Indian independence

Committee of Indian Congressmen


Formed by Amiya Nath Bose and Pulin Behari Seal in 1942, the Committee of Indian Congressmen had two primary objectives: ‘the protection of the Indians in the United Kingdom (i.e., their protection from conscription), and…the placing before the British public of “solely the Congress case”’ (L/PJ/12/646, p. 21). Despite its claims of allegiance to the Indian National Congress, counter-allegations on the part of British government officials suggest that the organization declared this allegiance in order to conceal its true support for the pro-Axis Subhas Chandra Bose who advocated that Indian independence could only be attained if Japan were to take over India. The fact that Subhas Chandra Bose’s nephew headed the organization led to similar suspicions on the part of its original members and caused the early departure of several Communists and activists including Surat Alley, Sasadhar Sinha, Dr J. C. Ghosh and D. J. Vaidya, some of whom went on to form the rival organization Swaraj House.

In spite of this, the CIC did enjoy some success, holding several meetings in central and east London, as well as in Birmingham and Glasgow. It organized demonstrations to celebrate Indian Independence Day and, through its Tagore Society, cultural events including an Indian art exhibition whose patrons included Augustus John and William Rothenstein. In 1942, there were plans to issue a bulletin publishing speeches by Gandhi and Jinnah – again suggesting an alignment with Congress – and it had a sub-committee, the Council for the International Recognition of Indian Independence, which was run largely by Britons. An evident rival of Krishna Menon’s India League, the CIC had more in common with the working-class Indian Workers’ Association some of whose leaders were affiliated to it. Said Amir Shah helped to attract many of the working-class Indians who inhabited the East End, including several Muslims.

The CIC had become relatively inactive by autumn 1944, partly due to the self-imposed evacuation of Bose and Seal from London at the height of the bombings and the subsequent departure of Bose for India, and partly due to a lack of funds.

Date began: 
01 Aug 1942
Precise date began unknown: 
Key Individuals' Details: 

Amiya Nath Bose (founder and General Secretary), Dev Kumar Mozumdar (Assistant Secretary in 1942), Akbar Mullick (Assistant Secretary in 1942), Pulin Behari Seal (founder), Said Amir Shah, Diwan Singh.


Surat Alley, Thakur Singh Basra (IWA), Mrs Haidri Bhattacharya, Fenner Brockway (attended meetings), George Caitlin, W. G. Cove (spoke at meetings), J. C. Ghosh, Kalundar Amirullah Kahan, Akbar Ali Khan (IWA), Harry Pollitt (spoke at meetings), Sehri Saklatvala, Julius Silverman (attended meetings), Sasadhar Sinha.

Date ended: 
01 Jan 1945
Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/646, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras


Precise date ended unknown: 
Involved in events details: 

Numerous meetings in east London, Birmingham and Glasgow.

Shah Jolal Restaurant


The Shah Jolal Restaurant was established by Ayub Ali, a former lascar, who arrived in London in 1920, having jumped ship at Tilbury Docks. Located in the heart of the East End, this café served as a hub for the Indian community there. It was frequented by ex-lascars who inhabited the area, and also served as a meeting place for the East End branch of V. K. Krishna Menon’s India League. In this last respect, its visitors included renowned cultural and political figures such as Mulk Raj Anand, Narayana Menon and Krishna Menon, as well as its more regular working-class clientele.


L/PJ/12/455, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, p. 80

Secondary works: 

Adams, Caroline (ed.), Across Seven Seas and Thirteen Rivers (London: THAP, 1987)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)


This file includes reports and correspondence relating to the East End branch of V. K. Krishna Menon’s India League. This extract is from a New Scotland Yard Report on the League and details the inaugural meeting of the branch which was held in the Shah Jolal Restaurant on 13 June 1943.


The East London branch of the INDIA LEAGUE…has been opened at 76, Commercial Street, E.1., the office being situated over an Indian café owed by Ayub ALI, a Bengali ex-seamen…About 80 persons attended, of whom only three were Europeans; the remainder were mostly Indian seamen and factory workers. Kundan Lal JALIE presided, and with him on the platform were: V. K. Krishna MENON, Mrs. Asha BHATTACHARYYA, Ismail ALI, Mrs. J. K. HANDOO, Mrs. M. N. BOOMLA, Alexander SLOANE, MP and Dr K. C. BHATTACHARYYA. Others present among the audience were: Surat ALI, Said Amir SHAH, Dr. H. K. HANDOO, I. A. MALLIK, Moina MEAH alias S. A. Majid QURESHI, Abdul GHANI, Manek KAVRANA, Abdul HAMID, Mulk Raj ANAND, Narayana MENON and N. B. Ker (High Commissioner’s Office).

Key Individuals' Details: 

Ayub Ali (founder and owner of the café; co-founder of the Indian Seamen’s Welfare League)


This short extract highlights the function served by the Shah Jolal as a focal point for the community of working-class ex-seamen that inhabited the East End of London. It also suggests that the working classes were concerned about colonial rule and politically active – which contradicts some representations of them as passive and absorbed solely in their own livelihoods. The attendance of many elite cultural and political figures, including Mulk Raj Anand and Narayana Menon, suggests that there was some interaction between working-class and privileged South Asians in Britain within the political sphere.


Ismail Ali (attended India League meetings there), Surat Alley (attended IL meetings there), Mulk Raj Anand (attended IL meetings there), Asha Bhattacharyya (attended IL meetings there), Kundan Lal Jalie (attended IL meetings there), V. K. Krishna Menon (meetings of his India League were held there), Narayana Menon (attended IL meetings there), Shah Abdul Majid Qureshi (close links with Ayub Ali through the Indian Seamen’s Welfare League; attended IL meetings there), Said Amir Shah (attended IL meetings there).

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/455, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras


76 Commercial Street
London, E1 6LY
United Kingdom
Involved in events details: 

Meetings of the East End branch of the India League

Said Amir Shah


Said Amir Shah was a London-based silk merchant and warehouseman. He ran a business with his brother Fazal Shah on White Church Lane, and held a shop at 36 Montague Street. He also worked as a contractor for film companies, finding Indians (predominantly former lascars and hawkers) for crowd scenes, and in 1942 founded a company named Shah Film Corporation with John Kartar Singh and Herbert Bundy as his co-directors. A highly resourceful individual, during his time in Britain Shah was involved in a number of anti-colonial organizations and activities. Indeed, V. K. Krishna Menon reportedly cultivated Shah because of his connections, especially with working-class Indians in the East End of London.

Government officials first became aware of Shah through his involvement with the London branch of the Indian National Congress in the 1930s. After a brief period of involvement with the East End branch of Menon’s India League, he went on to become a prominent figure in the Committee of Indian Congressmen (led by Amiya Nath Bose and Pulin Behari Seal), under whose auspices he created an Indian National Muslim Committee which was strongly anti-Pakistan. He also aided lascars in their struggle for workers’ rights, acting as a court interpreter for those involved in criminal cases, and was an active member of the Hindustani Social Club.

In addition, Shah was a leading figure in the Jamiat-ul-Muslimin; in the 1940s he held the post of treasurer, and, according to government reports, he was responsible for opening various provincial branches of the organization in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. Shah campaigned for a mosque to serve the Muslim community in the East End of London, and was instrumental in the foundation of the East London Mosque in 1941. He made a speech at its inauguration ceremony, and played a leading role in its management and affairs subsquently. He was the main agitator on behalf of the Jamiat-ul-Muslimin in its struggle against the trustees for control over the mosque in 1943.


L/PJ/12/468, India Office Records, African and Asian Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, pp. 278-80


This Indian Political Intelligence file comprises documentation and correspondence relating to Indian Muslim organizations and activity in Britain during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. It includes reports on the activities and establishment of mosques in London, including the Shah Jahan Mosque, the East London Mosque, and the Regent’s Park Mosque.


Ayub Ali (through East London Mosque), Surat Alley (through Hindustani Social Club), Mulk Raj Anand (through Hindustani Social Club), Tarapadu Basu (attended Jamiat protest meeting against ELM trustees), Amiya Nath Bose (through Committee of Indian Congressmen), G. S. Dara (accountant for Shah Bros), Dr Dutt (through India League), Sir Ernest Hotson (through East London Mosque), Kundan Lal Jalie (through East End connections), C. L. Katial (through India League), Kalundar Amirullah Khan (through Committee of Indian Congressmen), Sahibdad Khan (through East London Mosque, Jamiat-ul-Muslimin and Hindustani Social Club), V. K. Krishna Menon (through India League), Firoz Khan Noon (through East London Mosque), Hassan Nachat Pasha (Egyptian Ambassador – through East London Mosque), Ahmed Din Qureshi (through Hindustani Social Club), S. M. Sayeedulla (through East London Mosque), Pulin Behari Seal (through Committee of Indian Congressmen, Krishnarao Shelvankar (through Jamiat and ELM dispute), I. G. P. Singh (attended Jamiat protest meeting against ELM trustees), John Kartar Singh (formed Shah Film Corporation with Shah, and through Hindustani Social Club), Hassan Suhrawardy (through the East London Mosque), Sir Frederick Sykes (through East London Mosque), C. B. Vakil (through India League).

Shah Film Corporation

Precise DOB unknown: 

It is now clear that from 1941 onwards, SHAH has been trying to work himself up to a position of leadership in Moslem circles in this country. It is highly improbable that he has any religious motives in the matter, but desires to strengthen his hand as uncrowned king amongst Indian merchants, peddlers and seamen in the East End and in Provincial towns. In October 1941, when the East London Mosque was opened, he commented to the effect that it was not the Mosque he wanted, but it would have its uses. Shortly afterwards he was one of two members of the Jamiat-ul-Muslimin co-opted onto the Board of Trustees of the Mosque and the Mosque Fund, and thereafter campaigned strenuously to obtain control, through the Jamiat-ul-Muslimin, of the Mosque and the Fund.


First, this extract points to the fact that Muslim South Asians in Britain during the early twentieth century identified in terms of their religious faith as well as in terms of a broader Indian identity. Further, it suggests the presence of a burgeoning Muslim working-class community in the East End of London – a precursor to the significant Bangladeshi community that inhabits the area today. Finally, Shah’s connections with and leadership of ‘Indian merchants, peddlers and seamen’ coupled with his involvement with the Jamiat-ul-Muslimin and the East London Mosque suggest an intersection of the political and religious spheres for Muslims in 1940s Britain – and an attempt on Shah’s part to mobilize this community for the right to practise their faith within the public sphere.

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/455, India Office Records, Asian and Afridan Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/PJ/12/468, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/PJ/12/646, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Involved in events: 

Inauguration of the East London Mosque, 1941

Dispute between the Jamiat-ul-Muslimin and the Board of Trustees of the East London Mosque, 1943

Opening of the East End branch of the India League, 1943

City of birth: 
Amritsar, Punjab
Country of birth: 


Montague Street
London, EC2Y 8BB
United Kingdom
51° 31' 3.3312" N, 0° 5' 52.818" W
White Church Lane
London, E1 7QR
United Kingdom
51° 30' 55.7388" N, 0° 4' 8.1732" W
Precise date of death unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1930s - 1940s

1942 Quit India Movement

08 Aug 1942
Event location: 

Gowalia Tank Maidan, Bombay, India


On 8 August 1942 at the All-India Congress Committee session in Bombay, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi launched the 'Quit India' movement. The next day, Gandhi, Nehru and many other leaders of the Indian National Congress were arrested by the British Government. Disorderly and non-violent demonstrations took place throughout the country in the following days.

By the middle of 1942, Japanese troops were approaching the borders of India. Pressure was mounting from China, the United States and  Britain to solve the issue of  the future status of India before the end of the war. In March 1942, the Prime Minister dispatched Sir Stafford Cripps, a member of the War Cabinet, to India to discuss the British Government's Draft Declaration. The draft granted India Dominion status after the war but otherwise conceded few changes to the British Government Act of 1935. The draft was unacceptable to the Congress Working Committee who rejected it. The failure of the Cripps Mission further estranged the Congress and the British Government.

Gandhi seized upon the failure of the Cripps Mission, the advances of the Japanese in South-East Asia and the general frustration with the British in India. He called for a voluntary British withdrawal from India. From 29 April to 1 May 1942, the All India Congress Committee assembled in Allahabad to discuss the resolution of the Working Committee. Although Gandhi was absent from the meeting, many of his points were admitted into the resolution: the most significant of them being the commitment to non-violence. On 14 July 1942, the Congress Working Committee met again at Wardha and resolved that it would authorise Gandhi to take charge of the non-violent mass movement. The Resolution, generally referred to as the 'Quit India' resolution, was to be approved by the All India Congress Committee meeting in Bombay in August.

On 7 to 8 August 1942, the All India Congress Committee met in Bombay and ratified the 'Quit India' resolution. Gandhi called for 'Do or Die'. The next day, on 9 August 1942, Gandhi, members of the Congress Working Committee and other Congress leaders were arrested by the British Government under the Defence of India Rules. The Working Committee, the All India Congress Committee and the four Provincial Congress Committees were declared unlawful associations under the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908. The assembly of public meetings were prohibited under rule 56 of the Defence of India Rules. The arrest of Gandhi and the Congress leaders led to mass demonstrations  throughout India. Thousands were killed and injured in the wake of the 'Quit India' movement. Strikes were called in many places. The British swiftly suppressed many of these demonstrations by mass detentions; more than 100,000 people were imprisoned.

The 'Quit India' movement, more than anything, united the Indian people against British rule. Although most demonstrations had been suppressed by 1944, upon his release in 1944 Gandhi continued his resistance and went on a 21-day fast. By the end of the Second World War, Britain's place in the world had changed dramatically and the demand for independence could no longer be ignored.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
People involved: 

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Subhas Chandra Bose, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Asoka Mehta, Jaya Prakas Narayan, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Chakravarti Rajgopalachari.

Published works: 

Gandhi, Mahatma, Quit India, ed. by R. K. Prabhu and U. R. Rao (Bombay: Padma Publications, 1942)

Secondary works: 

Bakshi, Rakesh Ranjan, Quit India Movement in U. P.: Sabotage, Bomb, and Conspiracy Cases (Sitapur: NP Publishers, 1992) 

Bakshi, S. R., Congress and Quit India Movement (New Delhi: Criterion Publications, 1986)

Basavapunnaiah, M., Quit India Call and the Role of the Communists: A Reply to Arun Shourie (New Delhi: National Book Centre, 1984)

Bhaskaran, Krishna, Quit India Movement: A People's Revolt in Maharashtra (Mumbai: Himalaya Publishing House, 1999)

Bhuyan, Arun Chandra, The Quit India Movement: The Second World War and Indian Nationalism (New Delhi: Manas Publications, 1975)

Chakrabarty, Bidyut, Local Politics and Indian Nationalism: Midnapur, 1919-1944 (New Delhi: Manohar, 1997)

Chakravarty, Shachi, Quit India Movement: A Study (Delhi: New Century Publications, 2002)

Chaudhari, K. K., Quit India Revolution: The Ethos of Its Central Direction (Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1996)

Chopra, P. N., Historic Judgement On Quit India Movement: Justice Wickenden's Report (Delhi: Konark Publishers, 1989)

Chopra, P. N., Quit India Movement: British Secret Report (Faridabad: Thomson Press, 1976)

Congress Responisibility for the Disturbances, 1942-43 (Delhi: Manager of Publications, 1943)

Desai, Sanjiv P., Calendar of the 'Quit India' Movement in the Bombay Presidency (Bombay: Department of Archives, Government of Maharashtra, 1995)

Dwivedi, Surendranath, Untold Story of August Revolution (Delhi: Ajanta Publications, 1993)

Goyal, P. K., Battle of India's Freedom Movement (Delhi: Vista International Publishing House, 2005)

Hutchins, Francis G., India's Revolution: Gandhi and the Quit India Movement (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973)

Hutchins, Francis G., Spontaneous Revolution: The Quit India Movement (Delhi: Manohar Book Service, 1971)

Jana, Anil Kumar, Quit India Movement in Bengal: A Study of Contai Subdivision (Delhi: Indian Publishers' Distributors, 1996)

Kamath, Suryanath U., Quit India Movement in Karnataka (Bangalore: Lipi Prakashana, 1988)

Kamtekar, Indivar, What Caused the 'Quit India' Movement? (Calcutta: Indian Institute of Management, 1990)

Kumar, Ravindra, Champaran to Quit India Movement (New Delhi: Mittal, 2002)

Limaye, Madhu, The August Struggle: An Appraisal of Quit India Movement (Bombay: Sindhu Publications, 1993)

Limaye, Sirubhau, Nau Ogasta (Pune: Manasanmana Prakasana, 1996)

Maity, Pradyot Kumar, Quit India Movement in Bengal and the Tamralipta Jatiya Sarkar (Tumluk, Purba Medinipur: Purvadri Prakasani, 2002)

Malhotra, S. L., From Civil Disobedience to Quit India: Gandhi and the Freedom Movement in Punjab and Haryana, 1932-1942 (Chandigarh: Punjab University Publication Bureau, 1979)

Mathur, Y. B., Quit India Movement (Delhi: Pragati Publications, 1979)

Mehta, Chitra P., I Fought for My Country's Freedom: Being an Inspiring and Instructive Story of the Part Played by a Young Non-Violent Soldier in the Historic Indian Struggle for Freedom of 1942-44 (Bombay: Hamara Hindoostan Publications, 1946)

Naidu, C. M., Mahatma Gandhi's Leadership and Quit India Movement in Coastal India (Visakhapatnam: C. M. Naidu, 1996)

Nimbkar, Krishnabai, Pages from a Quit India Freedom Fighter's Diary (1944-45) (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1996)

Pandey, Gyanendra, The Indian Nation in 1942 (Calcutta: Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta & K. P. Bagchi, 1988)

Panigrahi, D. N., Quit India and the Struggle for Freedom (New Delhi: Vikas, 1984)

Pati, Biswamoy, Turbulent Times, India, 1940-44 (Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1998)

Patil, V. T., Gandhi, Nehru and the Quit India Movement (Delhi: B. R. Pub. Corp., 1984)

Pattanayaka, Jagannatha, Landmarks of Quit India Movement in Orissa (Cuttack: Orissa State Freedom Fighters' Samity, 1992)

Ramu, P. S., Gandhi-Subhas and 'Quit India' (Delhi: S. S. Publishers, 1995)

Ramu, P. S., Prelude to 'Quit India': Home Rule to Satyagraha (Delhi: S. S. Publishers, 1996)

Rath, Bijay Chandra, Quit India Movement in Orissa (Cuttack: Arya Prakashan, 1994)

Roy, Pankaj Kumar, The Quit India Movement in Bihar: The Special Reference to the Old Division of Bhagalpur (Delhi: Capital Publishing House, 1991)

Sarkar, Kalyan Kumar, The 'Quit India' Movement in the District of Nadia (Calcutta: Barnali, 1988)

Sengupta, Syamalendu, and Gautam Chatterjee, Secret Congress Broadcasts and Storming Railway Tracks during Quit India Movement (New Delhi: Navrang, 1988) 

Sharma, Alka, History of Modern India: The Quit India Movement (Delhi: H. K. Publications, 1992)

Shourie, Arun, 'The Only Fatherland': Communists, 'Quit India', and the Sovjet Union (New Delhi: ASA Publications, 1991)

Shukla, Vivekananda, Rebellion of 1942: Quit India Movement (Delhi: H. K. Publishers and Dsitributors, 1989)

Thomas, Anthony, Mahatma Gandhi and the Communal Problem: From the Khalifat Movement to Quit India (New Delhi: Indian Social Institute, 1983)

The Transfer of Power, 1942-7 (London: H. M. S. O., 1971)

Venkataramani, M. S., Quit India: The American Reponse to the 1942 Struggle  (New Delhi: Vikas, 1979)

Wolpert, Stanley, Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)

Zaidi, A. M., Defying a Distant King: A Study of the Quit India Movement (New Delhi: Publications Department, Indian Institute of Applied Political Research, 1986)

Zaidi, A. M., The Way Out to Freedom: An Enquiry Into the Quit India Movement Conducted by Participants (New Delhi: Orientalia, 1973)

Hindustani Social Club


Like the Hindustan Community House, the main purpose of the Hindustani Social Club was to do social and educational work among seamen and pedlars in the East End. A key figure in the HSC was Surat Alley, a political activist whose main concern and area of activism was the working conditions of Indian seamen. The Club also served as a social centre for Indians in the East End. In 1939, Alley organized a charity performance by the Indian dancer Ram Gopal and his troupe for the entertainment of the Club’s members (L/PJ/12/630, p. 60).

The Club also functioned as a political meeting place and as a forum where Indian activists could educate and mobilize working-class Indians against British colonial rule. Alley issued to its members news bulletins in Urdu and Bengali on the British Government’s oppression of Indian workers and peasants, and in 1942 the Club hosted an ‘Indian Independence Day’ meeting, attended by Mulk Raj Anand as well as numerous well-known activists (L/PJ/12/454, pp. 13-16). Further, with Surat Alley as its Honorary Secretary, it inevitably had links with the Colonial Seamen’s Association as well as with other organizations for lascars, and, according to a government surveillance report, in 1939 it served as a meeting place for striking lascars (L/PJ/12/630, p. 25). In the eyes of the Government, Surat Alley’s association with the Club made it particularly suspect; in 1940, its premises (also Alley’s home at the time) were searched because of Alley’s links with Udham Singh (ibid., p. 81). 


Extract from New Scotland Yard Report No. 156, 13 December 1939, L/PJ/12/630, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, p. 60

Secondary works: 

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)


This Indian Political Intelligence file, titled ‘Indian Seamen: Unrest and Welfare’, includes numerous government surveillance and police reports on the activities of lascars in Britain in the 1930s and 1940s, focusing in particular on their strikes and other forms of activism against their pay and conditions.

Date began: 
01 Jan 1934

A short time ago Ramzan alias Surat ALI was able to secure the services of the well known Indian dancer, Ram GOPAL and his company, for a charity performance in order to mitigate the distress caused by the war among Indian seamen and pedlars, and a special matinee was arranged for Friday 1st December, 1939, at the Vaudeville Theatre, Strand W.C., the proceeds of which were to be given to the Hindustani Social Club.

Although ALI did his utmost to boost the matinee and a special committee of the Hindustani Social Club was formed to organise publicity, with Mrs. May DUTT (wife of D.N. DUTT) of 160 Highlever Road, W.10 as its honorary treasurer, the performance had to be postponed owing to lack of support. There is no doubt that ALI’s failure was due to the fact that the London Indian Community has no faith in him and suspected that he would use the proceeds for his own ends. 

Precise date began unknown: 
Key Individuals' Details: 

Surat Alley (Honorary Secretary), Said Amir Shah (Secretary).


This extract demonstrates the presence of South Asian culture – in the form of dance – at the heart of the imperial metropolis and in a key cultural venue. Moreover, the fact that this performance, which did eventually take place,  was attended by working-class Indians from the HSC locates this disadvantaged sector of the community within this central London space, albeit briefly. That middle-class Indians (such as the Dutts) were concerned for the welfare of their working-class counterparts is suggestive of the sense of community which was developing among South Asians in Britain during this period, which evidently traversed boundaries of class. The involvement of Surat Alley, who was better known for his political activism on behalf of the lascars, with this cultural production points to the intersection of the cultural, social and political for Indians in Britain.


Mulk Raj Anand (attended meetings), Dr D. N. Dutt (attended meetings), May Dutt (wife of Dr D. N. Dutt, Treasurer of publicity committee for charity performance given by Ram Gopal), Ram Gopal and company, Tahsil Miah (shared lodgings with Surat Alley at the HSC), Kundal Lal Jalie, Sahibdad Khan (attended meetings), Ghulam Mohammed (attended meetings), Shah Abdul Majid Qureshi (attended meetings), Sarah Reder (Alley’s ‘mistress’, attended meetings), John Kartar Singh (attended meetings), Dr C. B. Vakil (attended meetings).

Archive source: 

Flyer, Tower Hamlets Archives Collection

L/PJ/12/454, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/PJ/12/630, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras


35 Portree Street
London, E14 0HT
United Kingdom
179 High Street Poplar
London, E15 2NE
United Kingdom
Involved in events details: 

Performance of Ram Gopal and company, 1939

‘Indian Independence Day’ meeting, 1942

India League


The India League was a Britain-based organization whose aim was to campaign for full independence and self-government for India. The activist, lawyer and editor V. K. Krishna Menon was the driving force behind it. It evolved from the Commonwealth of India League (est. 1922) – which in turn evolved from Annie Besant’s Home Rule for India League (est. 1916). Menon became joint secretary of the Commonwealth of India League in 1928 and radicalized the organization, rejecting its objective of Dominion Status for the greater goal of full independence and alienating figures such as Besant in the process. It was in the early 1930s, with Menon at its helm, that the organization flourished, expanding into multiple branches across London and in a range of other British cities including Bournemouth, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Dublin, Hull, Lancashire, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, Southampton and Wolverhampton.

The India League sought to raise consciousness among the British people of the injustice of British colonial rule in India and to mobilize them to protest against it. Organized into a range of committees, including a Women’s Committee and an Action Committee, its active members did so through a variety of means and on a voluntary, unpaid basis. For example, its Parliamentary Committee lobbied MPs – several of whom spoke on behalf of the League in the House of Commons – as well as arranging for Indians to address the House of Commons, and discussing policy based on events and opinion in India. Menon, as well as other members of the executive, addressed a variety of different audiences (workers, women’s groups, church-goers) throughout the country, and spoke at meetings hosted by several organizations including the Labour Party, the Communist Party, and the Fabian Society. The League also organized public meetings to celebrate 'Independence Day' and Tagore’s birthday, and to commemorate the Amritsar Massacre, for example. In addition, it published numerous pamphlets, treatises and newspaper articles on the plight of India, countering government propaganda and misinformation. Its own organs included Indian News (Newsindia) and the Information Bulletin.

The League’s activities were closely linked to events in India. Julius Silverman, former chair of the Birmingham branch, describes it as ‘the Sister Organization of the Congress Party in India’ (p. 844). The strength of this relationship was due in part to the friendship between Menon and Jawaharlal Nehru, and the League gave receptions for Nehru on his visits to England in the 1930s. While the League languished at the beginning of the Second World War, when Britain’s political focus lay elsewhere, the Quit India resolution in 1942 and subsequent jailing of Nehru, Gandhi and other Congress leaders saw an increase in the organization’s energy, as did the Bengal famine of 1943. In 1932, Krishna Menon formed an India League delegation with Monica Whately, Ellen Wilkinson and Leonard Matters to investigate conditions in India. Their findings, which included shocking details of political repression, torture and starvation, were published on their return and the book was banned in India.

The India League’s membership was largely elite and predominantly British, although several Indians and Ceylonese resident in or visiting England, including numerous students, did attend meetings. In order to attract more support among the South Asian working classes in Britain, the League established its East End branch in the early 1940s. The organization continued to function after independence, adapting its aims to forging strong links between India and Britain, as well as to working towards the emancipation of people across the globe. Indeed, despite its primary focus on India, the League was internationalist in its outlook throughout, perceiving India’s struggle for freedom as part of a larger struggle against imperialism and capitalism.

Published works: 

Brailsford, H. N., How it Looks from India

Bristol Branch, The Peril in India. A Reply to the Daily Mail

Condition of India: Being the Report of the Delegation Sent to India by the India League in 1932 (1933)

Conflict in India (1942)

Freeman, Peter, Our Duty to India

Graham, Margaret, India: Our Responsibilities

Indian National Congress, India Denounces British Imperialism; read the suppressed statement of All India Congress on Sept 14, 1939 (1939)

Kalam, Azad Abdul, India’s Choice (1940)

Menon, V. K. Krishna, Why Must India Fight? (1940)

Menon, V. K. Krishna, Britain’s Prisoner (1941)

Menon, V. K. Krishna, India, Britain and Freedom (1941)

Menon, V. K. Krishna, The Situation in India (1943)

Menon, V. K. Krishna, Unity with India against Fascism (1943)

Nehru, Jawaharlal, Peace and India (1938)

Nehru, Jawaharlal, The Parting of the Ways and the Viceroy–Gandhi Correspondence (1940)

Nehru, Jawaharlal, What India Wants (1942)

The Parable of a Conquered State

Plantation Labour in India, preface by A. A. Purcell

Rao, B. Shiva, Indian Labour and Self-Government

Sorensen, Reginald, Famine, Politics and Mr Amery (1944)


L/PJ/12/448, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, p. 216

Other names: 

Commonwealth of India League

Secondary works: 

Arora, K. C., Indian Natonalist Movement in Britain, 1930-1949 (New Delhi: Inter-India Publications, 1992)

Chakravarty, Suhash, V. K. Krishna Menon and the India League, Vols 1 & 2 (New Delhi: Har-Anand, 1997)

Chakravarty, Suhash, Crusader Extraordinary: Krishna Menon and the India League, 1932–6 (New Delhi: India Research Press, 2006)

Silverman, Julius, ‘The India League’, in B. N. Pande (ed.) A Centenary History of the Indian National Congress, Vol. 3: 1935-1947 (New Delhi: All India Congress Committee/Vikas Publishing, 1985)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)


This Indian Political Intelligence files documents the activities of the India League in the early 1930s. It has extensive documentation of the 1932 India League delegation to investigate conditions in India, in particular. The extract is taken from a letter from Bertrand Russell, chairman of the India League, addressed to Mr Butler of the India Office. It is dated 8 November 1932.

Date began: 
01 Jan 1928

I should be very glad if you could come to a small meeting on Monday evening, the 21st instant, at 8 pm, to meet the members of the India League Delegation on their return from India.

We are inviting a few people who are interested in India to hear the Delegates talk of their interesting experiences and to have an opportunity of discussing personally with them the present situation out there.

Mr and Mrs J. F. Horrabin have very kindly allowed us to hold this meeting in their house at 72, Gower Street, WC1.

[Annotation by India Office official]
The public meeting is to be on the 26th, I think, and any public counterblast should be issued either at it or simultaneously or both. I agree that this private meeting would be no good for counterpropaganda, but it would be useful to have a spy there.

Precise date began unknown: 
Key Individuals' Details: 

Horace Alexander (exec), Bhicoo Batlivala (exec), Asha Bhattacharya (exec), K. C. Bhattacharya (exec), H. N. Brailsford (committee for action), Reginald Bridgeman (exec), Fenner Brockway (exec), P. S. Chaudhry (secretary, Dublin branch), A. J. Cook (exec), Lord Farringdon (exec), Peter Freeman (chair, 1930-2), Dr H. J. Handoo (exec), Mrs Jai Kshori Handoo (women’s committee), Gulab Hassan (secretary, Newcastle branch), George Hicks (parliamentary committee), J. F. Horrabin (vice-chair, early 1930s, committee for action), Winifred Horrabin (exec), George Lansbury (committee for action), Harold Laski (president, 1930-49, and committee for action), Fred Longden (exec), James Marley (secretary), Leonard Matters (1932 delegation to investigate conditions in India), V. K. Krishna Menon (hon. secretary, 1928-47; president, 1947-74), Syed Mohamedi (exec), Mrs Bimla Nehru (women’s committee), Brijlal Nehru (exec and chair of women’s committee), Miss M. Nicholson (exec), Anna Pollack (often acted as assistant secretary) Dhani Ram Prem (secretary, Birmingham branch), A. A. Purcell (Indian labour committee), Bertrand Russell (chair, 1932-9, committee for action), Julius Silverman (chair, Birmingham branch), Bridget Tunnard (administrative secretary, until 1971), Wilfred Wellcock (exec and women’s committee), Monica Whately (exec and 1932 delegation to investigate conditions in India), Anne C. Wilkinson (treasurer), Ellen Wilkinson (1932 delegation to investigate conditions in India), Tom Williams (parliamentary secretary and committee for action), Dorothy Woodman (committee for action), Commander Edgar Young (exec).


Bertrand Russell’s authorship of this letter and the Horrabins’ hosting of the meeting emphasize the involvement of British intellectual and political figures in the campaign for Indian independence – and the success of Krishna Menon and the India League in attracting British involvement. It is suggestive of the cross-cultural interaction that took place in the left wing of the political sphere, transgressing racial and cultural boundaries, and the location of anti-imperial activism at the heart of empire. The annotation by the India Office official underlines the extent of their surveillance of anti-colonial activists, whether Indian or British.


Mulk Raj Anand, C. F. Andrews, Tarapada Basu, Annie Besant, Aneurin Bevan, P. C. Bhandari, Vera Brittain, B. B. Ray Chaudhuri, Mrs Ray Chaudhuri, Venu Chitale, Savitri Chowdhary, G. D. H. Cole, Jean Cole, Elizabeth Collard, A. J. Cook, Isabel Cripps, P. T. Dalal, S. K. Datta, R. J. Deshpande, Joseph Devli, Rajani Palme Dutt, Michael Foot, Feroze Gandhi, Indira Nehru, Pran Nath Haksar, Agatha Harrison, Laurence Housman, C. E. M. Joad, Sunder Kabadia, C. L. Katial, Dr Kumaria, Freda Laski, Professor Madhusudan, M. Majumdar, Kingsley Martin, Aubrey Menen, S. Menon-Marath, James Marley, S. P. Mitra, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajni Patel, Marion Phillips, H. L. Polak, Renuka Ray, Paul Robeson, Marie Seton, Krishnarao Shelvankar, Mary Shelvankar, Harbhajan Singh, Reval Singh, Marthe Sinha, Sasadhar Sinha, Donald Soper, Lady Sorensen, Reginald Sorensen, T. Subasinghe, J. P. Thompson, J. Vijaya-Tunga, S. A. Wickremasinghe.

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/448-56, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Krisha Menon Papers, Nehru Memorial Library and Museum, Teen Murti, New Delhi

‘India League Collection with Handbills, 1941-1960’, Serial No. 439, Nehru Memorial Library and Museum, Teen Murti, New Delhi

‘Documents Relating to the India League’, Miscellaneous Microform Collections, Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge

Organization location: 
146 Strand, London; 165 Strand, London.


146 Strand
London, WC2R 0PT
United Kingdom
Involved in events details: 

'Independence Day' and Republic Day (regular meetings)

Labour Party conferences

Simon Commission

Quit India Movement, 1942


Leonard Matters


Leonard W. Matters was a Labour MP and freelance journalist. He accompanied Krishna Menon, Monica Whately and Ellen Wilkinson on the India League's Mission to India in 1932. Their findings were published in 1933 under the title Conditions of India. He was also a contributor to India Bulletin.

Published works: 

Whatley, Monica, et. al., Condition of India: Being the Report of the Delegation sent to India by the India League in 1932 (London: Essential News, 1933)

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1881
Precise DOB unknown: 
Secondary works: 

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)

Date of death: 
01 Jan 1951
Precise date of death unknown: 

Stafford Cripps


Stafford Cripps was born in 1889 in London to Charles Alfred Cripps and his wife Theresa. His father was a Conservative MP and later a Labour cabinet minister.

After turning down a scholarship to New College, Oxford, in 1907 he studied for an MSc degree at University College, London. In 1911, he married Isobel Cripps (née Swithinbank), whom he had met a year earlier when helping out with his father's campaign. When war broke out in 1914, Cripps, still recovering from a breakdown, did not join the forces. Instead, he became a lorry driver for the Red Cross. In 1929, Cripps joined the Labour Party and became a minister in Ramsay MacDonald's Labour government the year after. His campaign to become an MP was supported by Sukhsagar Datta. In 1933 he became chairman of the Socialist League, which he dissolved in 1937. Cripps was also heavily involved with the Left Book Club.

At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Cripps went on a tour of India, China, Russia and the United States. Cripps' first visit to India was intended to explore the possibility of self-government; he was warmly received by Jawaharlal Nehru. After India he went to China where he befriended Chiang Kai-shek, then he went to Russia where he met Foreign Minister Molotov. From June 1940 to January 1942 he served as the British Ambassador to the Soviet Union. Cripps succeeded in bringing Russia and Britain together as allies during the war, and consequently, in February 1942, Churchill brought Cripps into the government as Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons. Only a month later, on 22 March, Cripps would fly to Delhi on the so-called Cripps Mission, which was intended to secure Indian self-government after the war in return for support in the British war effort. The Cripps Mission failed and the Indian National Congress and the British Government became further estranged. The failure of the mission was the catalyst for Gandhi  to launch the Quit India movement in August 1942. After his return to Britain, Cripps' status within the Government had diminished and in the autumn of that year he resigned from the War Cabinet and took up the post of Minister of Aircraft Production.

After Clement Attlee's Labour victory in 1945, Cripps remained interested in the question of Indian independence, and from March to June 1946 Cripps travelled to India for the third time, along with Secretary of State, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, and Lord of the Admiralty, A. V. Alexander. The Cabinet Mission's offer of a three-tier structure was accepted by Jinnah and the Muslim League but Gandhi and the Congress turned it down. Cripps realized that the future government of India lay in the hands of the Indian leaders. By the end of 1946, at the behest of Cripps, Attlee appointed Lord Mountbatten the last Viceroy of India and set a date for British withdrawal. This paved the way to Independence and Partition in 1947.

In 1947, Cripps was appointed Minister for Economic Affairs but took over the post of Chancellor of Exchequer six weeks later. He fought hard to restore the British economy in the post-war years. At this point, Cripps was also seriously ill and was reconvalescing at the Bircher Benner clinic in Zürich. Cripps resigned as Chancellor and as MP on 20 October 1950 on grounds of ill health. He died at the Bircher Benner Clinic on 21 April 1952.

Published works: 

The Choice for Britain: Capitalism in Crisis, vol. 4 (London: Socialist League, 1934)

Why This Socialism? (London: Victor Gollancz, 1934)

'National' Fascism in Britain (London: Socialist League, 1935)

(with Michael Foot) The Struggle for Peace (London: Victor Gollancz, 1936)

(with James Maxton and Harry Pollitt), The Unity Campaign (London: National Unity Campaign Committee, 1937)

Empire (Speech Delivered at the Conference on Peace and Empire Organised by the India League and the London Federation of Peace Councils (London: India League, 1938)

Democracy Up-to-Date: Some Practical Suggestions for the Reorganization of the Politcal and Parliamentary System (London: Allen & Unwin, 1939)

The Petition: The Speech (London, 1939)

Shall the Spell be Broken? Rectorial Address the the University of Aberdeen Delivered on 6 February 1943 (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1943)

Britain and Austria (London: Anglo-Austrian Democratic Society, 1945)

Towards Christian Democracy (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1945)

Democracy Alive: A Selection from Recent Speeches ([S. I.]: Sidgwich and Jackson, 1946)

The Church and the World Economic Crisis (Westminster: Industrial Christian Fellowship, 1948)

The Survival of Christianity (London: World's Evangelical Alliance, 1948)

God in Our Work Religious Addresses ([S. I.]: Thomas Nelson and sons, 1949)

The Spiritual Crisis: A Sermon Preached in St. Paul's Cathedral (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co, 1950)

Stafford Cripps in Moscow, 1940-1942: Diaries and Papers, ed. by Gabriel Gorodetsky (Edgware: Vallentine Mitchell, 2007)

Are You a Worker? Where the Middle Class Stands ([S. I.]: Labour Party, n.d.)

Can Socialism Come by Constitutional Methods? (The Socialist League, n.d.)

Parliamentary Institutions and the Transition to Socialism (n.d.)

The Ultimate Aims of the Labour Party (Labour Party, n.d.)

