C. L. R. James


C. L. R. James was born in Caroni, Trinidad, to Robert Alexander James and Ida Elizabeth Rudder. The family moved to Tunapuna, where James' friend Malcolm Nurse (George Padmore) lived. After graduating from Queen’s Royal College he pursued a writing career, publishing the short story ‘La Divina Pastora’ in 1927. At a similar time, he befriended the cricketer Learie Constantine, who moved to England in 1929. On his arrival in England in early 1932 James stayed with Constantine in Nelson, Lancashire, before moving to London in 1933.

James' collection of essays written for the Port of Spain Gazette shortly after his arrival in Britain (published as Letters from London, 2003) indicate his position on the fringes of the Bloomsbury Group. In London, he was invited to join the Friends of India Society and to lecture on any subject connected with the West Indies at the Indian Students’ Central Association. James also attended several meetings of the India League. He began to read the work of Marx, Lenin, Engels and Trotsky and merged his interest in black politics with Marxist theory. He joined the League of Coloured Peoples, which also had a South Asian membership at this point, and wrote for their journal The Keys. He associated with other black anti-colonialists of the time, such as George Padmore, Amy Ashwood Garvey and Ras Makonnen. As a Trotskyist, James attracted the attention of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch. A 1937 Special Branch report shows that James was a regular visitor to Balkrishna Gupta, an Indian Trotskyist who was reportedly linked to Nehru. In 1938, James was living with Ajit Mookerjee (Ajit Roy), a Trotskyist law student at LSE and friend of Gupta, on Boundary Road, London. James and Mookerjee formed the Marxist Group in 1935 and later the Revolutionary Socialist League. In 1936, James' play Toussaint L’Ouverture was staged at the Westminster Theatre with Paul Robeson in the title role. James was also the cricket reporter for the Manchester Guardian from 1933 to 1935 and the Glasgow Herald in 1936. He was a fan of cricketer Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji and wrote about him both in his journalism and at length in his work Beyond a Boundary (1963).

In 1938, James left Britain for the United States where he stayed for the next fifteen years. In 1952, he was interned at Ellis Island for passport violations, and upon release in 1953 he went back to England before relocating to Trinidad in 1958. In 1962, he returned once again to England, settling in London for the majority of his remaining years. He died in his Brixton home on 31 May 1989.

Published works: 

(with Learie Nicholas Constantine) Cricket and I (London: Philip Allen, 1933)

The Life of Captain Cipriani: An Account of British Government in the West Indies (Nelson: Coulton & Co., Ltd, 1932)

The Case for West-Indian Self-Government (London: L. & V. Woolf, 1933)

Minty Alley: A Novel (London: M. Secker & Warburg, 1936)

World Revolution, 1917-1936: The Rise and Fall of the Communist International (London: M. Secker & Warburg, 1937)

The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (London: Secker & Warburg, 1938)

A History of Negro Revolt (London, 1938)

Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In (New York: C. L. R. James, 1953)

Every Cook Can Govern: A Study of Democracy in Ancient Greece (Detroit: Correspondence Publishing, 1956)

Modern Politics (Port of Spain: printed by the P. N. M. Publishing Company, 1960)

Beyond a Boundary (London: Hutchinson, 1963)

Wilson Harris: A Philosophical Approach (Port-of-Spain: University of the West Indies, 1965)

C. L. R. James, etc. (Madison, Wisconsin, 1970)

(with F. Forest and Ria Stone) The Invading Socialist Society (Detroit: Bewick Editions, 1972)

(with Grace C. Lee, and Pierre Chaulieu) Facing Reality (Detroit: Bewick/Ed, [1958] 1974)

Toussaint L’Ouverture (1936). Published as The Black Jacobins in A Time and Season: 8 Caribbean Plays, ed. by Errol Hill (Trinidad: University of the West Indies Extra-Mural Unit, 1976)

The Future in the Present: Selected Writings (London: Allison & Busby, 1977)

Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution (London: Allison & Busby, 1977)

(with George Breitman, Edgar Keemer and others) Fighting Racism in World War II (New York and London: Pathfinder, 1980)

Notes on Dialectics: Hegel, Marx, Lenin (London: Allison & Busby, 1980)

Spheres of Existence: Selected Writings (London: Allison & Busby, 1980)

At the Rendezvous of Victory: Selected Writings (London: Allison & Busby, 1984)

(with Margaret Busby and Darcus Howe) C. L. R. James’s 80th Birthday Lectures (London: Race Today, 1984)

(with Anna Grimshaw) Cricket (London: Allison & Busby, 1986)

(with Rana Dunayevskaya and Grace Lee) State Capitalism and World Revolution (Detroit: Facing Reality, 1969)

Walter Rodney and the Question of Power (London: Race Today, 1983)

(with Anna Grimshaw) The C. L. R. James Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992)

(with Anna Grimshaw and Keith Hart) American Civilization (Cambridge, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell, 1993)

(with Scott McLemee and Paul Le Blanc) C. L. R. James and Revolutionary Marxism: Selected Writings of C. L. R. James, 1939-1949 (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1994)

(with Scott McLemee) C. L. R. James on the 'Negro Question' (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996)

(with Anna Grimshaw) Special Delivery: The Letters of C. L. R. James to Constance Webb, 1939-1948 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996)

(with Martin Glaberman) Marxism for Our Times: C. L. R. James on Revolutionary Organization (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999)

Letters from London: Seven Essays by C. L. R. James (Port of Spain: Prospect Press, 2003; Oxford: Signal Books, 2003)

(with David Austin) You Don’t Play with Revolution: The Montreal Lectures of C. L. R. James (Edinburgh: AK, 2009)


Bornstein, Sam and Richardson, Al, Against the Stream: A History of the Trotskyist Movement in Britain, 1924-38 (London: Socialist Platform, 1986), p. 263

Date of birth: 
04 Jan 1901

Here, the authors quote Ajit Mookerjee Roy on James' political convictions and their personal relationship.

