India Society

Date began: 
17 Mar 1910

Founded in March 1910 at the home of E. B. Havell, the India Society was created to bring attention to Indian Art, in its many forms, to audiences in Britain and the world. In February 1910, Havell gave a lecture to the Royal Society of Arts on Indian Art, to which the chair, George Birdwood, responded that India had no fine art tradition. In response a number of British figures, including William Rothenstein, wrote a letter to The Times affirming the presence of an Indian fine art tradition, and as a result the India Society was formed. The Society had close links with other societies in Paris and with India. Many of their members were based in India and included a number of South Asians studying and working in Britain, such as Jawaharlal Nehru (a student called to the Bar in London). The Society was keen to bring out regular publications, one of which was Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali (Song Offerings) in 1912, which led to the award of Nobel Prize for Literature to Tagore in 1913. The Society also brought out its own journal, Indian Art and Letters, from 1925.

The Society received royal patronage and became the Royal India Society 1944-1948. From 1948 to 1950, it was known as the Royal India and Pakistan Society. From 1950 to 1966, it was known as the Royal India, Pakistan and Ceylon Society. In 1966, it incorporated the East India Association and was renamed The Royal Society for India, Pakistan and Ceylon.

Key Individuals' Details: 

Laurence Binyon (committee member), Krishna G. Gupta (committee member), Roger Fry, Eric Gill, Jawaharlal Nehru (member from 1911 and vice-president from 1950s), T. W. Rhys-Davids (President), Earl of Ronaldshay (later Marquess of Zetland), Rabindranath Tagore (guest and committee member), Sourindro Mohun Tagore (Vice-President), Ratan Tata (committee member), Francis Younghusband (President).

Involved in events details: 
Published works: 

Indian Art and Letters: Journal from 1925

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K, Indian Drawings (1910)

Havell, E. B. (ed.), Eleven Plates. Representing Works of Indian Sculptures Chiefly in English Collections (1911)

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K., Kapilar and a Tamil Saint (1911)

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K., Indian Drawings (1912)

Tagore, Rabindranath, Gitanjali (1912)

Tagore, Rabindranath, Chitra (1913)

Fox-Strangways, A. H., The Music of Hindostan (1913)

One Hundred Poems of Kabir, trans. by Rabindranath Tagore and Evelyn Underhill (1914)

Herringham, Christiana, Ajanta Frescoes (1914)

Ajanta Frescoes, 42 plates in colour and monochrome, with explanantory and critical texts by Lady Herringham, Laurence Binyon, William Rothenstein and others (1915)

The Mirror of Gesture (1916)

Havell, E. B. Handbook of Indian Art (1920)

The Bagh Caves in the Gwalior State (1927)

Ganguli, Taraknath, The Brothers, translated by Edward Thompson (1928)

Kak, Ram Chandra, Ancient Monuments of Kashmir (1933)

Gangulee, N., The Red Tortoise and Other Tales of Rural India (1941)

Rawlinson, H. G. (ed.), A Garland of Indian Poetry (1946)

Iqbal, Muhammad, The Tulip of Sinai, trans. by A. J. Arberry (1947)

Secondary works: 

Indian Magazine and Review 473 (May 1910) and later issues for notices and reviews

‘Proceedings of the Society: Indian Section’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts 58.2985 (Feb. 1910), pp. 273-298

Lago, Mary, Christiana Herringham and the Edwardian Art Scene (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996)

Lago, Mary. 'A Lost Treasure: William Rothenstein, Tagore and the India Society', The Times Literary Supplement, 16 April 1999

Mitter, Partha, Art and Nationalism in Colonial India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)

Mitter, Partha, The Triumph of Modernism: India's Artists and the Avant-Garde 1922-1947 (London: Reaktion Books, 2007)

The Times, 29 April 1911, 13 July 1912, 22 December 1919

Turner, Sarah Victoria, ‘The India Society and the Networks of Colonial Modernity, c.1910-1914’, in ‘“Spiritual Rhythm” and “Material Things”: Art, Cultural Networks and Modernity in Britain, c.1900-1914’, unpublished PhD thesis, (University of London, 2009)

Archive source: 

Mss Eur F147/65A-114, including minute books, cuttings, and correspondence, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras