Sarvepalli Gopal (1923-2002), Padma Vibhushan, was Director of the Historical Division of the Ministry of Extarnal Affairs in Indian from 1954 to 1966. He was also Professor of Contemporary History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Fellow of St Antony's Collage, Oxford; and Chairman of the National Book Trust of India.
Among the few great statesmen to emerge in Asia, Jawaharlal Nehru played a decisive role in the history of the twentieth century by putting India on the world map as a force to be reckoned with. Authored by one of the leading historians of India, these three volumes provide an authoritative first-hand account of Jawaharlal Nehru and his times.
Chronologically arranged, the first of the tree volumes discusses Nehru's early life and ends in1947. The second focuses on the first nine years of his Prime Ministership, and the third examine the last eight years of his life. Shifting effortlessly between the public and private spheres of Nehru the individual, the politician, and the family man, these volumes are as much a social and political history of their times as they are a biography.
This first volume traces Nehru's formative years, youth, entry in political, role in the Independence struggle, and his emergence as a leader of the Congress. It also highlights the role of Kamala Nehru in his life and events surrounding the transfer of power.
Drawing information from rare private papers, this intimate and sensitive portrait o0f Nehru will be indispensable for scholars, researchers, and student of modern Indian history, and politics, as well as the general reader.
Jawaharlal Nehru played a decisive role in the history of the twentieth century
as a leader of the Indian people, as a representative of the new mood of Asia,
and as a spokesman of the international conscience. So, striking as was his
personality, any study of him is bound to be more than merely the personal
biography of a great man. This first volume, which covers the period when he
strove for India's freedom, has become, because of his influential position,
almost a history of the last thirty years of the Indian nationalist movement.
While the focus is on the man, and matters in which his interest was peripheral have been skirted over, yet the range is necessarily broad. In the next
two volumes, which will cover his seventeen years as Prime Minister, the
approach will be the same.
Throughout this volume I have referred to him as Jawaharlal and not as
Jawaharlal Nehru. This has the advantage of making it easy to distinguish him
from his father, Motilal Nehru, who figures prominently in the first half of the
book. But there is also a wider justification. This volume deals primarily with
the Indian scene; and to the people of India, who took him to their hearts, he
was, and is, Jawaharlal.
This has not been an easy book to write. Jawaharlal was the hero of my
youth. Then, for nearly ten years, I served him in the Ministry of External
Affairs; and over a fairly long period, from April 1959 to December 1962, I
saw him almost every day. He was the Prime Minister,' and I among the most
junior of his officials. But my memory is crowded with instances of his personal generosity and affection. So to me his image still glows.
It is hard for me, therefore, to be objective about Jawaharlal Nehru. Yet I
have tried; and I have been helped in this by the knowledge that this is what he
himself would have wanted. His constant criticism of biographical writing in
India was that it tended to be eulogistic and failed to assess the historical and
impersonal forces at work.
This work has only been made possible by Shrimathi Indira Gandhi, who
has given me unlimited access to her father's papers and placed no restriction
on my freedom of opinion and judgement. These papers are now open up to
September 1946 and lodged in the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library at New Delhi. When no references are given, the quotations are from these
papers. References to some papers which were at Anand Bhawan, Jawaharlal
Nehru's residence at Allahabad, are given as Anand Bhawan papers.
References to documents of the period after 1947 are given as from the Nehru
papers. Many of Jawaharlal Nehru's letters, articles and statements are being
published in the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, being brought out by
the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund. Six volumes, covering the years up to
the summer of 1936, have so far appeared, and references to these have been
The official records consulted, unless otherwise stated, are those of the
Government of India in the National Archives of India at New Delhi.
I am grateful to the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund which invited me to
take up this work and granted me various facilities. Many people have talked
to me about him, and this has been acknowledged in the footnotes. Sir Olaf
Caroe has allowed me to consult his papers. Access was given to me by Dame
lsobel Cri pps to such of the Cripps papers as are at Nuffield College, Oxford;
by Lady Beatrix Evison to the papers of her father, A.V. Alexander (later Earl
Alexander of Hillsborough), at Churchill College, Cambridge; by Mr Robin
Hallett to the papers of his father, Sir Maurice Hallett, in the India Office
Library; and by the Librarian of the British Library of Political and Economic
Science in the London School of Economics to the diaries of Beatrice Webb
in the Passfield papers. Dorothy Woodman permitted me to go through the
Kingsley Martin papers and the Laski papers which were then in her possession. Shankar has been good enough to let me reprint one of his cartoons.
Mr Christopher Hill most kindly read the manuscript and made many
valuable suggestions. Mr Martin Gilbert has helped me with the proofs.
I have exploited to the full the goodwill and scholarship of my colleagues
at the Centre for Historical Studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
I am grateful to all of them.
The years after the suppression of the revolt in 1858 marked the heyday of the
raj in India. The British regarded themselves as a superior race ruling by right
of conquest, and they saw no reason why they should not remain in India
indefinitely. There was little hesitancy about accepting this position. Even
Gladstone, who spoke normally in terms of holding India in trust and training
Indians in self-government, could write in one of his unbuttoned moods,
'when we go, if we are ever to go .... Efficient administration was all that
seemed to be required in order to maintain India within the empire in the in-
terests of the British. They led the world in trade and manufacture, and India
fitted smoothly into this pattern of world domination. Railways were laid
down, with great profit to British investors and manufacturers but with little
advantage to economic growth in India. There was a decline in the production
of foodgrains and an incentive to grow cotton and jute, which were required
by the factories in Britain, and indigo and opium, which sold at high prices
abroad. India's export surplus was utilized to balance Britain's deficits with
Europe and the United States; but British capital was mostly invested in
'white settler' countries. The banks in India were largely foreign and made no
effort to attract Indian capital and direct it to the promotion of Indian industry.
