The independence of India in August 1947 was the result of a long process which started after the First World War. Indeed in 1919 Parliament had passed the Government of India Act which was designed to organize provincial governments in India. Then, before 1939 and the outbreak of the Second World War, there were moves by Great Britain to give more self-government to India. Both major parties of the British National Government were committed to giving more autonomy to the eleven Indian Provinces through the 1935 Government of India Act. Even if the provincial governments had more and more power, the essential functions were still in hands of the British Viceroy and the British government was still responsible for foreign and defense affairs. As Britain proposed a federal solution to India's problems, independence movements such as the Congress with Gandhi at its head asked for more autonomy. But the Declaration of War in 1939 was a crucial step towards independence of India. Indeed the Congress Party together with nationalists saw in the war the opportunity to achieve their goals.
[...] It leads us to wonder why Britain refused to stay in India which was the largest of British colonies for decades, the most populous dependency, and which represented a big market. In fact Britain's refusal to invest in India and so to keep it in the Empire was partly due to the decline of the British economy. After the war, the main priorities of the Labor government were short-term reconstruction and welfare measures. Britain, and especially London, had been devastated during the war and many people were homeless. [...]
[...] First domestic pressures, that is the economic decline of Britain while the government tried to institute an expensive policy of welfare. Then faced with a growing nationalist movement and a growing disorder in India, Britain preferred to leave for fear of a civil war. And finally the American anti-imperialist feeling and the context of Cold War influenced Britain to give independence to India. When we study the British withdrawal from India after the war, we deduce that, broadly speaking, the real reason was Britain's weakness in many fields. After 1945 [...]
[...] This shows that, on the one hand, the British who absolutely wanted to avoid disorder in India preferred to put the leaders of independence movements in jail rather than to negotiate. But the "Quit India" movement was in fact a stern warning to the British as the people's reaction was terrible and as the British army had to intervene. What can also be considered as a major step towards independence was the “Direct Action led by Jinnah on 16 August 1946. [...]
[...] In order to understand why the British left India in 1947, we also have to take into account Britain's position in the world as well as the international background at that time. One of the reasons for the decolonization of India can be found in the growing role of nationalism in the colonies. It is undeniable that the Empire was severely tested and weakened by the Second Word War. Indeed Japan's expansion into Asia during the war gave Indian nationalists the occasion to express themselves. [...]
[...] This raises an important issue: why did Britain give India independence in 1947? Why neither before nor after? Yet India was not the only colony to obtain independence since the post-war period was marked by the fall of the British Empire everywhere in the world. So to answer that question we have to take into account the particular circumstances relating to Britain's situation in 1947. Therefore we can find three main reasons for India's independence in 1947. First of all we have to consider the situation of the British economy after the war. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee