New Statesman


The New Statesman was founded over a series of gatherings hosted by Fabianists Beatrice and Sidney Webb whose aim was to disseminate socialist and collectivist ideas among the middle classes. Bernard Shaw, among others, donated money to fund the launch of the magazine. The tone of the magazine in its formative years is described on its website as ‘didactic’ and ‘no-nonsense’. Some two years after its launch, its circulation was second only to that of the Spectator among sixpenny weeklies.

As Christopher Hitchens writes in his introduction to Lines of Dissent, ‘embedded in the Fabian idea was an impression of British greatness’ – the logical conclusion of which was an imperialist stance (Howe, pp. 6-7). It was Kingsley Martin, who became editor in the early 1930s, who turned the paper largely away from this stance. Martin also oversaw the take-over of the Nation and Athenaeum, a magazine that had published writing by some of Britain’s most renowned writers of the early twentieth century, in 1931, and of the Weekend Review in 1934.

There are articles and reviews of books on the political situation in India throughout the four decades of the magazine. In the 1930s and especially the 1940s, increasing numbers of books (including fiction) by South Asians are reviewed, and one or two South Asians begin to contribute reviews or articles themselves.


de Zoete, Beryl, ‘An Indian Ballet’, review of Sakuntala ballet at the Embassy Theatre, New Statesman and Nation (6 April 1946), p. 245

Other names: 

New Statesman and Nation (from 1931)

Secondary works: 

Howe, Stephen (ed.), Lines of Dissent: Writing from the New Statesman, 1913–1988 (London: Verso, 1988)

Hyam, Edward, The New Statesman: The History of the First Fifty Years, 1913–1963 (London: Longmans, 1963)


In this review, Beryl de Zoete commends the performance of Sakuntala, commenting on its success in bringing together 'western' and 'eastern' cultural traditions and European and Indian dancers and musicians (including Narayana Menon, who directs an orchestra of Indian instruments), and on its 'warm reception' by the British public.

Date began: 
12 Apr 1913

This is the most successful effort hitherto made by West to meet East in the sphere of dance. Sakuntala is a ballet on the theme of Kalidasa’s famous dream, and is performed chiefly by Europeans, in an Indian dance-idiom. The idiom sometimes proves beyond their physical capacities, especially with regard to head and neck movements and facial expression, just as certain sounds in a foreign languages are almost impossible to acquire…Retna Mohini, a Javanese dancer who many will remember as Ram Gopal’s principal partner, introduces, of course, a very different standard of perfection, but her beautiful dances form part of a court entertainment, so do not clash too violently with the style of the Europeans. The same may be said of Rekha Menon, who, though not so fine or experienced a dancer as Retna Mohini, is a charming and authentic Indian dancer.

Key Individuals' Details: 

Editors: Clifford Sharp (1913-30), Kingsley Martin (1931-60).


This ‘mainstream’ British magazine’s positive engagement with the production of an Indian ballet is indicative of a degree of openness to South Asian cultural production in Britain. This said, the fact that the majority of the dancers were European suggests a degree of cultural ‘translation’ in the production of the ballet, perhaps rendering it more accessible to its British audience and critics. While the ballet could be seen as an example of an emergent hybridized proto-British Asian culture, it appears to be conceived by the critic as the combination of two distinct cultures rather than as an original syncretic form. This is evidenced in particular by the allusion to the way in which the ballet avoids a clash between the Asian and European dancers.


Contributors:  C. F. Andrews, Clive Bell, H. Belloc,  H. N. Brailsford, Marcus Cunliffe, Emil Davis, Havelock Ellis, Lionel Fielden, Bernard Fonseca, Roger Fry, David Garnett, Frank Hauser, Desmond Hawkins, Syud Hossain, C. E. M. Joad, Fredoon Kabraji, Desmond MacCarthy, Thomas Sturge Moore, R. G. Pradan, V. S. Pritchett, Peter Quennell, Lajpat Rai, John Richardson, Paul RobesonShapurji Saklatvala, Ikbal Ali Shah, George Bernard Shaw, Khushwant Singh, M. J. Tambimuttu, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Jinnadasa Vijaya-Tunga, Beatrice Webb, Sidney Webb, Leonard Woolf, Beryl de Zoete.

Archive source: 

New Statesman, Special Collections, University of Sussex

Books Reviewed Include: 

Ali, Ahmed, Twilight in Delhi (London: Hogarth). Reviewed by Desmond Hawkins.

Anand, Mulk Raj, Across the Black Waters (London: Lawrence & Wishart). Reviewed by Desmond Hawkins.

Anand, Mulk Raj, The Coolie (London: Lawrence & Wishart). Reviewed by Peter Quennell.

Anand, Mulk Raj, Two Leaves and a Bud (London: Lawrence & Wishart). Reviewed by ‘S. K.’.

Dutt, R. Palme, India Today (London: Gollancz). Reviewed by H. N. Brailsford.

Dutt, Toru,  Life and Letters (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Kabraji, Fredoon (ed.) The Strange Adventure: An Anthology of Poems in English by Indians (London: New Indian Publishing). Reviewed by H. N. Brailsford.

Karaka, D. F., Betrayal in India (London: Gollancz). Reviewed by Bernard Fonseca.

Menen, Aubrey, The Backward Bride (London: Chatto). Reviewed by Frank Hauser.

Menon, V. K. Krishna et al., The Condition of India. Reviewed by C. F. Andrews.

Narayan, R. K., The Batchelor of Arts (London: Nelson). Reviewed by Desmond Shawe-Taylor.

Shah, Ikbal Ali, Islamic Sufism (Rider). Reviewed by J. Vijaya-Tunga.

Sister Nivedita and Coomaraswamy, Ananda, Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists (London: Harrap)

Rajan, B., (ed.) Modern American Poetry: Focus Five (London: Dennis Dobson). Reviewed by Marcus Cunliffe.

Rama Rau, Santha, Home to India (London: Gollancz). Reviewed by Lionel Fielden.

Shelvankar, K. S., The Indian Problem (London: Penguin). Reviewed by H. N. Brailsford.

Singh, Khushwant, The Mark of Vishnu (London: Saturn Press). Reviewed by John Richardson.

Tagore, Rabindranath, Gitanjali, The Home and the World and Gora (London: Macmillan)

Thompson, E. J., Rabindranath Tagore (Oxford: Oxford University Press)


10 Great Queen Street Kingsway
London, WC2B 5BB
United Kingdom
10 Great Turnstile High Holborn
London, WC1V 7JU
United Kingdom

Oriental Press Service


The Oriental Press Service was established in 1926 by Pulin Behari Seal, a journalist and radical political activist. He was assisted in this venture by M. G. Desai and Gurdit Singh Dara, both of whom had, like Seal, Communist connections. In 1928, there were plans to amalgamate the Service with a similar news service run by Vishnu R. Karandikar, but this did not appear to have come to fruition. The Service’s stated purpose was to supply Indian news to the British, and British news to Indians. However, surveillance reports claim that Seal set up the business mainly for political ends, securing interviews with Indians on official business in London then proceeding to critique them in radical newspapers in both Britain and India. According to reports, the office on the premises of the Oriental Press Service was used mainly for the meetings of Indian ‘extremists’. It was not a lucrative business and was eventually liquidated in 1938.


L/PJ/12/186, India Office Records, African and Asian Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, p. 63

Secondary works: 

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


This Indian Political Intelligence file contains reports on the movements and activities of the journalist and radical political activist Pulin Behari Seal, who founded the Oriental Press Service. The following extract is from a New Scotland Yard report dated 29 April 1931.

Date began: 
01 Jan 1926

 [Seal] still rents an office at Chronicle House, Fleet Street, E.C., in the name of the 'Orient Press Service'…


It would appear that his office is more used as a rendezvous for Indian extremists than a legitimate business address. Almost daily a number of Indians resort there, and as many as seven have been seen to be present and, with Seal, carry on a heated discussion.

Precise date began unknown: 
Key Individuals' Details: 

Gurdit Singh Dara (assistant), M. G. Desai (assistant), Pulin Behari Seal (founder/manager).


This excerpt, which maintains that the Oriental Press Service combined journalism with politics, is suggestive of the role of journalism, or the dissemination of alternative reportage, as a potentially powerful tool of resistance.


Reginald Bridgeman (supplied Seal with news about China), Vishnu R. Karandikar (head of a rival news service), B. Khalid Sheldrake.

Date ended: 
01 Jan 1938
Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/186, India Office Records, African and Asian Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Precise date ended unknown: 


61 Fleet Street
London, EC4Y 1
United Kingdom

Pulin Behari Seal


Pulin Behari Seal was born to Ganga Das Seal of Sadarghat, Chittagong, Bengal, in 1899. He came to Britain for higher education, attending the University of Cambridge where he studied mathematics. He quickly showed himself dedicated to the struggle for Indian independence, first attracting the attention of the authorities in 1922 when campaigning for the Lascar Welfare League.

After graduating from Cambridge, Seal sought employment without much success. He offered his services to the Labour MP George Lansbury, and applied for a research scholarship at the London School of Economics, proposing to write a thesis on the history of Ireland. His return to India in 1924 could well have been precipitated by a lack of funds. A few months later he was back in London as representative of the Swaraj Party and foreign correspondent of the Calcutta-based newspaper Forward (edited by C. R. Das), which later became New Forward and then Liberty.

On his return to England, Seal established himself firmly as a radical political activist as well as a journalist. In 1925, he debated successfully against Michael O’Dwyer on the subject of self-government in India at the University of Leeds Student Union. He was an active member of the London branch of the Indian National Congress, and highly critical of the Simon Commission Report, as well as the Round Table Conferences – both for being ‘anti-Indian’. In 1926, he founded the Oriental Press Service, a service for supplying Indian news to British and US publications and British news to Indian publications. This enabled him to disseminate information (and propaganda) between the two countries, potentially helping to forge links between the British Left and Indian activists. For example, in 1928, he sent photographs of Indian mill strikers and their families living in impoverished conditions for publication in one of the outlets of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Critical of the Labour Party (he claimed their attitude to India was no better than that of the Conservatives), as well as of less radical Indian organizations, Seal aligned himself more closely with the Communist Party, associating with Shapurji Saklatvala in particular. Yet evidence suggests his relationship with the CPGB also had its tensions. With other Indian activists, including Surat Alley and Sasadhar Sinha, he organized a committee to coordinate Indian political groups, the Indian National Committee, and held political meetings at the Café Indien (later known as the India and Burma Restaurant) in Leicester Square. He was also a leader, along with Subhas Chandra Bose’s nephew, Amiya Nath Bose, of the Committee of Indian Congressmen.

Seal was considered an ‘extremist’ and a deeply suspect character by the British Government, particularly because of his support of Subhas Chandra Bose and alleged pro-Axis leanings during the Second World War. He was on the list of people who should be arrested in the event of invasion – and was threatened with arrest in 1942 when the police discovered, in the possession of one Marie Brett Perring, documents reportedly written by Seal that ‘glorified’ Subhas Chandra Bose and alleged widespread disaffection in the Indian Army. In 1946, when Seal was back in India, a note was issued to all ports indicating that his arrival into Britain should be reported immediately (L/PJ/12/186, p. 145). He was also debarred from attending functions held under the auspices of the Office of the High Commission for India.

Seal travelled to and from Europe on numerous occasions, and worked as the diplomatic correspondent in England for the Independent French Agency during the early 1940s. He was also a writer, securing a contract deal with the publishing firm Sidgwick & Jackson for ‘An Indian Who’s Who’. In addition, he founded two travel companies: Orientourist Ltd and later the East-West Travel Company which organized luxury tours to India. Despite his obvious energy and ability to turn his hand to a range of tasks, he was often beset by financial difficulties, moving frequently between different flats or hotel rooms, with his wife Judith (Jessie) Stuart and their three children. In 1941, his failure to pay rates led to his arrest and the threat of imprisonment if the money was not forthcoming within seven days. Fortunately, one of Seal’s many connections – possibly one S. E. Runganathan, advisor to the secretary of state for India – paid his debt.


L/PJ/12/186, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, p. 141

Date of birth: 
11 Feb 1899

This Indian Political Intelligence file contains numerous reports on the political activities of Pulin Behari Seal from his arrival in Britain in the 1920s until the late 1940s when India became independent. The following extract is from a Metropolitan Police Report (no. 308, dated 10 October 1945).