Date of birth: 
24 Apr 1889

 Albert Alexander, Clement Attlee, Claude Auchinleck, Abul Kalam Azad, Barbara Castle, Winston Churchill, Sukhsagar Datta, Michael FootMohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Agatha Harrison, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Louis Johnson, Chiang Kai-shek, Harold Laski, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Lord Linlithgow, Krishna Menon, Naomi Mitchison, Lord Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru, George Padmore, Vallabhbhai Patel, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, Paul Robeson, Lord Wavell, Lord Zetland.

Contributions to periodicals: 
Secondary works: 

Addison, Christopher, Problems of a Socialist Government (London: Gollancz, 1933) 

Baume, Eric, India! We Call on the People of Britain!! (London: India League, 1942)

Bryant, Christopher, Stafford Cripps: The First Modern Chancellor (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1997) 

Burgess, Simon, Stafford Cripps: A Political Life (London: Gollancz, 1999)

Chatterji, Prashanto K., The Cripps Mission, 22 March-11 April 1942: An In-Depth Study (Kolkata: Minerva Associates, 2004)

Clarke, Peter, The Cripps Version: The Life of Sir Stafford Cripps (London: Allen Lane, 2002)

Clarke, Peter, and Toye, Richard, 'Cripps, Sir (Richard) Stafford (1889-1952)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) []

Cooke, Colin Arthur, The Life of Richard Stafford Cripps (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1957)

Coupland, Reginald, The Cripps Mission (London: Oxford University Press, 1942)

Economic Survey for 1947 (1947)

Estorick, Eric, Stafford Cripps: A Biography (London: William Heinemann, 1949)

Gorodetsky, Gabriel, Stafford Cripps' Mission to Moscow, 1940-42 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984)

Hall, Robert Lowe, The Robert Hall Diaries, 1947-1953, ed. by Alec Cairncross (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989)

Harrison, Agatha, and Bailey, George William, India, 1939-1942: A Summary of Events up to and Including the Cripps Mission (London: National Peace Council, 1942)

India League Executive Committee, India and the British Proposals (London: India League, 1942)

Labour Party Annual Conference Report (1935)

Mishra, B. K., The Cripps Mission: A Reappraisal (New Delhi: Concept Pub. Co., 1982)

Nehru, Jawaharlal, Jawaharlal Nehru on the Cripps Mission: An Authoritative Statement on the Breakdown of the Negotiations at New Delhi (London: India League, 1942)

Patel, Harbans, Cripps Mission: The Whole Truth (New Delhi: Indus Pub. Co., 1990)

Patil, V. T., Jawaharlal Nehru and the Cripps Mission (Delhi: BR Pub. Corp., 1984)

Singh, Bhim Sen, The Cripps Mission: A Handiwork of British Imperialism (New Delhi: Usha, 1979)

Strauss, Patricia, Cripps: Advocate and Rebel (London: Victor Gollancz, 1943)

Subrahmanyam, M., Why Cripps Failed, 2nd edn (New Delhi: Hindustan Times Press, 1943)

Tyler, Froom, Cripps: A Portrait and a Prospect (London: G. G. Harrap & Co., 1942)

Weigold, Auriol, Churchill, Roosevelt, and India: Propaganda during World War II (London: Routledge, 2008)

Archive source: 

Private papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Private papers, Nuffield College, Oxford

CAB 127/57-154, Correspondence and papers, National Archives, Kew

Beatrice Webb Diary, Passfield MSS, British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics

Corespondence with Clement Attlee,  Bodleian Library, Oxford

Correspondence with Lord Monckton,  Bodleian Library, Oxford

Correspondence with Arthur Creech Jones, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies, Rhodes House, Oxford

Correspondence with Bristol South East Labour Party and Its Secretary H. E. Rogers, Bristol Record Office

Correspondence with A. V. Alexander, Churchill College, Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge

Correspondence with Dame Caroline Haslett, Institution of Electrical Engineers, London

Correspondence with Sir B. H. Liddell Hart, Liddell Hart Centre, King's College, London

Correspondence with Huw T. Edwards, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth

Correspondence with Thomas Jones, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth

Correspondence with Lord Cherwell, Nuffield College, Oxford

Current affairs footage, British Film Institute, National Film and Television Archive, London

Documentary footage, British Film Institute, National Film and Television Archive, London

News footage, British Film Institute, National Film and Television Archive, London

Propaganda film footage (Ministry of Information), British Film Institute, National Film and Television Archive, London

Actuality footage, Film and Video Archive, Imperial War Museum

Documentary footage, Film and Video Archive, Imperial War Museum

News footage, Film and Video Archive, Imperial War Museum London

Current affairs recording, Sound Archive, British Library, St Pancras

15271, 'What Has Become of Us?', Channel 4, November 1994, Sound Archive, Imperial War Museum, London

Oral history interview, Sound Archive, Imperial War Museum, London

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Sir Richard Stafford Cripps

Date of death: 
21 Apr 1952
Location of death: 
Bircher Benner Clinic, Zurich, Switzerland

Agatha Harrison


Agatha Harrison was a welfare worker, pacifist and Quaker, and dedicated to the struggle for Indian independence. Her father was a Methodist minister, and her mother the daughter of a portrait painter. Born in Berkshire, the family moved to Jersey and then, on Agatha’s father’s death, to Bristol, where she attended Redland High School, helping out at the school in exchange for the waiving of her fees. From the age of 16, she taught and assisted at Kent College, Folkestone, where she received training for the Froebel teaching certificate by night. She then turned to welfare work at Boots Chemist in Nottingham, and at Dairycoates, a tin box factory in Hull, where her role was to protect the interests of the women who worked there, negotiating fair wages and better working conditions on their behalf. In 1917 she was appointed welfare tutor at the London School of Economics. Three years later she travelled to China to conduct welfare work in factories there and to undertake an industrial survey.

In 1928, Agatha Harrison began working with the Women’s International League, an organization whose concerns included the relationship between India and Britain and which, to that end, welcomed representative Indian women visiting London and sent British representatives to sessions of the All-India Women’s Conference. She also accompanied the Royal Commission on Labour, as Beryl Power’s assistant, on their international tour which included a visit to India to inspect their factories, workshops and villages. Back in the UK, she helped C. F. Andrews in his preparation for Gandhi’s visit to attend the Second Round Table Conference in 1931, eventually becoming Andrews’ assistant. Thus began an extensive correspondence and working relationship with Gandhi. She worked hard to spread his message in Britain and accompanied his party on visits to the poor in India. She also made various trips to India as part of the India Conciliation Group where she visited jails and attended meetings with prominent political figures.

Agatha Harrison attended numerous India League meetings, also speaking at some of them, and was kept under surveillance by the Indian Political Intelligence. In May 1946, her name was added to the ‘stop list’ of people who should not be permitted to enter India without prior consultation. She died of an unsuspected heart condition in May 1954. Speaking at a tribute to her in London, Krishna Menon said of Harrison: ‘she had no office or title, and no flags were lowered for her, but all over India people honour her name’ (Harrison, p. 131).


L/PJ/12/444, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, pp. 2, 22

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1885

1. Secret note on Agatha Harrison, 1932 (p. 2)

2. Secret note on Agatha Harrison, 17 September 1942 (p. 22)


Horace Alexander, L. S. Amery, C. F. Andrews, Mahadev Desai, Stafford Cripps, M. K. Gandhi, Lord Halifax, Carl Heath (Quaker), Edward Heath, Muriel Lester (accompanied Harrison on trip to India in 1934), V. K. Krishna Menon, Sarojini Naidu, Indira Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Rajendra Prasad, Sasadhar Sinha.

Independent Labour Party, Indian Conciliation Group, Peace Pledge Union, Society of Friends, Women's International League, YWCA.

Precise DOB unknown: 

1. I understand her to be sentimental, well-intentioned and harmless. A friend of mine who knows her recently described her as 'not capable of doing any harm or good. She is a worthy sort of person who distresses herself quite unnecessarily about the state of affairs in India'.

2. Briefly she is a high-souled crank who with the best intentions continually makes a nuisance of herself to those responsible for law and order, by encouraging extreme Indian nationalists whom she regarded as the blameless victims of brutal British imperialism.

Secondary works: 

Harrison, Irene, Agatha Harrison: An Impression by her Sister (London: Allen & Unwin, 1957)


These descriptions of Agatha Harrison emphasize the role of gender in shaping discourses about political activists involved in the struggle for Indian independence. The mismatch between the dismissive and infantilizing tone of the official reports and the activities carried out by Harrison as well as her close links with Gandhi and Menon is particularly instructive in this regard. This also points to the unusualness of a woman involved in political activism. Harrison’s involvement with both the rights of working women in Britain and the mobilization for Indian independence highlights the connections between these different struggles.

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/444, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Involved in events: 

India League meetings

City of birth: 
Sandhurst, Berks
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
10 May 1954
Location of death: 
Geneva, Switzerland

2 Cranbourne Court, Albert Bridge Road, London (1935)

Fenner Brockway


Archibald Fenner Brockway was born in Calcutta, India, to missionary parents. At the age of 4 he was sent to Britain to live with his maternal grandparents in Rangemore. Aged 8, he started his education at the School for the Sons of Missionaries, Blackheath. With the Boer War, Brockway became interested in politics. At the age of 16, he left school and started work as a journalist, writing for a number of newspapers and interviewing the leading figures of the Left, such as H .G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw. While working on the Daily News in 1907 he was sent to interview Keir Hardie, who became a big influence on him.

Brockway joined the Independent Labour Party in 1907. During this period he also attended meetings of the Fabian Society. He first met Jawaharlal Nehru in London in 1911, while Nehru was studying law. Nehru came to Oxford to hear Brockway speak on Indian independence. In 1912 Brockway took over the editorship of the Independent Labour Party’s newspaper Labour Leader.  He was a committed pacifist and during the First World War he joined the No-Conscription Fellowship. His strong opposition to British involvement in the First World War led to him being imprisoned several times in 1914-19. In 1922 Brockway became Organizing Secretary of the Independent Labour Party. From 1926 to 1929 he took over as editor of New Leader, the ILP’s renamed journal.

Brockway was a committed anti-imperialist. In 1919 he became editor of India and was the last Joint Secretary of the British Committee of the Indian National Congress, sharing the post with Syed Hussein. He moved the 1925 resolution at the Labour Party conference which committed the party to the independence of India. Gandhi invited Brockway to attend the Indian National Congress in Madras in 1927. In 1928 he was the first chairman of the League Against Imperialism. He joined the India League in 1929 and served on the Executive Commitee in the early 1930s. Fenner Brockway supported Krishna Menon in his argument that the League should campaign for India’s independence rather than Dominion status. He often spoke at League events and also supported other Indian organizations in Britain, especially those associated with Surat Alley. In 1930 he was suspended from Parliament for protesting against the imprisonment of Gandhi and Nehru and thousands of other Congressmen. He also wore a Gandhi cap in the House of Commons when protesting against the arrest of Congressmen for wearing it.

Brockway was part of a wide-ranging network of anti-colonial activists and organizations in London. He served as Chairman of the No More War Movement. During the 1930s, Brockway moved away from pacifism, supporting the International Brigades in their fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War as well as Britain’s involvement in the Second World War. Brockway served several times as an MP. He was made a Life Peer in 1964. He died on 28 April 1988.

Published works: 

98 Not Out (London: Quartet, 1986)

African Journeys (London: Victor Gollancz, 1955)

African Socialism (London: Bodley Head, 1963)

The Bloody Traffic (London: Gollancz, 1933)

Can Britain Disarm? A Reasoned Case in Fourteen Points (London: No More War Movement, 1930)

The Colonial Revolution (London: Hart-Davis, MacGibbon, 1973)

The Coming Revolution (London: Independent Labour Party, 1932)

Death Pays a Dividend (London: Victor Gollancz, 1944)

India and its Government (London: Labour Publishing Company, 1921)

The Indian Crisis (London: Victor Gollancz, 1930)

Inside the Left: Thirty Years of Platform, Press, Prison and Parliament (London: Allen & Unwin, 1942)

A Week in India and Three Months in an Indian Hospital (London: The New Leader, 1928)

Worker’s Front (London: Secker & Warburg, 1938)


Copy Extract Report by New Scotland Yard, dated 12 November 1930, L/PJ/12/356, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Date of birth: 
01 Nov 1888
Contributions to periodicals: 

Christian Commonwealth

Daily News

The Quiver


Labour Elector

Labour Leader (editor)


New Leader (editor, 1926-9)


A Fenner Brockway M. P. then arrived. He said that Dominion Status certainly meant freedom materially but 'psychologically speaking', it was not exactly the same as independence. He said that some years ago Jawahar Lal Nehru [sic.], who was his guest, remarked that 'India would wake up only when she got independence'. He then spoke of the sprit of non-violence, and the moral it was teaching the whole world.

Secondary works: 

Howe, Stephen, Anticolonialism in British Politics: The Left and the End of Empire (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993)

Howell, David, ‘Brockway, (Archibald) Fenner, Baron Brockway (1888–1988)’, rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) []

Owen, Nicholas, The British Left and India: Metropolitan Anti-Imperialism, 1885-1947 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/356, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/PJ/12/448-456, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Correspondence with the Independent Labour Party, British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics

Correspondence relating to colonial questions, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies, Rhodes House, Oxford

Labour History Archive and Study Centre, Manchester

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Current name city of birth: 
Current name country of birth: 
Other names: 

Archibald Fenner Brockway

Date of death: 
01 Apr 1988
Location of death: 
Watford General Hospital



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