office Records contain many important files relating to the history of South Asia pre-1947.  One such file documents the early development of the idea of the new nation of Pakistan.

Cover of file entitled 'Alternative schemes to replace Federal provisions of Government of India Act, 1935',

Cover of file entitled 'Alternative schemes to replace Federal provisions of Government of India Act, 1935',

The idea of Indian Muslims constituting a separate nation within India equal to that of a Hindu nation went back at least to the 19th century and the work of Sayyid Ahmed Khan.  However it was the writings of the poet Muhammad Iqbal who gave concrete expression to the concept of an autonomous political Muslim state in the north-west of India.  The idea gained popular ground throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, representing for many the idea of a modern nation state for India’s Muslims and a symbol of Muslim identity.

Display of booklets on schemes for reform

Booklets on alternative schemes to replace Federal provisions of Government of India Act, 1935, including advocacy of Pakistan, 1933-1946, shelfmark IOR NEG 584.

During this period, the India Office received copies of publications by groups and individuals outlining their conception of what they thought Pakistan should be, or in what ways India’s constitution should be reformed to take account of its different communities.  Some of the booklets were submitted by leading figures in India such as Sir Ardeshir Dalal and Sir Sikander Hyat-Khan, and there is even a booklet on ‘Pakistan and Muslim India’ with a foreword by M.A. Jinnah.

Beginning of 'Now or Never: Are we to live or perish forever?'Beginning of Now or Never: Are we to live or perish forever? 

The file contains the pamphlet entitled Now or Never: Are we to live or perish forever?  Issued in 1933 by Choudhary Rahmat Ali, a Punjabi student at Cambridge, it outlined a plan for a separate Muslim state outside India.  He even suggested a name, ‘Pakstan’, meaning ‘land of the pure’ from the Persian pak for pure; and also an acronym for the areas in northwest Indian in which Muslims were in a majority: Punjab, Afghan (North-West Frontier) Province, Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan.  The same year, Rahmat Ali founded the Pakistan National Movement in order to build political support for the creation of Pakistan.  Included in the file is his circular letter of 8 July 1935 with a small map in the letterhead illustrating what he envisaged Pakistan to be.  He would continue to campaign for a separate state for Indian Muslims until his death in 1951, with his proposed schemes becoming ever more elaborate.  Inevitably he was disappointed with the Partition plan accepted by the Muslim League in 1947, publishing 'The Greatest Betrayal: How to Redeem the Millat?' in response.

Rahmat Ali's circular letter of 1935

Rahmat Ali's circular letter of 1935

The file also shows the Viceroy and the Government of India, and the British Government through the Secretary of State, struggling with increasingly rapid constitutional developments in the final years of British India.  As such it is a valuable file for the study and understanding of the end of British rule in India and the subsequent Independence of India and the creation of Pakistan.


John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Alternative schemes to replace Federal provisions of Government of India Act, 1935, including advocacy of Pakistan, 1933-1946, shelfmark IOR NEG 584.
Complete works of Rahmat Ali, edited by K. K. Aziz (Islamabad: National Commission of Historical and Cultural Research, 1978), shelfmark: Document Supply 3610.265000 no 2.
The Open University, ‘Making Britain, Discover how South Asians shaped the nation, 1870-1950’ 

20 May 2021

Personal Reflections on the Indian Political Service – Part One: An Overview

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the European Manuscripts section of the India Office Library and Records ran a project called the Indian Political Officers Scheme.  The project’s aim was to collect written accounts from ex-Indian Political Service (IPS) officers who had lived and served through the last decades of British India.  It followed on from an earlier successful project to collect the memoirs of ex-Indian Civil Service (ICS) members, which ran between 1974 and 1979.  A list was compiled of former IPS officers, and to each one a letter was sent outlining the project and soliciting contributions.

The resulting collection (Mss Eur F226) contains the memoirs of 35 former officers (or in some cases, their wives) who responded to the request, some of whom had enjoyed second careers in other spheres such as politics (e.g. Francis Pearson) and diplomacy (e.g. John Shattock and Michael Hadow).  Their memoirs mainly cover the period 1920-47, documenting service as political officers in the Indian States, the North-West Frontier Province, and Balochistan, as well as the Agencies, Residencies and Consulates in the Persian Gulf.  A few ex-officers also record their post-IPS careers and even their years in retirement.

Head and shoulders photographic portrait of Sir Francis Fenwick Pearson aged 58Sir Francis Fenwick Pearson, 1st Bt. (1911-1991). Photograph by Godfrey Argent, 26 November 1969. © National Portrait Gallery, London NPG x166029 National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence

With the exception of Balraj Krishna Kapur, all the former officers were of British or Irish origin.  Some had family ties with British India; a few were also born there.  John Cotton writes of ‘a continuous connection with the Indian service in the direct line for more than one hundred and seventy years’, while Louis Pinhey notes that his great-grandfather was Surgeon-General of Madras [Chennai].  Both Hadow and Patrick Tandy were born in India, as was Charles Chenevix Trench (later a successful author), whose father also served in the IPS.  Many were from privileged families, although a few came from more humble beginnings, such as Thomas Rogers, the son of a shipbuilder, and Herbert Todd, who grew up on a farm in Kent.

Whilst the memoirs largely focus on experiences in the IPS, many of the authors also reflect on other aspects of their lives.  As a result, the memoirs abound with varied and often-amusing anecdotes of the kind that rarely surfaces in official correspondence.  There are stories of trips taken during leave, details of leisure pursuits, and glimpses into officers’ social lives.  Also mentioned are encounters with famous figures, some of which might be expected (e.g. Mahatma Gandhi), whereas others are rather surprising (e.g. Agatha Christie).

Head and shoulders photographic portrait of Sir Joseph Herbert Thompson aged 63Sir (Joseph) Herbert Thompson (1898-1984). Photograph by Godfrey Argent, 17 October 1961. © National Portrait Gallery, London NPG x171150 National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence

Most of the memoirs were written at least 30 years on from the events they describe, in response to the request. Inevitably, the authors are less reserved in their memoirs than in official records, and consequently a greater number of passages contain offensive descriptions of members of colonised populations.

The reflections on British India are mainly positive.  There is some criticism of how Britain handled the transfer of power in 1947, and a few negative remarks about certain senior British officers and politicians, but mostly the authors remember the Empire and their roles within it with fondness.

David Fitzpatrick
Content Specialist, Archivist, British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F226 

 

13 May 2021

Racism in the India Office Arab Reports

Content Warning: The following post contains discussion of colonial history and racist descriptions and depictions that may cause distress.

This blog post provides examples of racist attitudes documented in one of the India Office’s Political and Secret Department files.  The examples illustrate how these attitudes formed part of intelligence gathering by the British in the Middle East during World War One, and how they fed into discussions and decision making.  British policy in the Middle East was formulated and implemented by the same people gathering intelligence, producing these reports and commenting on them.  To understand this history, it is important to acknowledge the variety of motives and attitudes held by the people involved, including attitudes of racial superiority.


In February 1916 the Intelligence Division of the British Admiralty sent a report to the India Office Political and Secret Department detailing the military and political situation in Arabia, Mesopotamia, the Western Desert, Syria and Sinai.  This was the first of 27 reports, initially called Arabian Report then the Arab Report, ending in January 1917.

In June 1916 an uprising began in Mecca, led by Sharif Hussein and backed by the British.  The revolt succeeded in ejecting the Ottomans from Mecca.  But the subsequent loss of momentum left the British unsure whether they should continue to support Hussein with troops.  The situation was complicated by pacts with the French contradicting promises made to Hussein, and by the need to win the war.

The opening section of the first Arabian Report focused on the attitude and activities of the Sharif of Mecca, particularly ‘his present aim [of reconciling] all the Arab powers in Arabia by persuading them to abandon all side issues, and assist him in hunting the Turks from the country’.  The other sections dealt with the war, specifically transport, troop movements, armoury, and the outcome of battles or skirmishes.

The reports rely on a mixture of official and unofficial accounts, and rumour.  There is a general anxiety regarding the veracity, and thus usefulness, of the information presented.  The authors balance this ambiguity with personal judgements about the reliability of a source or accuracy of material.  From June 1916, the reports are accompanied by an ‘Appreciation’ by Sir Mark Sykes, highlighting sections and adding his own thoughts.  Senior members of the Political and Secret Department wrote their comments in ‘Minutes’ attached to each report.

