N. B. Bonarjee


Dulwich Prep School SE21 7AA
United Kingdom
51° 26' 38.6052" N, 0° 4' 44.5512" W
Hertford College OX1 3BW
United Kingdom
51° 43' 26.2992" N, 1° 16' 30.414" W
Date of birth: 
10 Mar 1901
City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1904
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 

N. B. Bonarjee was born in 1901 in Lucknow. His grandfather had converted to Christianity in 1847, and his father had travelled to London in 1885 to compete unsuccessfully for the Indian Civil Service. In 1904, Bonarjee's family went to England. His father entered Lincoln's Inn and his mother became honorary secretary of the Indian Women's Education Association in London. In 1910, Bonarjee joined Dulwich Prepatory School and his parents returned to India leaving their children in the care of guardians. His elder brother and sister attended the University of Wales in Aberystwyth, but Bonarjee joined Hertford College, Oxford in 1919. He was a member of the college Rugby XV and took up ballroom dancing. He obtained his history degree in 1922 and then became a temporary schoolmaster at Dulwich for a year.

In 1924, he took the ICS exams and returned to India in 1924 (after twenty years in England) as an ICS man. He was initially posted in U.P. and rose through the ranks to become District Magistrate in Meerut in the 1940s. He took up a number of key government posts and was Chief Minister of UP at Indian independence. After independence, he was Chief Commissioner of Bhopal, the last of the princely states, for a year.

In his autobiography, Under Two Masters, published in 1970, Bonarjee talks about the prejudices he faced as a child, and his experiences upon returning to India after so many years in Britain.


W. C. Bonnerjee (father's first cousin), Liaquat Ali Khan (contemporaries at Oxford), K. P. S. Menon.

Published works: 

Under Two Masters (London: Oxford University Press, 1970)

Secondary works: 

Lahiri, Shompa, Indians in Britain: Anglo-Indian Encounters, Race and Identity, 1880-1939 (London: Frank Cass, 2000)

Mukherjee, Sumita, Nationalism, Education and Migrant Identities; The England-Returned (London: Routledge, 2010)

Wainwright, A. Martin, The 'Better Class' of Indians: Social Rank, Imperial Identity, and South Asians in Britain, 1858-1914 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008)


From Mss Eur T81/2, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library


In an interview in the 1970s, Bonarjee remembers the prejudices he faced at Oxford where Indian students were known as WOGs - Westernized Oriental Gentlemen.


I know we were known as WOGs. Nobody said 'you're a bloody WOG' or anything... well they might have... but we were known as WOGs.

Archive source: 

Mss Eur T81/2, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Papers, Nehru Memorial Library, New Delhi

Photo, Dulwich College Archive, London