Do you agree with the view expressed in source H that the concessions made to Indian democracy by 1919 were given simply to shore up the British Raj? All the sources H, P and Q seem to suggest that the concessions made by the Government of India towards a democracy were mainly to ensure the continuation of support for the British Raj.
However we do know that there were some more liberal members of the Government of India such as John Morley the Secretary of State and that there were those who supported these reforms in an attempt to create colonial self-government in India.Edwin Montagu was also extremely focused on reform and it appears that there were steps towards liberating India. However it is also evident that these reforms were modest and still ensured that the British were ultimate rulers causing historians to question the true motives of reforms such as the Government of India Act in 1919. All reforms could also be seen to refer to events of unrest or expectations of the Indian population that were necessary to fulfil in order to satisfy the political opposition and prevent outright protest.Firstly the British Raj was under a lot of pressure from the newly emerging political groups in the early 1900s.
Indian nationalism was a fairly new idea and though the Indian National Congress had been founded in 1885 it was not until 1908 that it became a serious political party. The amount of support that the INC began to generate after 1908 meant that the Government of India needed to make some concessions in order to keep at least the more moderate members of the INC under control.This idea is supported by source H which sees the 1909 Councils Act as an attempt to ‘defuse the forces of Indian Nationalism’, through small extensions of the franchise and the number of Indian electorates on the councils. Many argue that the only reason Britain introduced the Indian Councils Act along with the Morley-Minto reforms was to ‘shore-up’ the British Raj and to prevent the unrest that the British Raj had previously seen in 1857 in the Indian Mutiny and more recently in 1905 after the partition of Bengal.This view could be supported with the fact that most reforms happened to be made when there was either much unrest or expectation amongst the population such as after WWI when India’s voluntary contribution and support deserved reward which was given by the 1919 Government of India Act. However this was only partly successful as it did not satisfy the expectations of the INC who boycotted the elections nor did it satisfy the residents of the Punjab who became increasingly violent.However we can see through the Rowlatt Acts that Source H is not altogether correct in its opinion that the reforms introduced were in order to ‘shore up’ the British Raj as when threatened with the unrest that the Government of India Act caused it did not introduce more reforms to appease opposition it introduced repression and repealed the reforms made over the past two decades, such as fair trials in the law and the discontinuation of censorship and house arrest.This certainly did not please political activists in India at the time.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah resigned from his post in the government and in Source Q we can see he felt that ‘constitutional rights…
[have been]… violated’ and the ‘principles of justice have been uprooted’. However it would be in Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s interests to exaggerate in a letter to the Viceroy in an attempt to make him listen through using such strong words.The source also shows the opinion of one man who is educated and can not represent the true feelings of the entire population. The fact that in the face of opposition in 1919 caused from famines and the huge deaths after the Spanish Influenza pandemic, 13 million deaths are thought to have been a result of the disease, the British Raj chose repression over reformation shows us that perhaps the reforms previously introduced weren’t to ‘shore up’ the British Raj but were actually steps towards colonial self-government in India.
The 1909 Indian Councils Act was not preceded by violence and the Secretary of State for India, John Morley, made a huge number of reforms during his time in power and was the first Secretary of State to actually have visited India and to have listened to the wants of the Indian people. Along with Viceroy Lord Minto he ended all-white rule in India, with both the Viceroy and the Secretary of State employing Indians as their advisors.Source H shows us that there were improvements made such as extending the franchise and increasing the number of elected Indians, however the source was written in 1996 when all but China were independent of British rule and the attitudes towards empires had become more hostile. However it appears that only middle class educated Indians benefitted from this reform and it could be seen as the British attempting to pacify the more educated Indians and to prevent them from spreading the intelligence and awareness of the situation in India, thereby ‘shoring up’ the British Raj.When World War I broke out in 1914 the British were astounded at the huge support they voluntarily received from India and the 827,000 men who had volunteered by 1918. This was in addition to those who were already a part of the 161,000 strong Indian army.