These comments and observations provide evidence of the attitudes and racial prejudices of the writers.  For example, the Arabia Report XVII contains a statement on Sayed Idrisi.  After noting an unconfirmed rumour that Idrisi has ‘made peace with the Turkish Governor of Yemen’, the author remarks that, although ‘this is improbable… it must not be forgotten that Idrisi is an Arab’.  The implication is that he cannot be trusted to keep faith with the British.

Section of a report on ‘Idrisi’ contained in Arabia Report XVIISection of a report on ‘Idrisi’ contained in Arabia Report XVII IOR/L/PS/10/5876, folio 345r [Crown Copyright]

A similar sentiment appears in Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arabian Report XXA.  Referring to the ‘hostility of the Arabs at Rabej’, Sykes is dismissive of the event and describes the participants as ‘probably…wild, suspicious and excited’, noting that ‘The incident is an excellent example of the difficulties with which we shall have to contend in dealing with what a well-known writer described as a “fox-hearted elfin people”.’.

Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arabian Report XXASir Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arabian Report XXA IOR/L/PS/10/586, folio 246v [Crown Copyright]


Similar examples of racial derision are scattered through Sykes’ ‘Appreciations’ and the reports.  Friction between Idrisi and the Sharif of Mecca is ascribed in part by Sykes to ‘difficulties which…Arab racial peculiarities have laid in their path’.

Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arab Report IVSir Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arab Report IV IOR/L/PS/10/586, folio 209r [Crown Copyright]

Sykes’ racist implication that Arabs are predisposed to arguments and divisions is repeated elsewhere, by Sykes and others.  The author of the first Arabian Report notes his belief that ‘The Arab is essentially unstable’.

Section of report on ‘Asir’ from Arabian Report XVIIISection of report on ‘Asir’ from Arabian Report XVIII IOR/L/PS/10/586, folio 455r [Crown Copyright]

While discussing the representation of different peoples in the press, Sykes presents his own opinion that ‘The aboriginal inhabitant of the Mesopotamian swamps is equally truly a wild, treacherous, lawless savage, while the mixed riparian tribes of Irak are congenital Anarchists for geographical and historical reasons’.

Extract from Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arabian Report XXVII

Sir Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arabian Report XXVII IOR/L/PS/10/586, folio 4r [Crown Copyright]

Snippet from Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arabian Report XXVII Sir Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arabian Report XXVII IOR/L/PS/10/586, folio 4v [Crown Copyright]

Together with the official reports, the racial prejudices held by the authors of these accompanying documents helped shape British policy in the Middle East.

Lynda Barraclough
Head of Curatorial Operations, BL Qatar Partnership

Further reading:
IOR/L/PS/10/586 Arab Reports
James Barr, A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle that Shaped the Middle East (London, Simon & Schuster, 2011)
Priya Satia, Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain’s Covert Empire in the Middle East (OUP, 2008)

Details on the British Library’s Anti-Racism Project can be found here:
Towards and Action Plan on Anti-Racism
Living Knowledge Blog, 10 March 2021

 

29 April 2021

Bhicoo Batlivala, Campaigner for Indian Independence

The names of the leading proponents of Indian independence from British rule are well known, but the fight was carried on by many thousands of campaigners and activists who devoted their lives to this important cause.  One such campaigner was Bhicoo Batlivala.

Bhicoo Batlivala - head and shoulders photographic portraitPortrait photograph by Douglas of Bhicoo Batlivala from The Bystander 16 February 1938 British Newspaper Archive also available from Findmypast

Bhicoo Batlivala was born in Bombay on 1 January 1911.  Her father, Sorabji Batlivala, was a successful mill owner.  When she was only ten years old she was sent to Britain for her education, where she attended the Cheltenham Ladies College, before studying law and becoming a Barrister of the Inner Temple in 1932.  In July that year, the Dundee Courier listed her in its piece on ‘Men and Women of Today’, describing her as ‘dark, slender, and with dark auburn hair and regular features’.  Intelligent with an adventurous spirit, Batlivala was also a pilot, and a keen player of polo and tennis.

Bhicoo Batlivala - article in Dundee Courier 14 July 1932Dundee Courier 14 July 1932 British Newspaper Archive also available from Findmypast

After practising as a barrister in the UK for a few years, she returned to India.  It was reported in British newspapers that she was the first woman to be admitted to the State Service of Baroda, where she held a variety of Government positions, including Inspector of Schools.  On returning to England, she married Guy Mansell in London in 1939.  They set up home in Cobham, Surrey.

