Unit 2, Option D: The British Empire Challenged

Britain and the Nationalist Challenge in India, c.1900-47

  1. The importance of the Raj to Britain: politically, commercially and culturally. British rule in India, c1900-1914 and its impact on Indians and the British living in India; the Morley-Minto reforms.
  2. The significance of WWI on the relationship between Britain and India: The Impact of the Rowlatt acts and the Amritsar massacre; consultation and conflict in the 1920s and 30s.
  3. The rise of nationalism: the development of Congress and the Muslim League; Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah to 1939; attitudes to nationalist ideas and independence both among the British in India and among the indigenous populations.
  4. The impact of WWII; economic and political imperatives in Britain and India driving independence; the role of Mountbatten; the decision to partition and the immediate consequence of that decision.

Here is Edexcel’s bibliography

Topic D2, Britain and the Nationalist Challenge in India 1900-47
Chandra, Bipan et al — India’s Struggle for Independence 1857-1947 (Penguin, 1989)
Brown, Judith M — Modern India: the Origins of an Asian Democracy (Oxford University
Press, 1985)
Collins L and Lapierre D — Freedom at Midnight (Harper Collins, 1997)
Copland, I — India 1855-1950: From Empire to Republic (Longman, 2001)
Das, M N — India under Morley and Minto (London, 1964)
Draper, Alfred — The Amritsar Massacre: Twilight of the Raj (Buchan & Enright, 1986)
French, Patrick — Liberty or Death: India’s Journey to Independence (Harper Collins, 1998)
James, Lawrence — Raj: the Making and Unmaking of British India (Little, Brown Co 1997)
Jalal, Ayesha — Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demands for Pakistan
(Cambridge University Press, 1994)
Keay, John — India: A History (Harper Collins, 2001)
Low, D A (ed) — Congress and the Raj: Facets of the Indian Struggle 1917-47 (Arnold-
Heinemann, 1977)
Jawaharlal Nehru — Autobiography (Penguin Books, India, 2004)
Wolpert, Stanley — A New History of India (Oxford University Press, 2004)

Indian Nationalism: Essay Titles


  1. To what extent did the Partition of Bengal give birth to Indian Nationalism?

  2. “The British Raj was all-powerful in India in the first decade of the twentieth century” To what extent do you agree with this assessment?


  1. Assess the impact of the Morley-Minto reforms.

  2. How far was World War I a turning point in Britain’s relationship with India?

  3. How far was the Government of India Act 1919 “a step towards Indian Independence”?

  4. “The Rowlatt Acts were disastrous for Britain’s relationship with India.” How far do you agree with this assessment?

  5. To what extent does the Amritsar massacre and its aftermath show that the British were “irresponsible”?

Gandhi & Congress

  1. How effective was Gandhi’s campaign for Swaraj in the years up to 1922?

  2. The Simon Commission was an ill-judged disaster for the British. Do you agree?

  3. How far was Congress successful in the years 1922-1931?

Jinnah & the Muslim League

  1. To what extent was co-existence between Hindus and Muslims in India an impossible goal?

  2. Muhammad Jinnah was more of a hindrance than a help to Muslims in India before 1929. How far do you agree?

  3. At what point did the establishment of a separate Muslim State become inevitable?


  1. The Round Table Conferences failed because Congress did not want them to succeed. How far do you agree?

  2. The Government of India Act pleased noone. How far do you agree?

  3. To what extent were Indians themselves the only real obstacle to independence in the 1930s?


  1. “Quit India” was Gandhi’s biggest mistake. How far do you agree?

  2. World War II dramatically altered the importance of Jinnah and the Muslim League. How far do you agree?

  3. How far do you agree that World War II delayed Indian independence by complicating the political landscape in India.


  1. To what extent do you agree that Gandhi was more of a hindrance than a help in the move towards Indian Independence?

  2. Who or what was to blame for the violence that accompanied independence and partition in 1947?

Useful reading

Indian Nationalism 1857-1947 by Tim Leadbetter is much more detailed than your textbook, but is still a textbook so is organised to make it easy for A-level students to follow.

Discontent to Outrage 1900-1919

Amritsar article

Campaigns and Concessions part 1 (It is such a long chapter that I have broken it up. This section is for 1919-1922)

Campaigns and Concessions part 2 (Lord Simon and the Salt March)

Campaigns and Concessions part 3 (Irwin, Gandhi and Round Tables)

Quit India

Independence and Partition

India 857-1947 by Ian Copland is not a textbook and so it is harder to follow, but it is excellent, interestingly organised and full of insight.

Chapter 3: Nationalism

Copland on Partition

Copland’s Conclusions


Exam Advice for Unit 2

What was the Significance of the Amritsar Massacre This is a sample unit 4 style coursework essay (a bit of a heads up for next year).

Notes on Montagu Chelmsford and Rowlatt

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