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Keys


I had rarely come across a finer political polemicist than C. L. R. James. His attacks on Stalinism were absolutely devastating. He was then thinking in terms of building an independent Trotskyist party. I joined him readily. There was no doubt in my mind that all we had to do was to start with a clean slate. We had the answer to all the problems, and that the few of us would grow in the course of time into a mighty party. Now when I think of my faith in those days, I feel very amused.

Secondary works: 

Bogues, Anthony, Black Nationalism and Socialism (London: Socialists Unlimited for Socialists Workers’ Party, 1979)

Bogues, Anthony, Caliban’s Freedom: The Early Political Thought of C. L. R. James (London: Pluto Press, 1997)

Bornstein, Sam and Richardson, Al, Against the Stream: A History of the Trotskyist Movement in Britain, 1924-38 (London: Socialist Platform, 1986)

Buhle, Paul, C. L. R. James: His Life and Work (London: Allison & Busby, 1986)

Buhle, Paul, C. L. R. James: The Artist as Revolutionary (London: Verso, 1988)

Cudjoe, Selwyn R. and Cain, William E., C. L. R. James: His Intellectual Legacies (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts, 1995)

Dhondy, Farrukh, C. L. R. James (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001)

Ervin, Charles Wesley, 'Trotskyism in India: Part One: Origins Through World War Two (1935-45)', Revolutionary History 1.4 (Winter 1988-9), pp. 22-34

Farred, Grant, What’s My Name?: Black Vernacular Intellectuals (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2003)

Fryer, Peter, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (London: Pluto, 1984)

Grimshaw, Anna, The C. L. R. James Archive: A Reader's Guide (New York: C. L. R. James Institute and Cultural Correspondence, 1991)

Henry, Paget and Buhle, Paul, C. L. R. James's Caribbean (Durham: Duke University Press, 1992)

Howe, Stephen, 'James, Cyril Lionel Robert (1901-1989)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) []

Innes, C. L., A History of Black and Asian Writing in Britain, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)

King, Nicole, C. L. R. James and Creolization: Circles of Influence (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001)

McClendon, John H., C. L. R. James's Notes in Dialectics: Left Hegelianism or Marxism-Leninism? (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2005)

Needham, Anuradha Dingwaney, Using the Master's Tools: Resistance and the Literature of the South Asian Diasporas (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000)

Nielsen, Aldon Lynn, C. L. R. James: A Critical Introduction (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1997)

Nordquist, Joan, C. L. R. James: A Bibliography (Santa Cruz, CA: Reference and Research Services, 2001)

Ordaz, Martin, Home-Coming of a Famous Exile: C. L. R. James in Trinidad & Tobago (Trinidad & Tobago: Opus, 2003)

Ragoonath, Bishnu, Tribute to a Scholar: 'Appreciating C. L. R. James' (Kingston: Consortium Graduate School of Social Sciences, University of the West Indies, 1990)

Ramdin, Ron, The Making of the Black Working Class in Britain (Aldershot: Gower, 1987)

Renton, Dave, C. L. R. James: Cricket's Philosopher King (London: Has, 2007)

Rosengarten, Frank, Urbane Revolutionary: C. L. R. James and the Struggle for a New Society (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008)

Samoiloff, Louise Cripps, C. L. R. James: Memories and Commentaries (New York and London: Cornwall Books, 1997)

Somerville, Erin D., 'James, C. L. R. (1901-1989)', in The Oxford Companion to Black British History, ed. by David Dabydeen, John Gilmore and Cecily Jones (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 232-4

Sancho, T. Anson, CLR: The Man and His Work (1976)

Scott, David, Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004)

Stephens, Michelle Ann, Black Empire: The Masculine Global Imaginary of Caribbean Intellectuals in the United States, 1914-1962 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005)

Worcester, Kent, C. L. R. James: A Political Biography (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996)

Young, James, The World of C. L. R. James: The Unfragmented Vision (Glasgow: Clydeside Press, 1999)


This excerpt highlights the friendship between James and Ajit Mookerjee Roy. It is suggestive of the way in which left-wing anti-colonal political convictions linked members of different minority groups in Britain across cultural and 'racial' boundaries.

Archive source: 

'Cyril Lionel Robert James', Metropolitan Police Special Branch file, KV 2/1824, National Archives, Kew

Correspondence and papers, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London

'C. L. R. James talks to Stuart Hall', Miras Productions, 30 April 1988, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

'A Tribute to C. L. R. James, 1901-1989', Banding Productions, 21 June 1989, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

Current footage affairs, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

Documentary footage, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

Documentary recording, National Sound Archive, British Library, London

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Cyril Lionel Robert James

Date of death: 
31 May 1989
Location of death: 
Brixton, London
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
18 Mar 1932
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

March 1932 - October 1938, 1953-8, 1962-89


Boundary Road, London

Paul Robeson


Paul Leroy Robeson was born in 1898 in Princeton, New Jersey, to  William Drew Robeson and Maria Louisa Bustill. In 1915 he enrolled at Rutgers College, New Jersey, and in 1920 he entered Columbia University Law School. In 1922 he married his life-long partner Eslanda 'Essie' Cardozo Goode, and the following year he graduated from Columbia. Robeson launched his acting career in 1920 - a career that brought him to London in 1922, and again in 1925 to star in the Eugene O'Neill Play, The Emperor Jones.

Robeson returned to London in April 1928 and spring 1930 to act in Show Boat and Othello, respectively. After a visit to Moscow in 1934, his political views became increasingly influenced by socialist and Communist ideals. He also started associating with key African figures such as Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah. In 1934, he acted in Alexander Korda's Sanders of the River, a performance he later repudiated as glorifying British imperialism. His repudiation of British imperialism and growing support of the working class was applauded by Stafford Cripps, the leading Labour politician. There is also evidence that Robeson attended a League of Coloured Peoples meeting, led by Harold Moody, in 1934 (Duberman, p. 624, n. 38).

In the mid-1930s, Robeson met Cedric Dover who broadcast on Robeson for BBC Radio to India. The talk is published in George Orwell's collection Talking to India (1943). In Half-Caste (1937), Dover lauded Robeson: 'To know him, to feel his charm and unusually wide culture, is a privilege; to hear him sing at a packed Albert Hall recital is a spiritual experience' (p. 226). In the late 1930s, Robeson met Krishna Menon, Secretary of the India League. Menon enlisted Robeson's support in the struggle for Indian independence. In January 1938, Robeson visited Spain to support the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. In June of that year, Robeson acted in Plant in the Sun. In the audience were Jawaharlal Nehru, his sister Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and Krishna Menon who had just come back to London after touring Spain; the four of them became friends, and Robeson and Nehru met on several other occasions. On 27 June 1938, at the India League meeting in Kingsway Hall, Nehru and Robeson spoke on internationalism and the need for unified action against Fascism. Among the other speakers were Stafford Cripps, Harold Laski, Ellen Wilkinson and Rajani Palme Dutt.

Robeson's left-leaning politics were put to the test at the outbreak of the Second World War and the Nazi-Soviet agreement. He had discussed his views on the Soviet Union with other English socialists such as Harold Laski and George Bernard Shaw. Now in the United States, Robeson continued his socialist agitations and with the onset of the Cold War he was under surveillance, his passport was revoked and he was called before the Un-American Activities Committee. When his passport was returned in 1958, he immediately travelled to Europe again. In the 1960s, he went into semi-retirement and he died of a stroke on 23 January 1976 in Philadelphia.

Published works: 

Forge Negro-Labor Unity for Peace and Jobs (New York: Harlem Trade Union Council, 1950)

The Negro People and the Soviet Union (New York: New Century Publishers, 1950)

Here I Stand (London: Dennis Dobson, 1958)

Paul Robeson Speaks: Writings, Speeches, Interviews, 1918-1974 (London: Quartet Books, 1978)

Date of birth: 
09 Apr 1898
Contributions to periodicals: 

Daily Worker

Secondary works: 

Adi, Hakim, 'Robeson, Paul Leroy (1898-1976)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) []

Balaji, Murali, The Professor and the Pupil: The Politics of W. E. B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson (New York: Nation Books, 2007)

Boyle, Sheila Tully, and Bunie, Andrew, Paul Robeson: The Years of Promise and Acheivement (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001)

Brown, Lloyd L., Lift Every Voice for Paul Robeson (New York: Freedom Associates, 1951)

Brown, Lloyd L., Paul Robeson Rediscovered (New York: American Institute for Marxist Studies, 1976)

Brown, Lloyd L., The Young Paul Robeson: On My Journey Now (Boulder and Oxford: Westview Press, 1997)

Chambers, Colin, Here We Stand: Politics, Performers and Performance: Paul Robeson, Isadora Duncon and Charlie Chaplin (London: Nick Hern, 2006)

David, Lenwood D., A Paul Robeson Research Guide: A Selected Annotated Bibliography (Westport, CT, and London: Greenwood Press, 1982)

Dorinson, Joseph, and Pencak, William, Paul Robeson: Essays on His Life and Legacy (Jefferson, NC, and London: McFarland, 2002)

Dover, Cedric, 'Paul Robeson', in George Orwell (ed.), Talking to India (London: Allen & Unwin, 1943), pp. 17-21

Dover, Cedric, Half-Caste (London: Martin Secker & Warburg, 1937)

Duberman, Martin B., Paul Robeson (London: Bodley Head, 1989)

Dyer, Richard, Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1986)

Fryer, Peter, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (London: Pluto, 1984)

Gerlach, L. R., 'Robeson, Paul', in J. A. Garraty and M. C. Carnes (eds) American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 629-31

Gilliam, Dorothy Butler, Paul Robeson: All-American (Washington: New Republic, 1976)

Graham, Shirley, Paul Robeson: Citizen of the World (Westport, CT: Negro Universities Press, 1971)

Hamilton, Virginia, Paul Robeson: The Life and Times of a Free Black Man (New York: Harper & Row, 1974)

Horne, Gerald, The End of Empires; African Americans and India (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008; Chesham: Combined Academic, 2008)

Hoyt, Edwin P., Paul Robeson: The American Othello (World Publishing, 1967)

Kwayana, Eusi, Paul Robeson, 9 March 1898 - 23 January 1976: Tributes (London: Paul Robeson Society, 1990)

McKissack, Patricia, Paul Robeson: A Voice to Remember (Hillside, NJ, and Aldershot: Enslow, 1992)

Nazel, Joseph, Paul Robeson: Biography of a Proud Man (Los Angeles: Holloway House, 1980)

Paul Robeson: The Great Forerunner (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1978)

Ramdin, Ron, Paul Robeson: The Man and His Mission (London: Owen, 1987)

Robeson, Eslanda Goode, Paul Robeson: Negro (London: Victor Gollancz, 1930)

Robeson, Paul, Jr, The Undiscovered Paul Robeson: An Artist's Journey, 1898-1939 (New York and Chichester: Wiley, 2001)

Robeson, Susan, The Whole World in His Hands: A Pictorial History of Paul Robeson (Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1981)

Seton, Marie, Paul Robeson (London: Dennis Dobson, 1958)

Stewart, Jeffrey C., Paul Robeson: Artist and Citizen (New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Rutgers University Press, 1998)

Stuart, Marie, Paul Robeson (Bristol: West Bristol Adult Education Centre, 1993)

Thompson, Allan L., Paul Robeson: Artist and Activist: On Records, Radio and Television (Wellingborough: A. L. Thompson, 1998)

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

Von Eschen, Penny M., Race Against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957 (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1997)

Wright, Charles H., Robeson: Labor's Forgotten Champion (Detroit: Balamp Publishing, 1975)

Archive source: 

Robeson Family Archives, Moorland-Spingarn Research Centre, Howard University, Washington, DC

New York Public Library

Archive, Berlin, Germany

'Paul Robeson', BBC, 26 November 1978, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

Black on Black, LWT, 23 April 1985, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

'Songs of Freedom: Paul Robeson and the Black American Struggle', Mirus Productions, 3 June 1986, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

'Speak of Me as I Am', 7 June 1998, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

'Paul Robeson: Here I stand', WNET, 1999, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

Advertising film footage, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

Current affairs footage, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

Documentary footage, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

News footage, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

Performance footage, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

Performance recordings, National Sound Archive, British Library, St Pancras

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
United States of America
Other names: 