Batlivala was an active member of the India League, an organisation founded in 1916 to promote the cause of Indian independence.  She regularly attended meetings throughout the 1940s, often as a speaker, a fact noted in Government intelligence reports.  She also became associated with Jawaharlal Nehru, at one point acting as his secretary, and campaigning for his release from prison.  In 1940, she embarked on a six month lecture tour in America causing the British Government considerable anxiety.

On 24 February 1943, Batlivala led a delegation of Indian women to the Central lobby of the House of Commons.  Once there they met several women M.P.s, and put their case for the release of Gandhi who had been imprisoned in India at the start of the Quit India Campaign.  The Derby Daily Telegraph reported that the Indian women wore ‘beautiful native robes’, and quoted Batlivala as saying ‘We are urging that the release of Gandhi should be put before the Government as a very urgent matter.  It is not a question only of Hindus or of one particular community.  Indians of all communities here are very deeply concerned about the present drift of the situation as it is being handled by the Government’.

In an article for International Woman Suffrage News, Batlivala highlighted the hypocrisy of Britain using India’s resources to fight the threat of Nazism, while denying India her own freedom.  She concluded; ‘The Indian people have repeatedly declared that they have no quarrel with the British people, but they will no longer tolerate a system of Imperialism.  If the British Government declares that its fight is for the liberation of all nations then it must liberate India.  The world is watching’.


John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Information Department file on Miss Bhicoo Batlivala, 1938-1940, shelfmark IOR/L/I/1/1295.

Indian Political Intelligence files:
India League: reports on members and activities, 1940-1941, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/12/453.
India League: reports on members and activities, 1943-1946, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/12/456.
Bhicoo Batlivala alias Mansell, India League: activities in USA, 1939-1943, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/12/631.

The British Newspaper Archive  - also available via Findmypast
Dundee Courier, 14 July 1932.
Gloucestershire Echo, 06 November 1936.
Dundee Evening Telegraph, 28 January 1938.
International Woman Suffrage News, 03 January 1941.
Derby Daily Telegraph, 24 February 1943.

The Open University, ‘Making Britain, Discover how South Asians shaped the nation, 1870-1950’  - Bhicoo Batlivala

Asians in Britain: 400 years of history, Rozina Visram (London: Pluto Press, 2002).

 

22 April 2021

The Marital Affairs of Heirs: Marriage Negotiations of Prince Charles

Now available on Digitised Manuscripts is Stowe MS 174, comprising part of the state papers of Sir Thomas Edmondes (1563 –1639), ambassador to King James at Paris.  It primarily concerns the marriage negotiations for Charles I (then Prince of Wales) to Princess Christine Marie of France, sister of Louis XIII.  The letters provide a fascinating insight into the political marriage game of seventeenth-century Europe.

Oil painting of Sir Thomas Edmondes dressed in a dark suit and a white ruffSir Thomas Edmondes by Daniel Mytens, 1622, NPG 4652 © National Portrait Gallery, London  National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence

For seventeenth-century royalty, marriage wasn’t a private union of love.  Marriage was a political contract, negotiated by committee.  In April 1612 James I had been in negotiations with France for six-year-old Christine’s marriage to eighteen-year-old Henry, his eldest son and heir.  The proposition from the French court had come at a time when James’s coffers were running low, offering a convenient opportunity for replenishment, and a political union with France.  Correspondence regarding Henry’s match to Christine can also be found amongst Edmondes’s State Papers in Stowe 172 & Stowe 173.

When Henry died in November 1612 from typhoid, focus shifted to Charles, as did the expectations that came with being heir - including proposed wives.  James was keen to retain the important Anglo-French alliance, and the French princess’s dowry, so in December 1612 - following a somewhat brief period of mourning- the King instructed Edmondes to recommence negotiations.  This time twelve-year-old Charles was to be the groom.

LIne engraving of King Charles I when Prince of Wales, wearing an elaborate costume with a high stiff lace collar

King Charles I when Prince of Wales by Simon de Passe. early 17th century NPG D25736 © National Portrait Gallery, London  National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence

 

Portrait of Princess Christine Marie of France aged about 6, wearing an elaborate embroidered dress, pearls and jewels, and with flowers decorating her hair.

