Indian Workers' Association


The Indian Workers’ Association had a dual aim: to raise consciousness of the struggle for Indian independence among working-class Indians in Britain, and to protect and enhance their welfare. While there was some overlap between the IWA and the India League, the former was a working-class organization whose membership was composed almost uniquely of Indians. The founders and protagonists of the organization were mainly Sikh and Muslim Punjabis who had turned to peddling on their arrival in Britain, later finding factory work or construction work at the aerodromes and militia camps that had sprung up in the Midlands during the Second World War. Meetings were conducted predominantly in Hindustani, which often excluded Bengali seamen and ex-seamen from participation, although there were also bi-monthly ‘open meetings’ conducted in English and with invited British speakers.

In the Indian Political Intelligence files, many of the Sikh pioneers of the IWA are described as having ‘Ghadr sympathies’, their main concern being to raise money for Ghadr Party initiatives such as the Desh Bhagat Parwar Sahaik Committee, which helped the dependents in India of ‘Sikh martyrs’, or the Udham Singh Defence Fund. Generally, the political activity and mobilization of working-class Indians was a source of grave concern to the India Office. IPI records reveal discussion of ways in which the organization’s leaders could be dispersed to different parts of the country where there were few Indians and less opportunity to stir up anti-British feeling among their fellow countrymen. Indeed, the IPI kept lists of IWA men who they considered particularly seditious and who should be interned in the event of an invasion during the war.

In terms of welfare work, the IWA leadership helped working-class Indians to avoid army conscription if they wished. It also provided a forum for discussion of employment grievances. Records of speeches at IWA meetings reveal the link between the oppression of Indians in Britain and their subjugation to the British in India; for example, Indian machinists in British factories are described as being reallocated to unskilled labouring jobs because of the fear that if they acquire the same skills as Englishmen they will return to India and teach their fellow countrymen the trade, thereby undermining the rationale for British rule.

Although it began as early as 1937, the IWA gained real momentum when Vellala Srikantaya Sastrya, an educated Madrassi, became secretary of the Birmingham branch in 1942. He gave the organization leadership and coherence. By 1944, however, signs of discord among the main players were evident, with Akbar Ali Khan relocating from Coventry to East London to open a rival IWA in the capital.

Published works: 

Indian Worker (bulletin in English and Hindustani, edited by Mohammed Fazal Hussein, published irregularly)

Azad Hind (bulletin in Urdu and Punjabi, edited by Vidya Parkash Hansrani and Kartar Singh Nagra, launched in 1945)

Mazdoor (‘Worker’) (bulletin in Urdu, edited by Chowdry Akbar Khan and Said Amir Shah and managed by Abdul Ghani, launched in1945)


Report on Indian Workers’ Union, 17 December 1942, L/PJ/12/645, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, p. 65

Other names: 

Indian Workers’ Union

Hindustani Mazdur Sabha

Secondary works: 

Desai, Rashmi, Indian Immigrants in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963)

Hiro, Dilip, Black British, White British (London: Paladin, 1992)

John, De Witt, Indian Workers’ Association in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969)

Josephides, Sasha, Towards a History of the Indian Workers’ Association (Warwick University: ESCR, Research Paper in Ethnic Relations, No. 18, 1991)

Ram, Anant and Tatla, Darshan Singh, ‘This is our Home Now: Reminiscences of a Panjabi Migrant in Coventry’ (An interview with Anant Ram), Oral History, 21. 1 (Spring, 1993), pp.68-74.

Virdee, Pippa, Coming to Coventry: Stories from the South Asian Pioneers (Coventry: The Herbert, 2006)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)


This Indian Political Intelligence file documents the activities of the Indian Workers’ Association in the early 1940s. It includes records of meetings and events held, with key post-holders named and the content of speeches described, as well as memos listing the names of members considered to be particularly threatening to national security.

Date began: 
01 Jan 1937

[The Indian rank and file] work long hours and have much less time for politics than their self-appointed leaders…If the latter could be removed from the scene of their activities by being compelled to take up employment in areas where few or no Indians congregate, not only would the movement collapse but the Indian worker would be relieved of the unwelcome necessity of subscribing under pressure sums of money for purposes which he often dimly comprehends. The attendance at meetings held at Birmingham and Coventry is never so large as to indicate that the Indian community is strongly influenced by political feeling, however much a particular audience may be worked up to temporary excitement by inflammatory speeches. There is, of course, always the possibility that some unbalanced person may be encouraged to emulate the example of Udham Singh and seek martyrdom by committing some isolated outrage.

Precise date began unknown: 
Key Individuals' Details: 

Muhammad Amin Aziz (original secretary), Thakur Singh Basra (‘unofficial secretary’ and one of leaders), Charan Singh Chima (founding member, vice-president of Coventry branch in 1945), Vidya Parkash Hansrani (vice-president of Coventry branch, co-edited Azad Hind), Mohammed Tufail Hussain (elected chairman of the Bradford branch in 1942), Mohammed Fazal Hussein (secretary then president of Bradford branch, edited Indian Worker), Akbar Ali Khan (chairman of the central organization from 1942 at least, and president from 1944 at least; lived with Thakur Singh Basra in Coventry), Kartar Singh Nagra (founding member, one-time secretary, co-edited Azad Hind), Muhammad Hussain Noor (assistant secretary of Bradford branch), Ajit Singh Rai (treasurer of Bradford branch), G. D. Ramaswamy (editor of news-bulletin, student at Sheffield University), V. S. Sastrya (secretary from October 1941), Sardar Shah (treasurer of Birmingham branch), Gurbaksh Singh (key figure in Bradford branch), Karm Singh (member of central committee), Natha Singh (president of Bradford branch in 1945), Ujjagar Singh (first treasurer of Coventry branch).


