Gandhi and the End of Empire in India, 1885-1948

By what means was Indian independence seized from the British Empire in 1947? This module explores opposition to British rule in India from the end of the nineteenth century until 1947 when colonial India was divided to create the nation states of India and Pakistan. In particular, we will explore the modes of resistance that emerged from the Indian freedom struggle and in particular, the role of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Gandhi transformed the Indian National Congress, an organization that had been founded in 1885 as a loyal and moderate organization. Gandhi created a mass movement that challenged the colonial state in extraordinary ways. British rule in India gradually lost credibility and struggled to find the means of maintaining control in the face of massive resistance to its right to govern India.

You will explore Gandhi’s philosophies of personal restraint and political resistance to the injustices of the colonial state. You will also trace the emergence of religious politics in India during this period and the increasing pace of communal conflict, in particular Hindu-Muslim antagonism. What was the role of the colonial state in firing communal anxiety? Did Gandhi’s political ideas allay or encourage the conflation of political action and religious identity? The course ends with the partition of India, the largest migration in history and a process in which over one million people lost their lives, and the event that led, in 1948, to Gandhi’s assassination by a Hindu fundamentalist.