Paul Leroy Robeson

Date of death: 
23 Jan 1976
Location of death: 
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1922
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1922, 1925, April 1928 - 29, 1930-9 (mostly in England and continental Europe)


12 Glebe Place, Chelsea, London

Carlton Hill, St John's Wood, London

Empire of India Exhibition, 1895

01 May 1895
Event location: 

Earl's Court, London


The twenty-four acre Earl's Court Exhibition Grounds were rebuilt in 1894 by the impresario Imre Kiralfy in a Mughal Indian style. The Empire of India Exhibition opened the site in 1895, and was the first of a series of annual exhibitions there, which drew heavily on the abundance of transport links in the area to attract a mass audience. Highlights of the site included the two-storey Empress Theatre, which could seat 6,000 viewers for Kiralfy’s spectacle plays, and the 300-feet high Ferris wheel, whose forty carriages could each accommodate thirty people.

Of the groups who helped Kiralfy arrange the exhibition, Gregory writes: ‘The Empire of India Exhibition of 1895…had as Patrons four Maharajas and four Rajas, headed by the anglophile Gaekwar of Baroda. The “Honorary Committee” listed nearly two hundred names, including one Duke, one Marquis, two Earls, two Viscounts, and twelve Lords. The “Old Welcome Club” was presided over by Field-Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar...Asiatic specialists such as Sir George Birdwood, Sir C. Purdon Clarke, and Sir Edwin Arnold lent practical advice as well as support’ (p. 303). Hartley also mentions Proctor Watson, who acted as agent to engage ‘native craftsmen’ from India, and who purchased ‘some old condemned houses in Poona, which were taken down and all the lovely woodwork sent over’ (p. 71). Hartley writes of the care he took over the ‘natives’ during their residence in London, supplying them with live sheep and goats to be killed appropriately for their consumption, as well as taking them to destinations such as Windsor Castle and Hampton Court. Hartley also mentions the Amir of Afghanistan’s nephew’s regular visits to the exhibition.

One of the highlights was ‘India: A Grand Historical Spectacle’, written and directed by Kiralfy and performed in the Empress Theatre. The spectacle opened in July, two months after the rest of the site. It presented the history of India, from 1024 to the present day, in dance, mime and songs. It was the only one of Kiralfy’s spectacles to run for two seasons. When discussing the India spectacle, Gregory draws a distinction between this historical survey and the one at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886 at the Imperial Institute, which ‘was the first of such surveys…but it is important to distinguish between the Government backed propaganda of the Imperial Institute and the commercial exploitation of a popular subject at Earl's Court’ (p. 362, fn151).

In 1896 Kiralfy held a revised form of the Empire of India Exhibition, entitled the ‘India and Ceylon Exhibition'. Gregory notes: ‘When the company decided…to revive the Indian exhibition, no doubt swayed by Kiralfy's insistence on presenting India for a second season, they were reliant on the individual co-operation of members of the Indian Military and Civil Service, foremost amongst whom was Sir George Birdwood. The Exhibition was essentially the same as that in 1895, but the frame of reference was widened to include Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Borneo, and Burma. New groups of "native villagers" were brought to England for the season, including Sinhalese craftsmen and a team of Burmese football players’ (p. 322).

Imre Kiralfy
People involved: 
Published works: 

Kiralfy, Imre, Empire of India Exhibition, Earl's Court, London, 1895: Official Programme, (London: J. J. Keliner & Co., 1895)

Kiralfy, Imre, Imre Kiralfy’s Historical Spectacle India, Libretto (London: J. J. Keliner & Co., 1895)

The Empire of India Exhibition, 1895, The Conception, Design and Production of Imre Kiralfy, Empire of India Exhibition, 1895 (London Exhibitions Limited, 1895)

Ward, Rowland, The Jungle and Indian Animal Life… [for the Empire of India exhibition] [a description] (1895)


See contemporary newspapers, including: The Times, 16 May, 28 May, 4 June 1895

Secondary works: 

Gregory, Brendan Edward, 'The Spectacle Plays and Exhibitions of Imre Kiralfy, 1887-1914', unpublished PhD thesis (University of Manchester, 1988)

Greenhalgh, Paul, Ephemeral Vistas: The Expositions Universelles, Great Exhibitions and World’s Fair, 1851-1939 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988)

Hartley, Harold, Eighty-Eight Not Out: A Record of Happy Memories (London: Frederick Muller, 1939)

Hoffenberg, Peter H., An Empire on Display: English, Indian and Australian Exhibitions from the Crystal Palace to the Great War (London: University of California Press, 2001)

Mackenzie, John M., Propaganda and Empire: The Manipulation of British Public Opinion, 1880-1960 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), pp. 97-120

Mackenzie, John M (ed.), Imperialism and Popular Culture (Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 1986)

Pes, Javier, ‘Kiralfy, Imre (1845-1919)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004) []


The Empire of India Exhibition, 1895, The Conception, Design and Production of Imre Kiralfy, Empire of India Exhibition, 1895 (London: Exhibitions Limited, 1895)


Visitors arrived in ‘Elysia’ - a collection of popular entertainment buildings and ‘The Gigantic Wheel’. North of here lay formal gardens with fountains, surrounded by refreshment buildings, small entertainment halls, and the ‘Himalayas Gravity Railway’. Visitors could continue south-east through the ‘Indian City’ with Indian bazaars on either side of the ‘Indian Jungle’ and ‘Carpet factory’. The Indian City also contained a small mosque. They would then approach the largest buildings of the site – the Imperial Palace and the Empress Theatre. East of these, towards Earls Court Station, lay the Ducal Hall, pavilions exhibiting the liberal arts, and the less formal Reva and Nirvana Gardens. Throughout the site were refreshment halls.