The above extract reveals the extent of the surveillance of key members of the IWA and that they were considered to be a potential source of threat to national stability. The attitude towards uneducated working-class Indians (the ‘Indian rank and file’), apparently coerced by their leaders into subversive activity whose purpose they ‘dimly comprehend’, is condescending, divesting them of agency by portraying them as manipulated pawns, and undermining the validity of the political position that they espouse. Generally, the file is of interest because it gives evidence that political activism on the part of South Asians in Britain was not confined to middle-class migrants and students and that the working classes often chose to mobilize independently of their more educated and privileged counterparts (who were more likely to be active in the India League), suggesting a considerable degree of agency on their part. Contrary to what is stated in the above extract and despite the economic and social hardship these peddlers and labourers experienced in Britain, many of them were in fact able to look beyond their immediate concerns to the struggle for Indian independence, as well as being pioneers in the struggle for minority rights in Britain.


Surat Alley, Amiya Nath Bose, Fenner Brockway, W. G. Cove, Dr Ganguly, Mrs Kallandar Khan, Fred Longden, V. K. Krishna Menon, Dr D. R. Prem, Pulin Behari Seal, Dr Diwan Singh, Udham Singh, Vic Yates.

Archive source: 

File IOR: L/PJ/12/645, African and Asian Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

File IOR: L/PJ/12/646, African and Asian Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras


Birmingham, B8 1EE
United Kingdom
Bradford, BD5 0DX
United Kingdom
Coventry, CV1 2LP
United Kingdom
Involved in events details: 

Numerous meetings held at different branches concentrated mainly in the Midlands but extending throughout Britain

Celebrations of Indian Independence Day, commemorations of the Amritsar Massacre, ‘Quit India’ demonstrations

Ben Bradley


Benjamin Bradley was a leading figure in the Communist Party of Great Britain and an anti-colonialist. A metalworker by trade, he was posted to India in 1927 by the CPGB to promote militant trade unionism, becoming Vice-President of the All-India Trades Union Congress. Bradley was arrested for anti-government activities in March 1929, and sentenced in the Meerut Conspiracy Trials of 1932.

On his return to Britain, Bradley remained active in anti-colonial as well as Communist activities. From 1934 to 1940, he was Secretary of the League Against Imperialism which became the Communist Party’s Colonial Information Bureau. In this role, he produced the fortnightly Colonial Information Bulletin which consisted largely of reports on developments in British colonies. The paper was swiftly shut down when it expressed support for the war effort in spite of the CPGB’s Central Committee’s decision to back the Comintern – although Bradley later appeared to change his mind about the war, concurring with his fellow Communists. Indian Political Surveillance files give evidence that Bradley was a regular participant and occasional speaker at India League meetings in the late 1930s and early 1940s. There, he came into contact with several Indian activists and writers, including Mulk Raj Anand, Iqbal Singh, Krishnarao Shelvankar and Sasadhar Sinha. The relationship between Bradley and Krishna Menon was, according to India Office reports, rivalrous but mutually beneficial. The India League provided Bradley and his fellow Communists with a useful platform for propaganda, while the CPGB’s association with the League served as a means of attracting the interest of the British working class in the plight of India. Reports also claim that Bradley, along with Michael Carritt and Harry Pollitt, was leading a group of Indian Communist students, and that he planned a Conference of Indian Peddlers and Seamen in July 1939 (L/PJ/12/452). These activities suggest his ongoing interest not just in the struggle against imperialism but also in mobilizing for the rights of working-class Indians in Britain. 

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1898

Aftab Ali, Surat Alley, Mulk Raj Anand, Ayana Angadi, Jyoti Basu, Reginald Bridgeman, Fenner Brockway, Michael Carritt, B. B. Ray Chaudhuri, Dwjendra Nath Dutt, Rajani Palme Dutt, Michael Foot, Sunder Kabadia, S. M. Kumaramangalam, George Lansbury, Harold Laski, Krishna Menon, Syedi Mohamedi, Harry Pollitt, Shapurji Saklatvala, Promode Ranjan Sen-Gupta, K. S. Shelvankar, Iqbal Singh, Sasadhar Sinha, Reginald Sorensen, Philip Spratt, C. B. Vakil, S. A. Wickremasinghe.

Precise DOB unknown: 
Secondary works: 

Howe, Stephen, Anticolonialism in British Politics: The Left and the End of Empire, 1918-1964 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993)

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/448-54, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

CP/IND/BRAD, Archive of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Manchester People’s History Museum

Involved in events: 

Meerut Conspiracy Trial, 1932

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Benjamin Francis Bradley

Date of death: 
01 Jan 1957
Precise date of death unknown: 

Michael Foot


One of seven children of Isaac and Eva Foot, Michael Foot was born in Plymouth in 1913. He attended a Quaker school and there, shaped by the liberal politics of his family, became involved with the League of Nations and the peace movement. He went on to study politics, philosophy and economics at Wadham College, Oxford. He was an active member of the Lotus Club, an Anglo-Indian dining club comprising fifty English and fifty Indians, founded by G. K. Chettur to counter the impression that Indians did not participate in mainstream university life. He was President of the Liberal Club in 1932 and President of the Oxford Union in 1933. He also became friends with the Indian writer D. F. Karaka, who succeeded him as President of the Union.

Foot joined the Labour Party in 1935 while working in shipyards in Liverpool’s docks. In the same year he stood unsuccessfully as Labour candidate for Monmouth. His socialism was, from the start, ‘framed…in an international context’ and he had ‘a special affinity with India and the Indians’ (Morgan, p. 45). V. K. Krishna Menon was a significant influence on his political development. Foot contributed to Menon’s collection of essays by recent Oxford graduates titled Young Oxford and War, and admired Menon’s work as chairman of the St Pancras Education and Library Committee. He campaigned for the Socialist League with Menon, and joined his India League, heading, in the early 1940s, a campaign for the inclusion of India in the application of the principles of freedom set out in the Atlantic Charter, and speaking at numerous League meetings. He was, however, disturbed by the links between the India League and the Communist Party of Great Britain, forged by Menon, and opposed to the radical politics of Subhas Chandra Bose, advocating, rather, gradualism in the campaign for Indian independence and encouraging Indian nationalists to cooperate with authorities.

In the late 1930s, Foot began his career as a journalist, working on a range of magazines and newspapers, including, the New Statesman, the Evening Standard, the Daily Herald, and the Tribune. A ‘doer as much as a commentator’ (Morgan, p. 94), he was simultaneously involved in a range of protest movements and organizations in addition to the India League, including the League for the Rights of Man, the National Council for Civil Liberties and the Anglo-Palestine Committee, and remained close to the world of literary protest that revolved around the Left Book Club, Searchlight Books, and Horizon, among others.

In 1945, Foot stood as a candidate for the Labour Party for Devenport in Plymouth, and this time he was successfully returned. Throughout his career in the Labour Party, he was associated with its left wing, and at times his views made him unpopular with its leadership. He served as Secretary of State for Employment from 1974 to 1976, leader of the House of Commons from 1976 to 1979, and finally leader of the Labour Party from 1980 to 1983, when the party was heavily defeated in the General Election.

In 1949, Foot married Jill Craigie who died in 1999. He died on 3 March 2010.

Published works: 


Armistice, 1918-1939 (London: Harrap, 1940)

(as ‘Cato’, with Peter Howard and Frank Owen) Guilty Men (London: Gollancz, 1940)

(as ‘Cassius') The Trial of Mussolini (London: Gollancz, 1943)

Brendan and Beverley: An Extravaganza (London: Gollancz, 1944)

Un Inglese Difende Mussolini (Milan: Edizioni Riunite, 1946)

(with Donald Bruce) Who are the Patriots? (London: Gollancz, 1949)

Chapters in:

Menon, V. K. Krishna (ed.) Young Oxford at War (London: Selwyn & Blount, 1934)

Cripps, Stafford, et al., The Struggle for Peace (London: Gollancz: Left Book Club, 1936)

Crossman, R. H. S., A Palestine Munich (London: Gollancz, 1946)


(with R. H. S. Crossman et al.) Keep Left (New Statesman, 1947)

If the Tories had Won (Labour Party, 1947)

Still at Large (Tribune pamphlet, 1950)

Full Speed Ahead (Tribune pamphlet, 1950)


L/PJ/12/453, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, p. 11

Date of birth: 
23 Jul 1913

This Indian Political Intelligence file contains documents relating to the activities of V. K. Krishna Menon’s India League during the period 1940–1. The extract below is from a New Scotland Yard Report, dated 27 November 1940.


Mulk Raj Anand, Aneurin Bevan, Dr P. C. Bhandari, H. N. Brailsford, Ritchie Calder, Barbara Castle, Stafford Cripps, Rajani Palme Dutt, Victor Gollancz, Keir Hardie, Professor J. B. S. Haldane, D. F. Karaka, George Lansbury, Harold Laski, Kingsley Martin, V. K. Krishna Menon, Indira Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, J. B. Priestley, Reginald Sorensen, H. G. Wells, S. A. Wickremasinghe.

1941 Committee, Independent Labour Party, Labour Party, League of Nations, League for the Rights of Man, Liberal Party, National Council for Civil Liberties, Socialist League.

Contributions to periodicals: 

Art Quarterly

Daily Herald

Evening Standard


Hampstead and Highgate Express

Les Lettres Europeennes

Llafur (Journal for the Society for the Study of Welsh Labour History)

New Left Review

New Statesman


Tribune (sometimes under the name of ‘John Marullus’)


Michael Foot was in the chair and the speakers were: V. K. Krishna MENON, H. H. ELVIN (secretary, National Union of Clerks), Dr. Maude ROYDEN, S. S. SILVERMAN (Socialist MP for Nelson and Colne), H. N. BRAILSFORD, R. SORENSEN (Socialist MP for Leyton), Mrs Charlotte HALDANE, R. Palme DUTT and F. W. ADAMS (National Council for Civil Liberties).

Michael FOOT opened the meeting and said that it had been called to demand the release of NEHRU and others detained in India for making anti-war speeches and to obtain support for the Indian demand for independence and self-determination. He then read a resolution incorporating these terms. The speakers, he announced, represented all shades of political opinion and it was testimony to the large section of opinion in this country that was opposed to the Government’s policy in India. 

Secondary works: 

Karaka, D. F., Then Came Hazrat Ali (Delhi: Popular Press, 1972)

Morgan, Kenneth O., Michael Foot: A Life (London: HarperCollins, 2007)



This extract underlines Michael Foot’s commitment to the campaign to free India from colonial rule, and highlights the connections forged between Indians and the British Left in this key period of mobilization for independence.

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/453, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Involved in events: 

Numerous India League meetings

General Election, 1935

General Election, 1945

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
03 Mar 2010

H. N. Brailsford


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

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)


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

Date of birth: 
25 Dec 1873

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


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.

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)


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.

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)


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

City of birth: 
Mirfield, Yorkshire
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Henry Noel Brailsford

Date of death: 
23 Mar 1958
Location of death: 
London, England

Bertrand Russell


Bertrand Russell was a philosopher, journalist and political campaigner. From 1890 to 1893, Russell studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1914 he took up a visiting lectureship at Harvard University, where he befriended T. S. Eliot. Russell’s opposition to Britain’s participation in the First World War played a key role in his politicization. Russell supported the No-Conscription Fellowship, which led to his sacking from his lectureship at Cambridge.

In 1932, he became Chairman of the India League, presiding over meetings and regularly chairing India League events. He was heading the organization at the time of the India League’s delegation to India in the Autumn of 1932. He wrote the introduction to the delegation’s report published under the title The Condition of India. By 1938 Russell had moved away from political activism and back to philosophy and academic life, accepting a temporary lectureship in Chicago in 1938 and moving to the University of California in 1939. He remained in the United States for most of the Second World War. He returned to Britain in 1944 to take up a five-year fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1950. In 1958 he became one of the founders of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He died in 1970.

Published works: 

German Social Democracy (London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1896)

An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry (Cambridge: University Press, 1897)

The Principles of Mathematics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1903)

Philosophical Essays (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1910)

(with Alfred North Whitehead) Principia Mathematica , 3 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910-13)

The Problems of Philosophy (London: Williams & Norgate, 1912)

Principles of Social Reconstruction (London: Allen & Unwin, 1916)

Justice in War-Time (Chicago: Open Court, 1916)

Political Ideals (New York: The Century Co., 1917)

Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays (London: Allen & Unwin, 1917)

Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism, and Syndicalism (New York: Holt, 1919)

Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (London: Allen & Unwin, 1919)

The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism (London: Allen & Unwin, 1920)

The Analysis of Mind (London: Allen & Unwin, 1921)

The Problem of China (London: Allen & Unwin, 1921)

(with Dora Russell) The Prospects of Industrial Civilization  (London: Allen & Unwin, 1923)

The ABC of Relativity (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1925)

What I Believe (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1925)

On Education, Especially in Early Childhood (London: Allen & Unwin, 1926)

The Analysis of Matter (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1927)

An Outline of Philosophy (London: Allen & Unwin, 1927)

Why I Am Not a Christian (London: Watts, 1927)

Sceptical Essays (London: Allen & Unwin, 1928)

Marriage and Morals (London: Allen & Unwin, 1929)

The Conquest of Happiness (London: Allen & Unwin , 1930)

The Scientific Outlook (London: Allen & Unwin, 1931)

Education and the Social Order (London: Allen & Unwin, 1932)

Freedom and Organization, 1814–1914 (London: Allen & Unwin, 1934)

In Praise of Idleness (London: Allen & Unwin, 1935)

Religion and Science (London: Thornton Butterworth, 1935)

Which Way to Peace? (London: Jonathan Cape, 1936)

(with Patricia Russell) The Amberley Papers: The Letters and Diaries of Lord and Lady Amberley, 2 vols (London: Hogarth Press, 1937)

Power: A New Social Analysis (London: Allen & Unwin, 1938)

Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (London: Allen & Unwin, 1948)

Authority and the Individual (London: Allen & Unwin, 1949)

Unpopular Essays (London: Allen & Unwin, 1950)

New Hopes for a Changing World (London: Allen & Unwin, 1951)

The Impact of Science on Society (London: Allen & Unwin, 1952)

Satan in the Suburbs and Other Stories (London: Allen & Unwin, 1953)

Human Society in Ethics and Politics (London: Allen & Unwin, 1954)

Nightmares of Eminent Persons and Other Stories (London Allen & Unwin, 1954)

Portraits from Memory and Other Essays (London: Allen & Unwin, 1956)

Logic and Knowledge: Essays 1901–1950, ed. by Robert C. Marsh (London: Allen & Unwin, 1956)

Why I Am Not A Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects, ed. by Paul Edwards (London: Allen & Unwin, 1957)

Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare (London: Allen & Unwin, 1959)

My Philosophical Development (London: Allen & Unwin, 1959)

Wisdom of the West, ed. by Paul Foulkes(London: Macdonald, 1959)

Fact and Fiction (London: Allen & Unwin, 1961)

Has Man a Future? (London: Allen & Unwin, 1961)

Unarmed Victory (London: Allen & Unwin, 1963)

War Crimes in Vietnam (London: Allen & Unwin, 1967)

The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, 3 vols. (London: Allen & Unwin, 1967-9)

Dear Bertrand Russell...A Selection of his Correspondence with the General Public 1950-1968, ed. by Barry Feinberg and Ronald Kasrils  (London: Allen and Unwin, 1969)

Date of birth: 
18 May 1872

Horace Alexander, C. F. Andrews, H. N. Brailsford, Reginald Bridgeman, Fenner Brockway, Rajani Palme Dutt, Richard A. Harman, Agatha Harrison, G. Hicks, H. F. Horrabin, Atma S. Kamlani, Fred Landon, George Lansbury, Freda Laski, Harold Laski, D. H. Lawrence, James Marley, Leonard Matters, Krishna Menon, Syed Mohamedi, Mrs Brij Lal Nehru, S. L. Polak, A. A. Purcell, S. Radhakrishnan, Shapurji Saklatvala, Krishnarao Shelvankar, Wilfired Wellcock, Monica Whately, Tom Williams (MP), Ellen Wilkinson (MP).

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/448, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/PJ/12/356, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Correspondence with the Soceity of Authors, British Library, St Pancras

Correspondence with Rajani Palme Dutt, Labour History Archive and Study Centre, Manchester

City of birth: 
Ravenscroft, Trelleck, Monmouthshire
Other names: 

Bertrand Arthur William Russell

Date of death: 
02 Feb 1970
Location of death: 
Plas Penrhyn

Stephen Spender


Spender was educated at University College School in Oxford. In his last year at school, he was invited by T. S. Eliot to contribute to The Criterion. In 1930 he travelled in Germany with Christopher Isherwood. On a visit to England from Germany in December 1930, he met John Lehmann. He became part of a politically conscious group of poets, which also included W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice and Cecil Day Lewis. He was a propagandist for the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War and a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1936 and 1937.

As a member of the Left Book Club he met South Asians on the Left. Spender’s Forward from Liberalism (1937) was one of the Left Book Club’s most noteworthy publications. From 1939-41 he assisted Cyril Connelly in editing Horizon. He also published some poems in Tambimuttu’s Poetry London. He was co-editor of Encounter from 1953-66. Spender visited Bombay in the 1950s and met Shrimati Sophia Wadia (c.1901-1986), widow of B.P. Wadia (1881-1958), leader of the United Lodge of Theosophists. Both were founder members of the International PEN Club and contributors to the Indian PEN Club magazine.

During his visit Spender also met with Dominic Moraes (1938-2004), the son of Frank Moraes the editor of The Times of India in Bombay. Impressed with his poems Spender mentored Moraes’ early work and recommended him to Neville Coghill at Oxford. Moraes went up to Jesus College, Oxford and went on to win the Hawthornden Poetry Prize before moving to London in the 1960s, making a name for himself as a poet and Soho habitué.

In 1970 Spender became Professor of English at UCL and a founder of Index on Censorship in 1972. He was knighted in 1983.

Published works: 

Nine Experiments (London: Stepehen Spender, 1928)

Poems (London: Faber & Faber, 1933)

The Destructive Element: A study of modern writers and beliefs (London: Jonathan Cape, 1935) [Life and Letters series]

The Burning Cactus (London: Faber, 1936) [short stories]

Forward from Liberalism (London: Gollancz, 1937)

(ed. with John Lehmann) Poems for Spain (London: Hogarth Press, 1939)

The Backward Son (London: Hogarth Press, 1940) [novel]

Life and the Poet (London: Secker and Warburg, 1942)

Ruins and Visions: Poems (London: Faber & Faber, 1942)

Citizens in War - and After (London: George G. Harrap & Co., 1945)

European Witness (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1946)

Poems of Dedication (London: Faber & Faber, 1947)

The Edge of Being (London: Faber & Faber, 1949)

World Within World: The autobiography of Stephen Spender (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1951)

The Creative Element: A study of vision, despair and orthodoxy among some modern writers (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1953)

Sirimione Peninsula (London: Faber & Faber, 1954)

Art Student (London: Poem of the Month Club, 1970)

Collected Poems, 1928-1985 (London: Faber & Faber, 1985)

Dolphins (London: Faber & Faber, 1994)

Date of birth: 
28 Feb 1909

Ahmed Ali, Mulk Raj Anand, W. H. Auden, Z. A. Bokhari, Hsiao Ch'ien, T. S. EliotE. M. Forster, Christopher Isherwood, John Lehmann, Louis MacNeice,  Dom Moraes, Frank Moraes, George Orwell, Herbert ReadM. J. Tambimuttu, Dylan Thomas, Shrimati Sophia Wadia, (c.1901-86), B. P. Wadia (1881-1958).

Communist Party of Great Britain, Group Theatre, Indian PEN Club, International PEN.

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Criterion

Encounter  (co-editor)

Horizon (co-editor)

Life and Lettrs Today (reviews)

The Listener

Poetry London

Secondary works: 

Leeming, David, Stephen Spender: A Life in Modernism (New York: Henry Holt, 1999)

O'Neill, Mcihael and Reeves, Gareth, Auden, MacNeice, Spender : The Thirties Poetry (Basingstoke : Macmillan, 1992)

Sutherland, John, Stephen Spender: The Authorized Biography (London: Penguin 2005)

Archive source: 

Occasional writings, journalism, and essays, British Library, St Pancras

Stephen Spender Memorial Trust Archive, London

Correspondence with Leonard and Virginia Woolf, University of Sussex

Correspondence with Victor Gollancz, Modern Record Centre, University of Warwick

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
16 Jul 1995
Location of death: 





H. G. Wells


H. G. Wells was an author, intellectual and social commentator. Marking the transition from the Victorian to the Modern era, he made his name as the writer of utopian and dystopian science fiction novels. In later years he became increasingly noticed as a  social commentator, which would overshadow his career as a playwright and novelist. His connections with South Asians in the UK were tentative; however Wells was incredibly well connected to a number of networks that had extensive links to the South Asian community in Britain, most notably through the Fabian Society.

Wells was openly critical of British imperialism. After the massacre at Amritsar in 1919, Wells concluded that the incident was an example of the failures of the British imperial system, which had not fostered interaction between the British colonial masters and Indian subjects. He concluded that ‘no race is fit to have the upper hand over any other race; the possession of the upper hand leads at best to an inconsiderate self-righteousness and at the worst to an extreme contempt and cruelty’ (quoted in Foot, p. 195).

H. G. Wells’s writings influenced the young dramatist and novelist Aubrey Menen, who was granted permission by Wells to adapt The Shape of Things to Come for his drama society while studying at the University of London. Wells was impressed by the young Menen and deliberately risked a confrontation with the film producer Alexander Korda, who had just acquired the film rights for the novel. Wells’s A Short History of the World provoked a hostile reaction among South Asians in Britain. The  Jamiat-ul-Muslimin organized protests against the book in 1938 leading the Indian High Commissioner Firoz Khan Noon to intervene.

In 1941, Bhicoo Batlivala approached Wells to speak on the Subject Charter at the India League meeting in October. Krishna Menon sought to enlist Wells’s support on the question of Indian independence and to raise the profile of his pressure group. In 1941 Wells had written an open letter to Sir Hari Singh Gour, who had sent him his pamphlet ‘Truth About India’. In the letter Wells highlighted the ill-treatment of Nehru and called for Indian self-determination. Wells was particularly interested in the treatment of Nehru and sent a number of letters to the India Office in 1941. However their response was less than satisfactory. Wells was privately engaged in conversations with Lord Amery, Secretary of State for India, about Nehru, worried about his treatment as a political prisoner. This had led Bhicoo Batlivala to pursue Wells on behalf of Menon. She persuaded Wells to attend a private India League meeting to discuss the position of India and the Atlantic Charta, held at the Savoy Hotel on 23 October 1941, after he had declined invitations to speak at one of the organization's public meetings. From 1934 to 1946, Wells was the President of the writers’ organization International PEN.  Wells died in London on 13 August 1946.

Published works: 

Selected published works:

The Stolen Bacillus, and Other Incidents (London: Methuen & Co., 1895)

The Wonderful Visit (London: J. M. Dent & Co., 1895)

The Island of Doctor Moreau (London: W. Heinemann, 1896)

The Wheels of Chance: A Holiday Adventure, etc. (London: J. M. Dent & Co., 1896)

The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance (London: C. A. Pearson, 1897)

The Plattner Story, and Others (London: Methuen & Co., 1897)

The War of the Worlds (London: W. Heinemann, 1898)

God The Invisible King (London: Cassell, 1917) [mentions Rabindranath Tagore's poetry]

The World Set Free: Essays (London: Ernest Benn, 1927)

Date of birth: 
21 Sep 1866
Secondary works: 

Foot, Michael, H. G.: The Story of Mr Wells (London: Doubleday, 1995)

Parrinder, Patrick., H. G. Wells (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1970)

Parrinder, Patrick (ed.), H.G. Wells: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972)

Parrinder, Patrick (ed.), H. G. Wells: Literary Criticism (Sussex: Harvester Press, 1980)

Parrinder, Patrick, ‘Wells, Herbert George (1866–1946)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/36831]

Involved in events: 

Attended East India Association lecture given by Mrs N. C. Sen on Tagore at Caxton Hall on 29 May 1917.

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Herbert George Wells

Date of death: 
13 Aug 1946
Location of death: 
London, England

Syed Ameer Ali


Syed Ameer Ali was a lawyer, a judge, a political and social reformer, and a scholar of Islam. He wrote a number of books on Islamic law. He first arrived in the UK in 1869 initially to compete for the ICS. He was friends with the Fawcetts and attended female suffrage meetings in 1870. He was called to the Bar through the Inner Temple and returned to India to serve in the Calcutta High Court.

Syed Ameer Ali made frequent returns to Britain after 1873. In 1880 he met James Knowles, editor of The Nineteenth Century, and thereafter wrote a number of articles for the journal. On another visit back to the UK, he married Isabelle Konstam.

Syed Ameer Ali retired in 1904 and settled in the UK. His first task was to launch the London Muslim League (1908) and he took up the issue of Muslim representation. However, he resigned from the Muslim League in 1913 regarding it as too extreme. In 1910, he launched a project to build a mosque in London. And then in 1911 he formed the British Red Crescent Society because the British Red Cross was not helping injured Turks and Arabs in Italian attacks, addressing the need for an independent society to help the sick and wounded irrespective of race or religion. In 1909 he was appointed to the Privy Council, the first Indian member on the Council.

He died on 3 August 1928 at his home, Pollingfold Manor, near Rudgwick, Sussex and was buried in Brockwood Cemetery, Surrey. He had two sons who both studied at Oxford and both eventually retired to settle in Britain with their British wives.

Published works: 

A Critical Examination of the Life and Teachings of Mohammed (London: Williams and Norgate, 1873)

The Ethics of Islam (Calcutta: Thacker & Spink, 1893)

Islam (London: Archibald Constable & Co., 1906)

The Legal Position of Women in Islam (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1912)

The Life and Teachings of Mohammed, or the Spirit of Islam (London: W. H. Allen & Co., 1891)

Mahommedan Law (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink, 1892)

Persian Culture (London: Pub. for the [Persia] Society by John Hogg, 1913)

The Personal Law of the Mahommedans (London: W.H. Allen, 1880)

A Short History of the Saracens (London: Macmillan, 1899)

Students’ Handbook of Mahommedan Law (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co., 1892)

Date of birth: 
06 Apr 1849

Torick Ameer Ali (son), John Bryce, Henry Fawcett, Millicent Fawcett, Lord Hobhouse, James Knowles (editor of Nineteenth Century), Dadabhai Naoroji, Lord Northbrook, Oscar Wilde.

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Nineteenth Century; The Nineteenth Century and After

Contemporary Review

Edinburgh Review

Islamic Culture

The Times

Westminster Gazette


‘Speech at London Muslim League Inaugural Meeting’, The Times, 7 May 1908

Civil and Military Gazette

Secondary works: 

Aziz, K. K., Ameer Ali: His Life and Work (Lahore: Publishers United, 1968)

Ansari, Humayun, 'The Infidel Within': Muslims in Britain since 1800 (London: Husrt & Co., 2004)

FitzGerald, S. V., ‘Ameer Ali, Saiyid (1849–1928)’, rev. Roger T. Stearn, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2008) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/30400]

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)

Wasti, Syed Razi (ed.), Memoirs and other Writings of Syed Ameer Ali (Lahore: People’s Publishing House, 1968)

Archive source: 

Private papers in possession of family

Involved in events: 
City of birth: 
Cuttack, Orissa
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Saiyid Ameer Ali
Sayyid Ameer Ali
Rt Hon Ameer Ali


Pollingfold Manor RH12 3AS
United Kingdom
51° 3' 41.0652" N, 0° 20' 19.644" W
Date of death: 
03 Aug 1928
Location of death: 
Pollingfold Manor, near Rudgwick, Sussex, England
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1869
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1869-73, 1875, 1877, 1879-80, 1884, 1895, 1904-28


London, Sussex.

Tags for Making Britain: 

Shah Abdul Majid Qureshi


Shah Abdul Majid Qureshi was born in a village in Sylhet, the eldest of three brothers and a sister. His father was forced to sell his land after spending much of his income on educating his sons, and the family lived in impoverished circumstances. To escape a life of hardship and help his family, Qureshi decided to follow the example of many of his fellow Sylhetis and try to get work on a ship with a view to migrating to America or Britain. With this in mind, he left for Calcutta in 1934. After various failed attempts, he finally managed to escape from a ship docked at Tilbury, making his way to east London where he found lodgings with other recently arrived Sylhetis.

Qureshi began his working life in Britain selling chocolates in pubs. He soon moved on to working in various Indian restaurants (including the Bengal Restaurant in Percy Street) and, in 1938, opened his first restaurant, Dilkush Delight, in Windmill Street, Soho. By 1944, he owned a different restaurant off Charlotte Street. This became known as the 'India Centre' because numerous politically active South Asians congregated there for meetings. During this period, Qureshi himself became involved in political and welfare activities concerning the South Asian community in London. He was an active member of the Hindustani Social Club and co-founder (with Ayub Ali) and President of the Indian Seamen's Welfare League. He also attended some India League meetings. A Muslim, Qureshi worshipped at the East London Mosque and helped form the London Muslim League with Abbas Ali.

Qureshi married on his first return trip to Sylhet in 1946 and eventually, in the 1970s, brought his wife and children to England where the family remained.


Adams, Caroline, Across Seven Seas and Thirteen Rivers (London: THAP, 1987), pp. 140–77

Date of birth: 
25 Sep 1915

This is a transcript of an oral narrative by Shah Abdul Majid Qureshi in which he recounts his reasons for migration to Britain and the conditions and events of his life after migration.


Abbas Ali, Ayub Ali, Mushraf Ali, Taslim Ali (early pioneer of facilities for Muslims in Britain), Surat Alley, Syed Tofussil Ally, Mulk Raj Anand (both attended inaugural meeting of East End branch of India League), B. B. Ray Chaudhuri (on the executive committee of the Indian Seamen's Welfare League), Abdul Hamid (barrister and involved with Indian Seamen's Welfare League), Kundan Lal Jalie, Krishna Menon, Narayana Menon (both attended inaugural meeting of East End branch of India League), Mr Nandev (helped him out with restaurant), Mr Rahim and Mr Yassim (original owners of Shafi’s Restaurant), Said Amir Shah (both attended inaugural meeting of East End branch of India League), Maharaja of Siraikullah (served him and his party at restaurant), Dr C. B. Vakil (on the executive committee of the Indian Seamen's Welfare League).


In 1938, I saved enough to open my own restaurant - in Windmill Street. I can claim that I was the first Sylhetti man to own a restaurant...At that time most of the customers were Indians...We used to get English customers too - those English people who had been in the Indian Civil Service and all that...Then the student community from Bengal, they started coming, because they knew that they wouldn't have any worry for shelter, and they could find work as waiters, and at the same time they used to take admission in the Law Institutes, or in any institution. Students from all Bengal - East and West, Hindu and Muslim. So all the credit goes to that fellow who started the restaurants.