The Indian army took part in many important western front battles and they found themselves fighting alongside British soldiers as equals in the battles of Ypres. This showed the Indian soldiers that they were equal to the British in their skills and in themselves.To add to this in order to raise morale in the troops the British officers and generals claimed that they were fighting for freedom and democracy and emphasised the importance of ‘self-determination’. When the Indian army returned they therefore felt that a change was necessary as the racism and inequality that had existed between the British and the Indians seemed even more out of place and hypocritical than it had done so previously. The political groups also expected a change and a reward for the loyalty shown to the emperor King George V and as a result the Government of India Act was passed. This meant that a dyarchy was created.The Indian Provincial councils had representatives from all religions in order to respect the Lucknow Pact of 1916 they were also allowed to manage the domestic affairs such as education, agriculture, healthcare, local governments and public services.
What were seen as more important parts of politics were kept under British control for example military, economic and law issues as well as communications and foreign affairs. The Viceroy also had to have six civilians on his council three of whom were of Indian. However though the franchise had been modestly extended it still only included 10% of men.The INC, as well as many other political activists, were unsatisfied with the Act as though it appeared to be a step towards colonial self-government in reality few changes were made and the average citizen still had no political voice, it was seen by many as an insufficient reward for the 65,000 soldiers who had died fighting for Britain. These reforms could be seen to ‘shore up’ the British Raj as the country was expecting reforms and if the British had not even attempted to live up to Indian expectations then they would in danger of riots and opposition.The Russian Revolution of 1917 had caused fear in the west of Bolshevism and the insufficient reforms could be seen as an attempt to prevent similar uprisings. However Edwin Montagu was committed to reforms as we know from source P ‘development of self-governing institutions’ and though there were certainly those who felt that these reforms were too liberal there were also those who felt them too conservative. The Act could be seen as a compromise and a step towards self-government if the Indians continued to prove their loyalty through cooperation with Britain.
However source P also shows Montagu to still want India as a ‘part of the British Empire’ which is supported by source H. As this is a section from the Montagu declaration Montagu would doubtlessly be trying to gain support from the population therefore he may have exaggerated. However any promises that he made and did not then fulfil would create opposition so we must conclude that he did plan to meet those expectations. After World War I the world became far more globally involved and the main powers of the time were subject to much scrutiny by their foreign counterparts.One of the big influences on Britain at the time was America.
The US provided an example of how successful independence could be and disagreed with colonisation of countries and the creation of empires. After the revolution of Russia, Britain felt that it needed US support and therefore was careful not to anger them. Through appearing to head towards self-government in India they could protect themselves and gain a permanent ally by proving themselves to be liberal and kind towards their colonies.
However India was also the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the British Empire and through losing it Britain would lose its power and respectability as even Winston Churchill felt that without India Britain would become a second or third rate country. This implies that Britain would do anything to keep India and these reforms could therefore be seen as an attempt to ‘shore up’ the British Raj. To conclude it appears that reforms made were seen as a way to ‘shore up’ the British Raj and to keep the ‘jewel in the crown’ in the hands of the British.The sources all seem to show that these reforms were an attempt ‘to defuse the forces of Indian Nationalism’ through having ‘violated… constitutional rights’ in order to keep India as a ‘part of the British empire’. However source P also show us that Montagu did believe in reforms and was heading towards colonial self-government we also know from other sources that John Morley, his predecessor, was aiming for self-government in India.
However these were only two people and the Acts that were passed needed many more supporters whom perhaps saw the reforms as a way to gain international support and to satisfy Indian Nationalism.The reforms were not suggested in order to directly ensure Britain maintained its rule however it is clear that many people had no intentions of relinquishing power over India and simply allowed these reforms due to other factors such as international support and the diffusion of ‘the forces of Indian Nationalism’. Therefore for the majority the reforms up until 1919 were an attempt to ‘shore up’ the British Raj however the main leaders who introduced the steps saw them as an improvement and a step towards a self-governing India.