political activist

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) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/39849]

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


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
United Kingdom
51° 29' 20.6124" N, 0° 11' 23.874" W
Bessborough Street
London, SW1V 2JD
United Kingdom
51° 29' 20.6304" N, 0° 8' 0.7332" W
Fulham Park Road
London, SW6 4LH
United Kingdom
51° 28' 23.4012" N, 0° 12' 27.6984" W
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

16 Woburn Square, London

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