Friday, June 24, 2011

Marsh reviews Muldoon, "Empire, Politics, and the Creation of the 1935 India Act"

Empire, Politics and the Creation of the 1935 India Act (Ashgate, 2009), by Andrew Muldoon (Metropolitan State College of Denver), is the subject of this review, commissioned by H-Albion.  The book may be of interest to historians of empire, as well as to scholars who study administrative law and practice.

Reviewer Brandon D. Marsh (Bridgewater College) offers this overview:
As past studies by R. J. Moore and Carl Bridge have shown, the 1935 India Act was designed to, in the words of the viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, “hold India to the Empire.” Through fully responsible elected ministries in provincial governments, communal electorates, and the involvement of the princes in a federal structure with ample British “safeguards” on matters of defense and fiscal policy, the British government hoped to strengthen the hand of Indian “moderates” and weaken the Indian National Congress. The act failed to stem Indian nationalism, however, and Congress went from strength to strength, ramping up electoral victories in six of eleven provinces. Meanwhile, the federal scheme at the center was never realized. Muldoon’s basic question is why, despite the clear strength of India’s nationalist movement, did the men who ruled India ever believe that the act would succeed in crippling Congress and maintaining British dominion in India?
The answer, Muldoon argues, lies in the colonial administration’s continued adherence to an outdated and essentialized vision of India. Muldoon contends that the India of Rudyard Kipling was still very much alive in the minds of British administrators. Even in the 1930s officials continued to maintain that the Indian peasant had no interest in politics, that India was hopelessly divided by caste, religion, and region, and that Congress was still--at heart--the preserve of “semi-educated” urban clerks. This view of India and its inhabitants was reinforced by intelligence failures. . . . [footnotes omitted]
Marsh concludes that "this study sheds important new light on the role of culture and perception in governing late imperial India."
The full review is here. The book's TOC and Introduction are available here.

hat tip: H-Law

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