Princess Christine Marie of France (1606-1663) by Frans Pourbis (The Younger), 1612. Wikimedia Commons

Negotiations moved slowly. Edmondes’s papers document the lengthy back and forth of agreeing the terms of marriage, and the all-important 'political prenup'.  In a letter dated 9 June 1613 (ff.84r-88v) outlining James’s terms for the French Court, he requests the same dowry of 800,000 French Crowns as previously agreed for Christine’s match to Henry.  The French considered this too high for the new match, and in a later letter, James deemed it unnegotiable (f.192).  Andrew Thrush estimates 800,000 Crowns as being roughly equivalent to £240,000, which would have modern purchasing power in the region of £30,000,000!

Article 4 f.84v Stowe MS 174 - dowryStowe MS 174 f.85 – Article 4, stating James I’s requested dowry for Princess Christine of France. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Article 8 in the letter of 9 June states that Christine will be provided with a room for prayer, but permitted the service of only two priests - this would later change to four.  Article 9 notes that she may keep her jewels, but if she bears a child, they (and thus England) will be entitled to a portion.  Another letter dated 20 July 1613 (ff.124r – 130v) stipulates that Christine will not be delivered to Charles until after the solemnisation of the marriage, and that if either party dies before they bear a child, the marriage should be dissolved, leaving them both free of this foreign tie.

Stowe 174 F 124r cropped

Stowe MS 174 f.124r. - Volume 9 of the Edmondes Papers. Letter from James I to Thomas Edmondes outlining several of the Articles of Marriage under negotiation. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The Protestant Privy Council of England had been opposed to the Catholic match for both Henry and Charles, and certainly some of the French demands, such as their insistence that a Catholic Bishop perform the marriage, would have increased their discontent.  Despite England and France eventually agreeing terms in late 1613, French domestic difficulties in 1614 most likely quashed the proposal.  Nevertheless, Charles was eventually married over a decade later (following the infamous failed ‘Spanish Match’) in 1625 to Henrietta Maria of France, Christine Marie’s younger sister.

Zoe Louca-Richards
Curator, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further reading:
Stowe MS 174 has been digitised and made available as part of the Library’s Heritage Made Digital project to digitise our collection of Tudor and Early Stuart material. Here is an introduction to the digitisation project.
Andrew Thrush, “The French Marriage and the Origins of the 1614 Parliament” in Stephen Clucis and Rosalind Davis eds. The Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parliament. Literary and Historical Perspectives, (Routledge, 2018).
British Library, Stowe MS 166-177: 1592-1633. Collection of State Papers and correspondence of Sir Thomas Edmondes, Knt.; 1592-1633. Including A full list of the correspondence in Stowe MS 172-174. 

 

16 March 2021

Sources for Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Abul Kalam Azad was born on 11 November 1888 in Mecca, the youngest child of Sheikh Khairuddin Dehlavi, an Islamic scholar, and the niece of the mufti of Medina.  In 1898, the family moved to Calcutta.  Azad was given a traditional Indo-Islamic education at home by his father, which included Arabic, Persian and Urdu, study of the Quran and the Hadith, Islamic philosophy and theology, and mathematics.  He also began to explore the new religious and political ideas in the wider Arab world.

The Cabinet Mission with Congress President Maulana AzadPhoto 134/2(18) The Cabinet Mission with Congress President, Maulana Azad, 17 April 1946 Images Online

Azad began a career in journalism writing for Urdu newspapers, and in 1906 he became editor of the Amritsar newspaper Vakil, the best known Urdu newspaper of the time.  He introduced literary and historical features, and wrote about events in Turkey and the Middle East.  In 1912, he founded the journal al-Hilal in order to more widely raise the cause of Indian Muslims.  Al-Hilal was politically and religiously radical, and was closed by the Bengal Government in 1915.  In 1916, he was interned in Ranchi and detained there until the end of 1919.  During his internment he began work on a translation and commentary on the Koran, called Tarjuman al-Quran.  He was imprisoned again in 1921, along with other nationalist leaders.

In 1923, Azad was elected president of the special session of the National Congress held in Delhi to decide the future course of nationalist action, where he called for Hindu-Muslim co-operation.  He was again imprisoned in 1930 after taking part in Gandhi’s disobedience movement.