The refusal to permit industrialization on any major scale not only arrested
progress but distorted the existing economy by increasing the pressure on
land, with all the attendant evils of rural indebtedness, absentee landlordism
and a large increase in landless labour and seasonal unemployment. The
annual per capita income in 1875 has been officially estimated at about £2;
and nearly 29 millions are thought to have died of starvation in the years
from 1854 to 1901.
It was taken for granted that efficiency in administration meant that it
would be, at any level that mattered, untouched by Indian hands. Education in
the English language had been introduced in schools, and in 1857, the year
that the revolt broke out, universities were established in the three leading
towns of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. But the products of these institutions
were recruited to no higher posts than those of clerks. Entry by competitive
examination into the higher official ranks was in theory open to Indians, but
was made in practice almost impossible. All the senior appointments in the
civil service were closed to Indians; and in the army, of course, there were no
Indian officers at all. Indians were not permitted even to enlist in the volunteer
Yet this unbroken monopoly of power had to be maintained in a vast
country distant from the ultimate seat of authority, and by a civil service and
troops which were numerically insignificant in comparison to those over
whom they ruled. The revolt left with most British a legacy of hatred for
Indians as well as an acceptance of the expediency of buttressing their rule with
Indian support, if this could be obtained without compromise of their control.
The obvious answer seemed to lie in an arrangement with the feudal classes.
There were the 662 Indian Princes, with their principalities scattered over the
country. Some, like Hyderabad, were as large as an Indian province, others
were no more than small estates. But all these Princes had in common-a total
dependence on the British, who allowed them, in return for loyalty, to exercise
despotic power over their subjects. In British India itself were the rural gentry,
the zamindars of Bengal, the talukdars of the United Provinces and the land-
lords in other parts of the country. The revenue payable by them to the Government had been settled either in perpetuity or for long terms. It was on these
men, whose economic interests were tied to those of the colonial system, that the British relied. It was from their ranks that nominees were chosen for the
powerless legislative councils. Other empty, loud-sounding forms were also
created to bind the conservative elements of Indian society to the empire without devolving any power or even influence. The Queen was declared Empress of
India, an Imperial Assembly was held at Delhi, all the leading Indian Princes
were given the title of Counsellors to the Empress, and uneducated young men
of high birth were recruited to the lower levels of the public service.
There was, however, another class in India, the small, growing, elite of Indians educated in the English language. By 1885 they were not more than
about 50,000. Some of them went into official service; but the majority, the
lawyers, the doctors and the journalists, familiar with English political literature, were eager for wider avenues of public work. They were not revolutionaries, asserted their loyalty, and sought only greater opportunities of official
employment, administrative reform, facilities for trade and a measure of elections to the legislative councils. For a time, in the years after 1880 when Glad-
stone was Prime Minister, an attempt was made to rely on this educated sector
rather than on the upper classes. But even in the short term the attempt did-
not succeed. Local self-government never took root, while the effort to win
middle-class support for the central government was broken by the weakness
of the authorities -and the fierce hostility of the British community in India.
The only result was a further quickening of political awareness and the formation of various associations, culminating with the establishment of the Indian
National Congress in 1885.
The British Government were not happy about this, but could find no rational grounds for complaint. The Congress was not so much a party in opposition as an over-eager suppliant. Its supporters hoped that the British, who
had, for their own reasons, helped to unify India, would now proceed to
introduce modern technology and economic organization as well as representative government. That their rulers should reject such proposals, dismiss
the Congress as a tiny group which represented nobody and encourage divisive
trends in Indian politics were all shocks to their innocence.
Nehru's tenure was fraught with domestic and foreign issues like the struggle between India and Pakistan of Kashmir, first elections of free India based on adult suffrage, demand for the creation of new linguistic providences, and the Suez crisis. The Second volume show how Nehru's principled leadership ensured that he was considered among the foremost statesmen.
This second volume of the biography of Jawaharlal Nehru covers the first
nine years of the prime ministership, from August 1947 to November
1956. I have chosen the latter date as a convenient point at which to end this
volume not only because, chronologically, it falls approximately half-way
in Nehru's term of office, but also because, in domestic affairs, economic
planning, foreign policy and almost every other sphere of his public
activity it marks, curiously, the end of one phase and the beginning of a
second, and more sombre, period.
As in the first volume, this is more than the personal story of an
individual. The analysis, of course, throughout takes as its starting-point
the hopes and efforts of the Prime Minister. More is said about matters in
which Nehru was keenly interested, while those problems in which his
involvement or responsibility was marginal have received correspondingly
less attention. But the book spreads out to become, in a sense, the history of
the first years of free India.
I am grateful to Shrimati Indira Gandhi for access to the private papers
of Jawaharlal Nehru for the period after 1947. All letters and other
documents to which no references are given are from these papers. The
only official records which I have been able to consult are some files of the
Prime Minister's secretariat.
Mr Christopher Hill most kindly read the manuscript and made many
suggestions for its improvement. I have been sustained, during the making
of this book, by the support of my colleagues at the Centre for Historical
Studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
This third volume focuses on Nehru's efforts to sustain the economic and social advance of the Indian people without loosening the hold on the principles of this foreign policy. It bears testimony to the enduring impact of his policies and achievements in the national as well as the international sphere.
This third and last volume of the biography of Jawaharlal Nehru covers the
years from the end of 1956 to Nehru's death in May 1964. As in the earlier
volumes, the study of the personality branches out to take into view general
forces and trends which affected, or were influenced by, him.
I am grateful to Shrimati Indira Gandhi for granting me access to Nehru's
private papers. I have also been permitted to consult some official files of these
I have, as usual, taken full advantage of the learning and consideration of
my colleagues at the Centre for Historical Studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru
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