Unit 2

India, c1914-1948: the road to independence


Topic 1: The First World War and its impact on British India, 191420

  • The nature of British rule in India and the relationship between the British in India and the Indian people as well as the divisions within Indian society and religion.
  • The position of the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League in 1914.
  • The reasons why the First World War was a decisive turning point for the future of British control over India and the direction of Indian nationalism.
  • The key features of the dyarchy created by the Government of India Act and the reaction to its implementation in both Britain and India.

Topic 2: Changing political relationships, 192030

  • The relative failure of the non-cooperation campaign of 1920–22 and the extent to which Congress was able to reorganise in order to gain greater political strength and the ability to carry out a more successful satyagraha at the beginning of the 1930s.
  • The extent to which the breakdown in relations with the Muslim League would impact on later events.
  • The direct connections between the British response to Indian nationalism and the consolidation of Congress during the 1920s, particularly the impact of the Simon Commission of 1927.
  • The tensions between secular and religious responses to nationalism amongst Indian Muslims and Jinnah’s attitude towards the idea of separateness.

Topic 3: Consultation and confrontation, 193042

  • Consultation and confrontation as the British government, Congress and the Muslim League attempted to find a way forward with very different visions for the future of India.
  • The three Round Table Conferences and the key areas of discussion at each conference.
  • The main features of the Government of India Act, 1935 and the extent to which they were implemented.
  • The significance of the Lahore Resolution of 1940 for the future political division of the Indian sub-continent.

Topic 4: The road to independence, 194248

  • The impact of the Second World War on the effectiveness of the British Raj in India and British imperial power as well as its impact both in Britain and India in relation to British rule and Indian nationalism.
  • The reluctance of the British Labour government to negotiate independence with partition
  • The reasons why Mountbatten became convinced so quickly of both the need for partition and a swift time-scale for independence.

Some suggested reads

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)

Some Essay Titles


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

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

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

  4. 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 it is still a textbook and is therefore organised to make it easy for A-level students to follow.

Here are some chapters:

Discontent to Outrage 1900-1919

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)

PowerPoint on why the RTCs failed

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

Notes on Montagu Chelmsford and Rowlatt


Questions and mkschm for Unit 2

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