In 1940 he was elected President of Congress, a post he held until 1946, and was fully involved in the constitutional negotiations leading up to Independence.  He strove to bring Muslim and Hindu together and vehemently opposed partition.  The principal of a united India was fundamental to Azad’s political ideology, and he resolutely held to it throughout the negotiations.  He believed that there was no harm in deferring freedom by a few years if partition could be avoided.  In India Wins Freedom [p.205] he describes how at the beginning of 1947 he tried to persuade Gandhi of this:

'I pleaded with him that the present state of affairs might be allowed to continue for two years.  De facto power was already in Indian hands and if the de jure transfer was delayed for two years, this might enable Congress and the League to come to a settlement….I realised that if a decision was taken now, partition was inevitable but a better solution might emerge after a year or two.  Gandhi did not reject my suggestion but neither did he indicate any enthusiasm for it'.

In the final years of his life, Azad held the post of Minister for Education, and dictated a political memoir called India Wins Freedom.  He died in Delhi on 22 February 1958.  The India Office Records at the British Library holds many files relating to this fascinating and influential man.


John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Information Department file on Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, 1945, shelfmark IOR/L/I/1/1287.

Prosecution of Mr A K Azad for delivering a seditious speech at Mirzapore Square, Calcutta; judgement, 1922, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/6/1791, File 963.

Government of Bengal refusal of a passport to Mr M A K Azad to proceed to Europe for medical treatment: Parliamentary question, July 1924, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/6/1882, File 2692.

Election of Abul Kalam Azad as Congress President by an overwhelming majority, Feb 1940, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/7/3553.

Telegram regarding an attempt made by an Indian lawyer to smuggle two unauthorised letters to Abul Kalam Azad, Congress President, in Naini Central Jail, March 1941, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/7/4371.

Correspondence between the Viceroy and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, regarding the Indian political situation, Oct-Nov 1945, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/7/8486.

Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad: passport application, 1924-1925, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/12/183.

Congress Working Committee: Abul Kalam Azad's letters to Viceroy, dated 28 November 1944, Dec 1944-Apr 1945, shelfmark IOR/R/3/1/329.

Private Office Paper’s file on the Cabinet Mission to India; includes papers on Abul Kalam Azad's response to Cripps and Cabinet Mission's proposals for formation of Interim Government, 1946, shelfmark IOR/L/PO/6/115.

Correspondence between the Secretary of State for India and the Viceroy, 1945-1947, shelfmarks IOR/L/PO/10/22, IOR/L/PO/10/23 and IOR/L/PO/10/24.

Subject file on Maulana Azad, Apr 1947, shelfmark Mss Eur IOR Neg 15539/6 (in the papers of Earl Mountbatten of Burma as Viceroy 1947 and Governor-General 1947-48 of India).

Correspondence between Jinnah, Nehru, Azad, Prasad, and others, 1938-1939, shelfmark IOR Neg 10762/4 (in the papers of Quaid-i-Azam Mahomed Ali Jinnah, leader of Muslim League in India and founder of Pakistan).

Photographs of Maulana Azad, 1946, shelfmarks Photo 1117/1(31), Photo 1117/1(36), Photo 1117/2(4), Photo 134/1(31), Photo 134/2(17), Photo 134/2(18), Photo 134/2(24), Photo 134/2(27)

Abul Kalam Azad, India Wins Freedom (the complete version) (London: Sangam, 1988), shelfmarks YC.1989.a.5439 and ORW.1989.a.1244.

For printed collections of Abul Kalam Azad’s writings search the British Library catalogue.

 

25 February 2021

Sources for Dr B R Ambedkar

The India Office Records and Private Papers contains much fascinating material relating to one of the most inspiring figures in India’s struggle for independence from British rule, Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar.  Despite the obstacles put in his way, Dr Ambedkar rose to become one of the leaders in the Indian Independence movement and championed the poorest and most disadvantaged in Indian society.

Popular colour print depicting Dr Ambedkar, shown wearing glasses and in a European suit and tie.Popular colour print depicting Dr Ambedkar © The Trustees of the British Museum 

Dr Ambedkar was born on the 14th April 1891 at Mhow, India, into a Dalit Mahar family.  During his childhood he regularly experienced discrimination from higher caste members of his school and community.  A scholarship awarded by the Gaekwad of Baroda enabled him to continue his education, and he studied economics and law in New York and London, following which he set up a legal practice in Bombay.

He quickly became a leading campaigner for the rights of Dalits, starting protest groups, founding newspapers and journals to raise awareness of their plight, and entering the political arena to push for reforms.  He served in the first government following independence as Minister for Law, and helped shape India’s future through his contributions to the writing of India’s Constitution.

Dr Ambedkar has inspired people around the world fighting discrimination and injustice, and the British Library’s collections illustrate the many stages of his life.


John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Information Department file on Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, 1946, shelfmark IOR/L/I/1/1272.

Journey to England from the USA of British subject Bhimrao, alias Brimvran Ambedkar, 1916, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/6/1443, File 2349.

Correspondence regarding a proposed scheme by Dr B R Ambedkar to start a Social Centre for Depressed Classes in Bombay, 1941, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/7/4410.

Publication in English entitled Mr Gandhi and the Emancipation of the Untouchables by Dr B R Ambedkar (Bombay, 1943), shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/7/7068.

Cabinet Mission; Depressed Classes, Apr-Dec 1946, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/10/50. This file contains a note marked ‘Secret’ of a meeting between the Cabinet Delegation, the Viceroy and Dr Ambedkar on the 5th April 1946. It also has a letter from Dr Ambedkar to the Viceroy, Lord Wavell regarding the Cabinet Mission, and the Viceroy’s reply.

Duplicate passport for Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, 1932, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/11/1/585.

File on political developments, including Ambedkar on scheduled castes, 1943-1947, shelfmark IOR/L/PO/6/102C.

File on the Poona Pact including correspondence with Dr Ambedkar regarding Depressed Classes, 1931-1933, shelfmark IOR/L/PO/6/77.

File on the Poona Pact, including Ambedkar on modification of Depressed Classes seats, 1933-1935, shelfmark IOR/L/PO/6/89A.

Correspondence between the Secretary of State for India and the Viceroy, 1944-1946, shelfmarks IOR/L/PO/10/21, IOR/L/PO/10/22 and IOR/L/PO/10/23.

Submissions to the Indian Statutory Commission, 1928-1929, shelfmarks IOR/Q/13/1/6, item 3; IOR/Q/13/1/23, item 10; and IOR/Q/13/4/23.

Submissions to the Round Table Conference, 1930-1931, shelfmarks IOR/Q/RTC/2, IOR/Q/RTC/24 and IOR/Q/RTC/25.

Submissions to the Indian Franchise Committee, 1932, shelfmarks IOR/Q/IFC/41, IOR/Q/IFC/51, IOR/Q/IFC/74 and IOR/Q/IFC/80.

Correspondence with Gandhi and Dr Ambedkar and Ramsay MacDonald, 1932, shelfmark Mss Eur E240/16 (from the papers of Sir Samuel Hoare, Secretary of State for India 1931-35).

Ambedkar is discussed in the correspondence between Sir Samuel Hoare, Secretary of State for India and the Viceroy Lord Willingdon, 1932-1933, shelfmarks Mss Eur E240/2, Mss Eur E240/3 and Mss Eur E240/6.

Papers relating to the resignation of Dr Ambedkar as Minister for Law, 1951, shelfmark Mss Eur F158/1015 (from the papers of the India, Pakistan and Burma Association). It also contains two bulletins from the Reuters news agency reporting the death of Dr Ambedkar on the 6th December 1956.

Correspondence, papers and pamphlets concerning Indian constitutional reforms, particularly the Communal Award and the Poona Pact, 1933-1934, shelfmark Mss Eur D609/22 (from the papers of 2nd Marquess of Zetland as Governor of Bengal 1917-22, and Secretary of State for India 1935-40).

Photographs of Dr Ambedkar, 1930-1946, shelfmarks Mss Eur F138/16(1), Photo 81(13), Photo 1117/1(44) and Photo 134/1(37).

Castes in India, by Bhimrao R Ambedkar, (Bombay, 1917), shelfmark 10005.g.19. (Re-printed from the “Indian Antiquary”, Vol. XLVI, Part DLXXXII, May 1917).

Making Britain website

 

Untold lives blog recent posts

Archives

Tags

Other British Library blogs