Surat Alley, A. C. Bannerji, Vernon Bartlett, Duke of Bedford, Wedgewood Benn (Secretary of State for India), Amiya Nath Bose, Subhas Chandra Bose, Fenner Brockway, Reginald Bridgeman, Sir Atul Chandra Chatterjee (Seal asked him for financial assistance), Khitish Chatterji, Gurdit Singh Dara, Motiram Gajanan Desai (Indian editor of the Sunday Worker), Clemens Palme Dutt, W. N. Ewer, David Thomas Raymond Jenkins, B. M. Jolly, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Dr J. Kanga, Vishna R. Karandikar, Krishna Datta Kumria, George Lansbury, Vajid Mahmood (lived with Seal for a period), Colonel C. l’Estrange Malone (former MP), Niharendu Data Mazumdar, S. P. Mitra, Art O’Brien (Irish Republican), Ambulal Jhaverbhai Patel (lived with Seal for a period), Andrew Rothenstein, K. B. Roy, M. N. Roy, Shapurji Saklatvala, B. Khalid Sheldrake, Sasadhar Sinha, Tarini Prasad Sinha, Soumyendra Nath Tagore (allegedly planned assassination attempt on Hitler, made a trip from Boulogne to Folkstone with Seal), Nathalal Jagivan Upadhyaya, J. Vaidya, C. B. Vakil.

Cafe Indien, Imperial Hotel (stayed there on visits to London when based in Wales), Independent French Agency, Indian Committee for Central European Refugees (secretary), Indian Journalists' Association Abroad (president), Indian Association, International News Service, League of Nations, National Trade Union Club, Sidgwick & Jackson.

Contributions to periodicals: 

Various Indian newspapers, including Forward

Various British newspapers

Various publications of the British Left, especially the Communist Party of Great Britain


Pulin Behari Seal…continues to reside with his family at 45, Gower Street, W.C. He has no regular employment, and is often impecunious; at the moment, however, he seems to be out of debt. He obtains money by hawking information in Fleet Street, and by borrowing as opportunity permits.

During the past few months, Seal has been taking an active part in various Indian extremist organisations, especially the Committee of Indian Congressmen and its subsidiary, the Council for the International Recognition of Indian Independence. He is president of the C.I.C., but since the return to India in October last of Amiya Nath Bose, the movement has almost ceased to have any influence in Indian politics in this country. Seal has become a discredited member of the Indian community, and even his former associates in the C.I.C have forsaken him.

Secondary works: 

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


Seal’s poverty, referred to in numerous reports by the Indian Political Intelligence, is suggestive of the sacrifices he was prepared to make in the cause of Indian independence. Despite his privileged background and University of Cambridge degree, he was constantly struggling to make ends meet while conducting his campaigning, in various forms, for a free, independent India. His lack of popularity among other Indians in Britain, alluded to in the above report, emphasizes the different degrees of radicalism endorsed and practised by Indian activists, as well as the different factions that existed within this community. Despite the report’s dismissal of the Committee of Indian Congressmen, an organization that Seal led, Seal’s combination of journalism and activism nevertheless highlights the potential of the written word in general, as well as this particular means of communication, as a tool of transformative politics.

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/186, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Involved in events: 

‘No More War’ demonstration, Hyde Park, 28 August 1923

Meetings of the London Branch of the Indian National Congress

Naval Disarmament Conference, 1930

Second World War

City of birth: 
Roshangiri, Chittagong, Bengal
Country of birth: 
Current name city of birth: 
Roshangiri, Chittagong, Bengal
Current name country of birth: 


Redcliffe Gardens Earl's Court
London, SW5 0DU
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Precise date of death unknown: 
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1920
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

c. 1920 – May 1924, December 1924 onwards, with short periods spent in France and other European countries


26 Oxford Terrace, Edgware Road, London

49 Cambridge Terrace, Edgware Road, London

6 Beaufort Gardens, Brompton Road, London

45 Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town, London

17 Edith Grove, Chelsea, London

4 Hill Terrace, Great Orme, Llandudno

‘The Old Pioneer Stores’, Glan Conway, Denbighshire

Alhambra Hotel, Coram Street, London

47 Gwendwr Road, London

45 Gower Street, London

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