Secondary works: 

Adams, Caroline, Across Seven Seas and Thirteen Rivers (London: THAP, 1987)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)



The above extract emphasizes the pioneering work of early working-class South Asian migrants and how they impacted on British culture through the establishment of South Asian restaurants which, even in this early period, were frequented by the British as well as by South Asians. It also hints at the cross-class interactions among South Asians (waiters and students) and at the role of Indian restaurants as community meeting places where people congregated to socialize and sometimes to mobilize politically. The fact that the two restaurants owned by Qureshi were in Soho indicates the presence of working-class South Asians in the very heart of London.

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/455, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/PJ/12/630, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/PJ/12/646, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Involved in events: 

 Attended Indian Seamen’s Welfare League meetings

 Attended Hindustani Social Club meetings and events

City of birth: 
Patli-Qureshbari, Jaganathpur, Sylhet
Country of birth: 
Current name country of birth: 
Other names: 

Moina Meah


Percy Street
London, W1T 2DA
United Kingdom
51° 31' 6.006" N, 0° 8' 0.6072" W
Dilkush Delight
Windmill Street
London, W1T 2JU
United Kingdom
51° 31' 8.0904" N, 0° 8' 1.194" W
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1936
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1936-46, 19??-67, 1975/6-

Sasadhar Sinha


Sasadhar Sinha came to Britain to study for a BSc at the London School of Economics. He stayed on to complete a PhD at the same institution, returning to India shortly afterwards. On his return, Sinha failed to get a job because of the anti-government content of his journalism and lectures. Fearing arrest, he soon returned to Britain, where, in 1935, he opened the Bibliophile Bookshop at 16 Little Russell Street. The Ceylonese writer Alagu Subramaniam worked as Sinha’s assistant there, and the magazine Indian Writing, to which Sinha contributed regularly, was also based there. Indeed, the Bibliophile became known as a political meeting place for Indians.

As well as being prominent in anti-colonial and left-wing political circles in Britain, Sinha worked as an evening lecturer at Eltham Literary Institute and at Lewisham and Dulwich Literary Institute, lecturing on current affairs, Indian history, economics and political science. Along with several other South Asians during this period, he was a regular reader at the British Museum Reading Room where his reading matter was monitored by government officials who kept surveillance reports on politically active South Asians in Britain. He was married to Marthe Goldwyn, a teacher at Prendergast Girls’ School, Lewisham, and registered as a conscientious objector during the Second World War. By 1941, the Bibliophile was running out of funds and Sinha began to incur debts. He sold the bookshop in 1942 - to either Krishna Menon or one Robert Scott Cleminson - but remained its manager. In 1945, he returned to India to take ‘an active part in the nationalist movement in Bengal’ (L/PJ/12/467, p. 17).

Published works: 

Indian Independence and the Congress (London: Swaraj House, 1943) [booklet]

Why Famine in India (London: Swaraj House, 1943) [booklet]

Indian Independence in Perspective (London: Asia Publishing House, 1965)


L/PJ/12/467, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, p. 7

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1901

This file contains surveillance reports on Sasadhar Sinha dating from just before his return to England in 1933 to his departure for India in 1945. They document his occupations, his political activities, and his associations with other South Asians in Britain.


Ahmed Ali, Surat Alley, Mulk Raj Anand, Dr Vera Anstey (LSE), Kanwar Muhammad Ashraf, Sudhamay Basu, Dr K. C. Bhattacharyya (Sinha worked briefly as his secretary), Ray Choudhury, Sudhir Mohan Dutt, Professor Ginsberg (LSE), Marthe Goldwyn, Dulip Kumar Gupta, Agatha Harrison, Niharendu Datta Mazumdar, Krishna Menon, Ardesher Phirozsha Petigura, B. C. Sen, K. S. Shelvankar, Alagu Subramaniam, Gajindra Hiralal Thakore.

Contributions to periodicals: 

Indian Writing (regular contributor)

Precise DOB unknown: 

Sinha…is still the proprietor of the Bibliophile Book Shop…From observation kept on this shop, it would seem to be primarily a rendezvous for Indians. On several occasions recently, particularly in the afternoons, as many as twenty-five Indian men and women have been seen to enter and remain on the premises for some considerable time. When leaving none of them appeared to have purchased any of the various extremist books and pamphlets displayed for sale in the window.

Secondary works: 

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)


Of particular interest is Sinha’s establishment of the Bibliophile Bookshop in 1935. This is evidence of the presence of South Asians in Bloomsbury, the heart of London and its literary scene, during this early period of migration. The bookshop’s role as meeting place for politically active South Asian writers, as well as the content of the editorials of Indian Writing and Sinha’s involvement in numerous political organizations, are suggestive of the way in which Sinha, and many of his fellow writers, viewed literature and political commitment as closely linked, in contrast to a belief in ‘art for art’s sake’. The level and detail of the surveillance kept on Sinha is also striking: of particular note in this respect is evidence that the political content of Sinha’s choice of reading matter at the British Museum was monitored.

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/467, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Involved in events: 

India League meetings

City of birth: 
Santini, Ketan, Bengal
Country of birth: 


London School of Economics
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom
51° 30' 50.1948" N, 0° 6' 59.6736" W
Bibliophile Bookshop
16 Russell Street
London, WC2B 5HF
United Kingdom
51° 30' 45.6336" N, 0° 7' 16.1472" W
Date of death: 
01 Jan 1972
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1925
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1925-32, 1933-45


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