Surendranath Banerjea


Kentish Town NW5 1PR
United Kingdom
51° 33' 1.5084" N, 0° 8' 12.2244" W
Date of birth: 
10 Nov 1848
City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Current name city of birth: 
Current name country of birth: 
Date of death: 
06 Aug 1925
Location of death: 
Calcutta, India
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1868
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1868-71, 1874-5, 1909


Hampstead (with family of Talfourd Ely, Latin teacher at UCL)

Barnard Street, London (boarding house)

Kentish Town (1874-5)


Surendranath Banerjea was born in 1848 in Calcutta. From childhood, his father had planned to send Banerjea to England to complete his education, and on 3 March 1868, Banerjea set sail for England with Romesh Chunder Dutt and Behari Lal Gupta. All three had made the arrangements in secret - Banerjea's mother was not aware of his trip until the day before. At Southampton they were met by W. C. Bonnnerjee and taken to London.

All three competed in the Indian Civil Service open exams. Banerjea passed in 1869, but was disqualified over a mix-up over his age. Although Banerjea was 21 (the maximum age to compete for the ICS exam), his matriculation certificate has used the Indian measure of age (where someone is aged 1 from birth) and so the examiners believed he was 22. Banerjea took the matter to court and eventually won his case in 1870. During his time in London, Banerjea also attended classes at University College, London. He took his final exams in 1871 and returned to India in August 1871.

Banerjea was posted to Sylhet as an Assistant Magistrate but, not long after, was sacked over a clerical error. In 1874, Banerjea returned to London and became a student at the Middle Temple. However, because of his dismissal from the Civil Service, the benchers declined to call him to the Bar and he returned again to India in 1875. Banerjea took up a number of posts teaching English and became more politically active. In 1875, he formed the British Indian Association, which was seen as a prototype nationalist organization. He campaigned against the Ilbert Bill and became a member of the Indian National Congress soon after its formation in 1885. He was vocal in opposition to the partition of Bengal in 1905. In 1879, he became the proprieter and editor of The Bengalee.

In 1909, Banerjea visited London again to attend the Imperial Press Conference. He was in the city when Madan Lal Dhingra assassinated Curzon-Wyllie. Banerjea sent an open letter condemning Dhingra's actions to the press. Banerjea became more moderate in his political sensibilities as time progressed. He left Congress following the 1919 Montagu-Chelmsford reforms because he supported the reforms as opposed to Gandhi's non-cooperation. He accepted a knighthood from the British in 1919.


W. C. Bonnerjee, Ananda Mohun Bose, Romesh Chunder Dutt, Dr Theodore Goldstrucker (Professor of Sanskrit at UCL), Bihari Lal Gupta, Henry Morley (Professor of English Literature at UCL), Keshub Chunder Sen, Marquess of Zetland.


Published works: 

A Nation in the Making: Being the Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Public Life (London: Oxford University Press, 1925)

Speeches and Writings of Hon. Surendranath Banerjea (selected by himself) (Madras: G. A. Natesan & Co., 1918)

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Bengalee

Secondary works: 

Bagchee, M., Rashtraguru Surendranatha (Calcutta, [1963])

Bakshi, S. R., Surendranath Banerjea (New Delhi: Anmol, 1997)

Banerjee, Bani, Surendranath Banerjea and the History of Modern India, 1848-1925 (New Delhi: Metropolitan, 1979)

Bose, S. K., Surendranath Banerjea (Delhi: Government of India, 1968)

Kedourie, Elie, Nationalism in Asia and Africa (New York: World Publishing Co., 1970)

Raychaudhuri, Tapan, ‘Banerjea [Bandyopadhyay], Sir Surendranath (1848–1925)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004) []

Sengupta, S and Basu, A., (eds), Samsada Banali caritabhidhana (Calcutta, 1976)

Archive source: 

National Archives of India, Delhi

Home Department Records, Government of Bengal, West Bengal State Archives, Kolkata

L/PJ/6/100, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras