H. N. Brailsford

Other names: 

Henry Noel Brailsford

Date of birth: 
25 Dec 1873
City of birth: 
Mirfield, Yorkshire
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
23 Mar 1958
Location of death: 
London, England

Henry Noel Brailsford was a left-wing intellectual and political journalist, famous as a vociferous critic of British imperialism. Born in Yorkshire, he was brought up and educated in Scotland. After graduating from Glasgow University, he joined the Greek Foreign Legion in 1897 to assist the Greeks in their fight against the Ottoman Empire; he subsequently worked as a special correspondent for the Manchester Guardian in Crete and Macedonia.

In 1899, he moved to London, and worked as a leader-writer for a series of liberal newspapers, such as the Morning Leader, the Echo, the Tribune, the Daily News, Reynolds's News, New Statesman and Nation. In 1907 he joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP), and edited the ILP weekly, the New Leader (1922-6). He came in contact with revolutionary Russians, including Lenin and Trotsky, and was a supporter of Soviet Russia in its early days.

In 1930, Brailsford visited India, and became a supporter of Indian independence.  After his first tour of India he published his book Rebel India (1931). In 1943, Subject India was published as part of the Left Book Club monthly selection. He visited India again in 1945. He was an executive member and active supporter of Krishna Menon’s India League. He first met Gandhi during the Round Table Conference in London, and then during his second Indian trip. He co-wrote his biography Mahatma Gandhi (1949). He visited Jawaharlal Nehru in an Allahabad prison during his first visit to India, and on his second trip, was a house guest of Nehru and his daughter Indira


Jane Esdon Brailsford, Jagadhis Bose, Subhas Bose, Stafford Cripps, Rajani Palme Dutt, Leonard Elmhirst, Michael Foot, E. M. Forster, Alfred George Gardiner, Indira Gandhi, M. K. Gandhi, G. T. Garratt, Victor Gollancz, J. B. S Haldane, J. A. Hobson, Clara Ellaline Hope Leighton, Christopher Hill, Julian Huxley, J. M. Keynes, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Allen Lane, Harold Laski, Kingsley Martin, Harold John Massingham, V. K. Krishna Menon, Naomi Mitchison, Gilbert Murray, Sarojini Naidu, Jawaharlal Nehru, H. W. Nevinson, H. S. L. Polak, S. K. Ratcliffe, William Rothenstein, C. P. Scott, George Bernard Shaw, John Strachey, Rabindranath Tagore, Edward Thompson, Leonard Woolf, Fredrick William, Jack Yeats, H. G. Wells.

Published works: 

The Broom of the War-God: A Novel (London: William Heinemann, 1898)

Macedonia: Its Races and their Future (London: Methuen & Co., 1906)

Adventures in Prose. A Book of Essays (London: Herbert & Daniel, 1911)

The Fruits of our Russian Alliance (London : The Anglo-Russian Committee, 1912)

Shelley, Godwin, and their Circle (Home University Library; London: Williams & Norgate; New York: H. Holt & Co.,1913)

The War of Steel and Gold. A Study of the Armed Peace (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1914)

A League of Nations (London: Headley Bros., 1917)

Across the Blockade. A Record of Travels in Enemy Europe (London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1919)

After the Peace (London: Leonard Parsons, 1920)

The Russian Workers’ Republic (London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1921)

Socialism for To-day (London: I.L.P. Publication Dept., 1925)

Olives of Endless Age: Being a Study of this Distracted World and its Need of Unity (London: Harper & Bros., 1928)

How the Soviets Work (New York: Vanguard Press, 1928)

Rebel India (London: Leonard Stein, 1931)

Property or Peace? (London: Victor Gollancz,1934)

Voltaire (Home University Library; London: Thornton Butterworth, 1935)

India in Chains (London: Socialist League, 1935)

Why Capitalism means War (London: Victor Gollancz, 1938)

Democracy for India (London: Fabian Society, 1939; Tract series. no. 248).

From England to America: A Message (New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book Co.,1940)

America Our Ally (London: Victor Gollancz, 1940)

Subject India (London: Victor Gollancz, 1943)

Our Settlement with Germany (Harmondsworth and New York: Penguin Books, 1944)

(with H. S. L. Polak and Lord Pethick-Lawrence) Mahatma Gandhi, foreword by Sarojini Naidu (London: Odhams Press, 1949)

The Levellers and the English Revolution (London: Cresset Press, 1961)

Contributions to periodicals: 

Speaker (‘The Origins of Imperialism’, 1 September 1900)

Speaker (‘India’s Burden’, 15 April 1905) [review of Romesh Dutt, India in the Victorian Age]

New Republic (‘The Vicious Circle of Nationality’ 8.98, 16 September 1916)

New Republic (‘Justice for India?’, 27 November 1929)

Aryan Path (‘The Permanent thing that is India’ 3.9, September 1932)

New Republic (‘MacDonald and Gandhi’ 62.806, 14 May 1930)