Archive source: 

Original programme, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

Photos of 1896 India and Ceylon Exhibition in Photo 888 series, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Oscar Wilde


Oscar Wilde was an Anglo-Irish poet, playwright, literary critic and dandy of legendary wit. Born directly outside Trinity College Dublin, where he was to later to excel as a Classicist, his father was a prominent eye surgeon and his mother was an Irish nationalist poet known by the nom de plume ‘Speranza.’ In 1874 he went up to Oxford to read Greats at Magdalen College, and it was there that he first began to publish verse, and to develop a uniquely enthralling cult of personality. Raising eyebrows with his contempt of physical sports and an almost religious attitude to literature and art, he became known by his detractors as the ignoble figurehead of an emerging party of so-called ‘Aesthetes.’ A moniker that rapidly took on satirical connotations, it in fact suited Wilde’s conviction, strengthened at Oxford by encounters with John Ruskin and Walter Pater, that sensibility of beauty was the defining characteristic of humanity, and that the cultivation of taste was a sacred task. He cultivated an aesthetics of supreme artifice, promoted by his work and encapsulated in his lifestyle, its own symbol the green carnation that often adorned his lapel.

Wilde met Manmohan Ghose in London and wrote a favourable review of Primavera, the poems published by Binyon, Ghose, Cripps and Phillips in the Pall Mall Gazette in 1890. His theatrical masterwork, The Importance of Being Earnest, premiered even as his own downfall was set in motion by the depositing of an insulting note at his club by the Marquess of Queensberry. The pugnacious noble’s son, Lord Alfred Douglas, had been Wilde’s friend and sometime lover since 1891. Wilde’s rash attempt to sue Queensberry for libel resulted in his own prosecution for gross indecency, and the humiliating revelation of a sexual life undreamt of by the contemporary public. Despite his public defence of ‘the love that dare not speak its name’, Wilde has sentenced to two years with hard labour, an experience that led to his last major poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, and the prison letter De Profundis which is now read as his memoir and valediction. His health broken, he died in destitute exile in Paris aged forty-six.

Published works: 

Poems (1881)
The Happy Prince and Other Stories (1888)
Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories (1891)
Intentions (1891)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890-1)
Salome (1891)
Lady Windermere's Fan (1892)
A Woman of No Importance (1893)
An Ideal Husband (1895)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)
The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898)
De Profundis (1905)


Oscar Wilde's review of Primavera in Pall Mall Gazette, 24 May 1890

Date of birth: 
16 Oct 1854
Contributions to periodicals: 

Pall Mall Gazette, 24 May 1890 (Review of Primavera)


These new singers are Mr Laurence Binyon, who has just gained the Newdigate; Mr Manmohan Ghose, a young Indian of brilliant scholarship and high literary attainments who gives some culture to Christ Church; Mr Stephen Phillips, whose recent performance of the Ghost in "Hamlet" at the Globe Theatre was so admirable in its dignity and elocution, and Mr Arthur Cripps, of Trinity. Particular interest attaches naturally to Mr Ghose's work. Born in India, of purely Indian parentage, he has been brought up entirely in England, and was educated at St Paul's School, and his verses show us how quick and subtly are the intellectual sympathies of the Oriental mind, and suggest how close is the bond of union that may some day bind India to us by other methods than those of commerce and military strength.

Secondary works: 

Ellmann, Richard, Oscar Wilde (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1987)

Gandhi, Leela, Affective Communities: Anticolonial Thought and the Politics of Friendship (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006)

McKenna, Neil, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde (London: Arrow Books, 2004)

Archive source: 

Oscar Wilde Collection, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, Los Angeles

Oscar Wilde Papers, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
30 Nov 1900
Location of death: 
Paris, France
Tags for Making Britain: 

Niranjan Pal


Niranjan Pal was the son of the moderate Indian nationalist Bepin Chandra Pal. He came to Britain in the early twentieth century to study in London, and lived in a boarding house with Sukhsagar Datta, Ashutosh Mitter and his father. It was to this boarding house at 140 Sinclair Road in London that David Garnett was invited to by Datta and where he was introduced to Pal, who was also known as Nanu. In The Golden Echo, Garnett described Pal's politics as not clearly defined, but more sympathetic to Indian revolutionaries in contrast to his father's moderate views.

Niranjan Pal later rose to fame as a playwright and then film director and producer. His play, The Goddess, was performed in London in 1922. This play had a successful run, starting at the Duke of York's Theatre on 6 and 7 June 1922, it was then shown at the Ambassador's Theatre and finally moved to the Aldwych Theatre in July 1922. The play was performed 66 times in total and there were plans after the success to form an Indian Repertory Theatre Movement in London.

Niranjan Pal was married to an English woman, Lily, and they had a son called Colin in 1923. Pal then began a collaboration with the lead actor in The Goddess, Himansu Rai, and went to Bombay to produce films. He collaborated with the German silent film director, Franz Osten to film The Light of Asia in 1925 in Bombay, and then became a successful screen-writer for Bombay Talkies film studio in Bombay.

Date of birth: 
17 Aug 1889

Sukhsagar Datta, David Garnett, Maud MacCarthy (music for The Goddess), Franz Osten, Bepin Chandra Pal (father), Himansu Rai, Devika Rani, Rani Waller (actress in The Goddess)



The Times, 7 June 1922

The Era, 21 June 1922

The Stage, 22 June 1922 (Reviews of 'The Goddess')

Secondary works: 

Chambers, Colin, A History of Black and Asian Theatre in Britain (London: Routledge, forthcoming)

Garnett, David, The Golden Echo (London: Chatto & Windus, 1953) 

Jaikumar, Priya, Cinema at the End of Empire: A Politics of Transition in Britain and India (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006)

Pal, Colin, ‘The Rise and Fall of Bombay Talkies’, Filmfare, (16-31 December 1983), pp. 24-28, (1-15 January 1984), pp. 24, 26-27, 29

Archive source: 

The Goddess Programmes, Victoria and Albert Theatre Museum Archive, Earl's Court, London

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Current name city of birth: 
Current name country of birth: 
Other names: 

Nanu Pal


140 Sinclair Road
London , W14 0NJ
United Kingdom
51° 30' 4.5864" N, 0° 12' 54.3816" W
Date of death: 
09 Nov 1959
Location of death: 
Calcutta, India

140 Sinclair Road, London

Tags for Making Britain: 

Hasan Shahid Suhrawardy


As a student at Oxford, Hasan Shahid Suhrawardy helped Robert Bridges (poet laureate) select the 'oriental' poems for The Spirit of the Man (London: Longmans, 1915). On 29 November 1915, Suhrawardy, with D. H. Lawrence and Philip Arnold Heseltine, visited Lady Ottoline Morrell. [A photo of which, taken by Lady Ottoline, is available in the National Portrait Gallery.] Other guests recorded in the visitors' book that day included Aldous Huxley.

Suhrawardy was a poet and art critic, who also worked as a diplomat. He was the son of Justice Sir Zahid Suhrawardy and Khujesta Akhtar Banu and nephew of Abdullah Al-Mamun Suhrawardy who had also studied at Oxford. Suhrawardy was a graduate of Presidency College, Calcutta, before sailing for England. After graduating from Oxford, he taught English at the Imperial University of St Petersburg and at the Women's University in Moscow. Amongst his students was Alexander Kerensky, the Prime Minister of Russia. Suhrawardy was a member of the producers' committee at the Moscow Art Theatre and worked with the composer, Igor Stravinsky. He witnessed the Bolshevik Revolution of 1919 and then moved to France. He returned to India in the 1920s to pursue research in art, teaching in Calcutta and Hyderabad. He also translated works from Russian and Chinese into English.

His younger brother, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, who was at Oxford at the same time, was Prime Minister (the post now called Chief Minister) of Bengal in 1946 and Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1956-7. Due to similar sounding names and the same initials with his brother, Hasan Shahid Suhrawardy is often known as Shahid Suhrawardy. He should also not be confused with his uncle Sir Hassan Suhrawardy.

Published works: 

Faded Leaves (London: J. M. Baxter, 1910)

'Narcisse-Mallarméen; Chinoiserie: Samainesque' in Oxford Poetry 1915 (Oxford: Blackwells, 1915)

Bartold, V. V., Mussulman Culture, translated from the Russian by Shahid Suhrawardy (Calcutta: Calcutta University Press, 1934)

Essays in Verse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1937)

Prefaces [Lectures on Art Subjects] (Calcutta: Calcutta University Press, 1938)

Lee, Hou-chu, Poems of Lee Hou-chu, rendered into English from the Chinese by Liu Yih-lung and Shahid Suhrawardy (Bombay: Orient Longmans, 1948)

'The Writer and his Freedom' in Pakistan PEN Miscellany 1, ed. by Ahmed Ali (Karachi: Kitab, 1950)

The Art of the Mussulmans in Spain (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2005), with introduction by Naz Ikramullah Ashraf.


Letter from D. H. Lawrence to Lady Cynthia Asquith, 5 December 1915, in George J. Zytanek and James T. Boulton (eds) The Letters of D. H. Lawrence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), volume II, p. 466.

Date of birth: 
24 Oct 1890

D. H. Lawrence is describing his visit to Lady Ottoline Morrell's (on 29 November 1915) and the people he met - including Suhrawardy. In this extract, Lawrence is recounting Suhrawardy's comments about Lady Ottoline.


Ahmed Ali (friends and co-founders of Pakistan PEN - a writing organization), Robert Bridges, D. H. Lawrence, Philip Arnold Heseltine (aka Peter Warlock - composer and music critic), Aldous Huxley, Basanta Kumar Mallik (students at Oxford together), Lady Ottoline Morrell, Jawaharlal Nehru, Jamini Roy, Kiran Shankar Roy (students at Oxford together), Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy (his brother, who was Prime Minister of Bengal and Pakistan), Rabindranath Tagore (met when Tagore visited Oxford in 1913).

Contributions to periodicals: 

Art critic for The Statesman (Calcutta), 1940-7.

'Tagore at Oxford', The Calcutta Municipal Gazette: Tagore Memorial Special Supplement, 13 September 1941.


The Indian says (he is of Persian family): 'Oh, she is so like a Persian princess, it is strange - something grand, and perhaps cruel.' It is pleasant to see with all kinds of eyes, like argus. Suhrawardy was my pair of Indo-persian eyes. He is coming to Florida.

Secondary works: 

Hosain, Shahid (ed.), First Voices: Six Poets from Pakistan: Ahmed Ali, Zulfikar Ghose, Shahid Hosain, Riaz Qadir, Taufiq Rafat, Shahid Suhrawardy (Lahore: Oxford University Press, 1965)

Shamsie, Muneeza, A Dragonfly in the Sun: An Anthology of Pakistani Writing in English (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1997)

Talukdar, Mohammad H. R. (ed.), Memoirs of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy with a brief account of his life and work (Dhaka: Dhaka University Press, 1987)

Zytankek, George J. and Boulton, James T. (eds), The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, volume II, June 1913-Oct. 1916 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981)


This extract reveals Lawrence's deep admiration for Suhrawardy and his intentions to take him to Florida with him (which did not materialize). Lawrence is keen to stress the Persian descent of Suhrawardy, but also sees Suhrawardy as an interpreter of Eastern views (Indo-persian eyes).

Archive source: 

Portrait with D. H. Lawrence and P. A. Heseltine, National Portrait Gallery, London

L/PJ/12/3, India Office file on his activities in Moscow and Europe, April 1917 - February 1935, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

City of birth: 
Midnapore, Bengal
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Shahid Suhrawardy


Oxford, OX1 3BQ
United Kingdom
51° 43' 26.2992" N, 1° 16' 30.414" W
Date of death: 
03 Mar 1965
Location of death: 
Karachi, Pakistan

George Bernard Shaw


George Bernard Shaw was an Anglo-Irish playwright and political activist. Born and schooled in Dublin, he came to England in 1876. He educated himself by reading in the British Museum, and started his writing career as a music and literary critic for several periodicals. After unsuccessful attempts at novel writing, Shaw turned to drama. He wrote over sixty plays in the course of his life, including Man and Superman (1903), Pygmalion (1912; posthumously adapted as a musical ‘My Fair Lady’) and Saint Joan (1923). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925.

Shaw, inspired by Henry George’s work, became a committed socialist in the 1880s. In 1884, he joined the newly formed Fabian Society, and gave lectures and wrote articles to further its causes. Shaw was also a vegetarian, and supported Henry Salt’s Humanitarian League and its commitment to animal rights. During the First World War, he indefatigably campaigned for international peace and negotiation.

Shaw was an outspoken supporter of the Indian independence movement and a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, whom he met in 1931 in London. Gandhi was also an admirer of Shaw’s works. Shaw visited India in 1933, but the two could not meet as Gandhi was imprisoned at the time. Shaw also met Rabindranath Tagore in London in May 1913. Two of Shaw’s close female friends later went to India and devoted themselves to Indian causes: Annie Besant and the actress Florence Farr. Shaw met Besant in 1885; she asked him to introduce her to the Fabian Society, and serialized Shaw’s novels The Irrational Knot and Love among Artists in her magazine Our Corner. The actress Florence Farr was at one time Shaw’s mistress, and Shaw frequently met W. B. Yeats at Farr’s home in London. In 1937, Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism was reissued by Krishna Menon’s Pelican Books, inaugurating Penguin’s paperback list.

Published works: 

A Manifesto, Fabian Tracts 2 (London: Standring, 1884)

Cashel Byron’s Profession (London: Modern Press, 1886)

An Unsocial Socialist (London: Sonnenschein, Lowrey, 1887)

The Quintessence of Ibsenism (London: Scott, 1891)

Widowers’ Houses (London: Henry, 1893)

Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant, 2 vols (London: Grant Richards, 1898)

The Perfect Wagnerite: A Commentary on the Ring of the Niblungs (London: Grant Richards, 1898)

Love among the Artists (unauthorized edition, Chicago: Stone, 1900; authorized, revised edition, London: Constable, 1914)

Three Plays for Puritans (London: Grant Richards, 1901)

Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy (Westminster: Constable, 1903)

The Common Sense of Municipal Trading (Westminster: Constable, 1904)

Fabianism and the Fiscal Question: An Alternative Policy (London: Fabian Society, 1904)

The Irrational Knot (London: Constable, 1905)

Dramatic Opinions and Essays, 2 vols (London: Constable, 1907)

John Bull’s Other Island and Major Barbara, also includes How He Lied to Her Husband (London: Constable, 1907)

The Sanity of Art: An Exposure of the Current Nonsense about Artists Being Degenerate (London: New Age Press, 1908)

Press Cuttings (London: Constable, 1909)

The Doctor’s Dilemma, Getting Married, and The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet (London: Constable, 1911)

Misalliance, The Dark Lady of Sonnets, and Fanny’s First Play, with a Treatise on Parents and Children (London: Constable, 1914)

Common Sense about the War (London: Statesman, 1914)

Androcles and the Lion, Overruled, Pygmalion (London: Constable, 1916)

How to Settle the Irish Question (Dublin: Talbot Press, 1917; London: Constable, 1917)

Peace Conference Hints (London: Constable, 1919)

Heartbreak House, Great Catherine, and Playlets of the War (London: Constable, 1919)

Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch (London: Constable, 1921)

Saint Joan (London: Constable, 1924)

(with Archibald Henderson) Table-Talk of G. B. S.: Conversations on Things in General between George Bernard Shaw and His Biographer (London: Chapman & Hall, 1925)

Translations and Tomfooleries (London: Constable, 1926)

The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism (London: Constable, 1928); enlarged and republished as The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, 2 vols (London: Penguin, 1937)

Immaturity (London: Constable, 1930)

The Apple Cart (London: Constable, 1930)

What I Really Wrote about the War (London: Constable, 1930)

Our Theatres in the Nineties (London: Constable, 1931)

Music in London, 1890-1894 (London: Constable, 1931)

The Adventures of the Black Girl in her Search for God (London: Constable, 1932)

Too True to Be Good, Village Wooing & On the Rocks: Three Plays (London: Constable, 1934)

The Simpleton, The Six, and The Millionairess (London: Constable, 1936)

London Music in 1888-89 as Heard by Corno di Bassetto (Later Known as Bernard Shaw), with Some Further Autobiographical Particulars (London: Constable, 1937)

Geneva: A Fancied Page of History in Three Acts (London: Constable, 1939; enlarged, 1940)

Shaw Gives Himself Away: An Autobiographical Miscellany (Newtown, Montgomeryshire: Gregynog Press, 1939)

In Good King Charles’s Golden Days (London: Constable, 1939)

Everybody’s Political What’s What? (London: Constable, 1944)

Major Barbara: A Screen Version (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1946)

Geneva, Cymbeline Refinished, & Good King Charles (London: Constable, 1947)

Sixteen Self Sketches (London: Constable, 1949)

Buoyant Billions: A Comedy of No Manners in Prose (London: Constable, 1950)

An Unfinished Novel, ed. by Stanley Weintraub (London: Constable, 1958)

Shaw: An Autobiography, 1856-1898, compiled and ed. by Weintraub (New York: Weybright & Talley, 1969)

Shaw: An Autobiography, 1898-1950. The Playwright Years, compiled and ed. by Weintraub (London: Reinhardt, 1970)

Passion Play: A Dramatic Fragment, 1878, ed. by Jerald E. Bringle (Iowa City: University of Iowa at the Windhover Press, 1971)

The Road to Equality: Ten Unpublished Lectures and Essays, 1884-1918, ed. by Louis Crompton and Hilayne Cavanaugh (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971)

Flyleaves, ed. by Dan H. Laurence and Daniel J. Leary (Austin, Tex.: W. Thomas Taylor, 1977)

Bernard Shaw: The Diaries 1885-1897, 2 vols, ed. by Weintraub (University Park and London: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1986)


New York Times, 9 January 1933, p. 12

Date of birth: 
26 Jul 1856

George Bernard Shaw arrived in Bombay in January 1933, and was greeted by a group of Indian journalists, to which he gave this speech. A longer version of this article appeared in the Daily Herald (9 January 1933), under the title ‘Mr Shaw May Visit Gandhi in Jail’. This reported Shaw’s wish to see Gandhi, who was being imprisoned in Poona.


