Independence For India: Cutting The British Empire Down To Size

1489 words - 6 pages

The phrase “the empire on which the sun never sets” has been applied to many various empires throughout the centuries. During the nineteenth-century, it became popular to apply the phrase to the British Empire and remained as such throughout all of the nineteenth-century and most of twentieth-century. However, following World War I, Britain’s hold began to waver as the Empire’s colonies cried for independence with unruly nationalist movements, none more so than the South Asian colony of India; in which Britain’s firm rule had become known as ‘the British Raj’. India had fought alongside their British rulers during World War I in hopes it would gain them independence, however this hope was not fulfilled and the Indian colony began to rebel with nationalist movements. Britain still kept an iron grip on India during the numerous nationalist movements and throughout all of World War II, despite its growing weakness brought about by World War I and exacerbated by World War II. In light of India’s rising nationalism movement at the time and growing vulnerability of the British Empire, in particular considering the likelihood of further conflict and potential for war, Great Britain should have granted the Indian colony its independence directly following World War I instead of after World War II.
As stated before, a misconstrued idea that India would gain independence after World War I did not materialize, leading to uncontrollable nationalist movements and the rise of Gandhi. The British Empire had been growing weaker over the years, a fact exposed following World War I when the Empire couldn’t defend itself against rising nationalist movements without resorting to violence (Porter). The Indians realized they would not gain independence after the war leading to an uproar amongst the citizens and politicians, at which point the British should have granted the Indians what they so desperately craved. Already suffering from immense war debt and attempting to recover from the travesties of World War I, the British government was not in a condition stable enough to continue governing the seditious colony. However the want to hold on to the past over powered rational thinking. Instead the British decided to attempt at quelling the Indians by undertaking reforms aimed at increasing Indian participation in the government and allowing gradual development of self-governing organizations. The plan was to allow Indians to control-law making process while the British kept authority over foreign policy (Patel). Unfortunately for the weak empire, the plan of appeasing the Indians and still catering to British wants did not bode well with the nationalists, and instead led to more uprisings. It was after this failed appeasement that Mahatma Gandhi returned from South Africa and became the face of the Indian independence movement: “Gandhi was an idealist and visionary. Under his leadership the Indian National Congress became a carefully articulated body...

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