Nation and Athenaeum (‘The Economic Background in India’ 48.10, 6 Dec 1930)

New Republic (‘Can Indians Govern India?’ 65.839, 31 December 1930)

New Statesman and Nation (‘The Dancing Girl of Sind’ 1.15, 6 June 1931)

New Statesman and Nation (‘The Future of the Indian Worker’ 2.19, 4 July 1931)

New Republic (‘Gandhi and the Future of India’ 68.881, 21 October 1931)

Aryan Path (‘The Permanent Thing That is India’ 3.9, September 1932)

The World Tomorrow (‘India wins Unity’ 15.24, Dec 1932)

The World Tomorrow (‘The India Drama’ 16.4, Jan 1933)

Aryan Path (‘Morality and the Social Structure’ 7.4, April 1936)

New Statesman and Nation (‘The life of an Indian Leader’ 11.272, 9 May 1936)

New Statesman and Nation (‘Rebel India’ 13.320, 10 April 1937)

Aryan Path (‘Educating and Organizing For Peace: Community of Blood or of Thought’ 10.1, January 1939)

New Statesman and Nation (‘Indians on India’ 20.496, 24 August 1940) [review of R. Palme Dutt, India To-day and K. S. Shelvankar, The Indian Problem]

New Statesman and Nation (‘What Happened at Delhi?’ 23.586, 16 May 1942)

India Quarterly (‘The International Outlook’ 2.2, May 1946).

Contemporary Jewish Record (‘Solution for Palestine: A British View’ 1, 1945/1946)

New Statesman and Nation (‘The Indian Settlement’ 31.796, 25 May 1946)

New Statesman and Nation (‘How to Quit India’ 33.834, 15 February 1947)

Contemporary Review (‘India: To-day and To-morrow’ 171, Jan-June 1947)

New Statesman and Nation (‘Shaws and the Fabians’ 46.1182, 31 October 1953) [review of C. E. M. Joad (ed), Shaw and Society]

Listener (‘Shaw on Himself’ 41.1056, 21 April 1949)

New Statesman and Nation (‘Tribute to Shaw’ 40.1028, 18 November 1950)


Rabindranath Tagore, Modern Review 53, January 1933, pp. 2-3 (Rebel India)

Maurice T. Price, American Journal of Sociology 41.1, July 1935, pp. 114-15 (Rebel India)

Taraknath Das, Annals of American Academy of Political and Social Science 233, May 1944, pp. 219-21 (Subject India)

George Matthew Dutcher, Far Eastern Quarterly 3.3, May 1944, pp. 284-6 (Subject India)

Secondary works: 

Leventhal, F. M., The Last Dissenter: H. N. Brailsford and his World (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985)

Martin, Kingsley, Editor: A Second Volume of Autobiography, 1931-45 (London: Hutchinson, 1968)


Nehru, Jawaharlal, A Bunch of Old Letters (London, Asia Publishing House, 1958), p. 173.


Extract from H. N. Brailsford’s letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, dated 8 March 1936


You must have dreaded this blow, I suppose for many a month, yet always hoping that Nature would work a miracle. Now it has fallen, I fear that all your long period of anxiety may have sapped your strength to confront it. Your friends can say nothing to lessen your loss. Indeed, we who had met her, though it was in my case only for a moment, can only confirm your distress, for we knew what a fine and unusual woman your wife was. But may I say, if it is of any help to you, how deeply and sincerely we join with you in sympathy?

Don’t undervalue yourself in this hour of misery. India has great need of you – especially, personally, of you. For I think I know, more or less, the other possible leaders. No one has your courage, your mental power and above all, your vision of a humane classless society. Try to draw strength from the belief that history has named you to lead.

May I thank you for your courtesy in sending me your history? I shall read it with keen interest. I am touched that you remembered me.


Brailsford’s condolence letter to Nehru, on hearing of the death of his wife Kamala Kaul Nehru on 28 February 1936, gives insight into Brailsford’s relationship with Nehru. At the end of the letter, Brailsford refers to Nehru’s Autobiography, which was soon to be published by the Bodley Head in April 1936.

Archive source: 

Correspondence and papers, Labour History Archive and Study Centre, Manchester 

Correspondence with Society of Authors and League of Dramatists, British Library, St Pancras

Letters to Millicent Fawcett (1911-12), Manchester Archives and Local Studies, Manchester, 

Correspondence with the ILP (Independent Labour Party, London University), London School of Economics Library, Archives Division, London

Letters to Gilbert Murray, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, Oxford University, Oxford

Letters to the Manchester Guardian (1897-1951), John Rylands Library, Guardian archives, Manchester University, Manchester

Correspondence with Sir BH Liddell Hart (1939-49), Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College, London

William Rothenstein Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University

BBC Sound archive (23 Aug 1956 about Gandhi)

Jawaharlal Nehru Papers, Nehru Memorial Library, New Delhi