Mulk Raj Anand, William Archer, Annie Besant, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, Robert Bridges, Max Beerbohm, H. N. Brailsford, G. K. Chesterton, W. H. Davies, Bonamy Dobrée, Rajani Palme Dutt, E. M. Forster, M. K. Gandhi, Henry George, Lady Gregory, Frank Harris, C. E. M. Joad, Augustus John, Jiddu Krishnamurti, John Lane, Harold Laski, T. E. Lawrence, Raymond Marriott, Eleanor Marx, V. K. Krishna Menon, Naomi Mitchison, May Morris, William Morris, Gilbert Murray, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sydney Haldane Olivier, A. R. Orage, Paul Robeson, Shapurji Saklatvala, Henry Salt, W. T. Stead, The Sitwells, Rabindranath Tagore, Ellen Terry, W. B. Yeats, Ensor Walters, Avabai Wadia, Sidney Webb, Beatrice Potter Webb, H. G. Wells, Oscar Wilde, Leonard Woolf, Virginia Woolf, Israel Zangwill.

Contributions to periodicals: 

Shaw wrote book reviews for Pall Mall Gazette (1885-8), art criticism for the World (1886-1894), and musical columns in the Star. From 1895 to 1898, he was a theatre critic for the Saturday Review. He was an art critic for Annie Besant’s Our Corner and later contributed to her Anglo-Indian weekly the Commonweal. Shaw also contributed to H. N. Brailsford’s New Leader, and to a large number of periodicals.

Commonweal (‘Indian Cowardice and Edinburgh Pluck’ I, 26 June 1914, pp. 3-4)

Theosophist (‘Mrs Besant as a Fabian Socialist’ 39, October 1917, pp. 9-19)

Current Thought, Madras (‘The Efficacy of Non-Violence’ I, October 1924, pp. 13-14)

New India, Madras (‘Real Disarmament is Impossible: An Interview with Bernard Shaw' 12, 29 May 1928, evening edition, pp. 1-3)

The Hindu, Madras (‘“Won’t Bear Talking About”: “G.B.S.” on Indian Situation: Reply to Dr. Tagore’s Message’, 19 January 1933, p. 7:5)

The Times (‘In Memory of Mrs. Annie Besant' 20 October 1933)

The Dominion, Wellington, and New Zealand Herald (‘Broadcast Ban on Krishnamurti’ 28 March 1934)

Daily Telegraph (‘Mr G. B. Shaw on the Moscow Lecture’, 17 July 1934, p. 12:7)

Madras Mail (‘How India can Serve the Mahatma: Bernard Shaw’s Advice’, 9, 2 October 1937, pp. 4-6)

Manchester Guardian (‘Light from Mr. Shaw on India’s Problems, 23 January 1939, p. 7)

New York Journal-American (‘Shaw Is Sorry, Not Surprised at India’s “No”’ 6, 12 April 1941, pp. 7-8)

Forward (‘G. B. S. on India’ 36, 12 September 1942, p. 4)

The Times (‘Mr. G. B. Shaw on Gandhi “Blunder”’ 27 February 1943, p. 2)

Daily Sketch (‘“G. B. S.” Gives These Views on India, 28 August 1943, p. 4)

Reynolds News (‘G. B. Shaw Gives Churchill a Tip about India’, 1 October 1944, p. 3)

Manchester Guardian (‘Mr Bernard Shaw & the Split Vote Against Mr Amery’, 30 June 1945, p. 6)

The Hindu, Madras (‘Shaw on India’s Demand’, 28 March 1946, p. 5)

New York World-Telegram (‘Shaw Solves India and Other Problems’, 11 May 1946, p. 9)

Times of Ceylon Sunday Illustrated (‘Shaw on New India’, 23 June 1946, p. 3)

Daily Worker (‘Shaw is Questioned on India’, 30 December 1946, p. 2)

New York Journal-American (‘Shaw Sees Little Indian Harmony’, 24 February 1947, p. 2)

Cavalcade (‘G. B. S. on India’, IX, 3 December 1947, p. 4)

The Freethinker (‘G.B.S. and Mrs. Besant’, 63, 11 January 1948, p. 19)


Cecil Chesterton, Temple Bar 8, August 1906, pp. 97-107

Harold J. Laski, The Rev. M. C. D’Arcy, A. L. Rowse and Kenneth Pickthorn, Criterion 8.31, December 1928, pp. 185-214 (Intelligent Woman’s Guide)

J. S. Collins, Aryan Path 4.3, March 1933, pp. 191-5 (The Adventure of the Black Girl in Her Search for God)


Shaw in Bombay Extols Gandhi  

BOMBAY, Jan. 8. George Bernard Shaw arrived in India for the first time today, confessing his admiration for Mahatma Gandhi as ‘a clear-headed man who occurs only once in several centuries’.

Bronzed by the Eastern sun, Mr. Shaw stood on the deck of the Empress of Britain, which is taking him on a world cruise, and gave Indian newspaper men rapid-fire opinions of the Mahatma and Indian affairs generally.

‘It is very hard for people to understand Gandhi, with the result that he gets tired of people and threatens a fast to kill himself’, Mr. Shaw said. ‘If I saw Gandhi I should say to him, “Give it up, it is not your job.”

‘The people who are the most admired are the people who kill the most. If Gandhi killed 6,000,000 people he would instantly become an important person. All this talk of disarmament is nonsense, for if people disarm they will fight with their fists.’

Referring to Mr. Gandhi’s present crusade against Untouchability, Mr. Shaw said that if an English labourer proposed to marry a duchess he would very soon find out that he was an Untouchable.

‘That gives me enough to think about without bothering to know anything about the Indian Untouchables’, said the author, with a grin.

Indian affairs, he continued, would henceforth have to be dealt with by Indians themselves.

‘In any future disputes between the Indians and British Governments India must not expect any support from other countries’, he declared. ‘From the viewpoint of population, India is the centre of the British Empire. It is quite possible that in the future, instead of India wanting to be separated from England, the time will come when England would make a desperate struggle to get separated from India.'

Secondary works: 

Bax, Clifford (ed.), Florence Farr, Bernard Shaw and W. B. Yeats (Dublin: Cuala Press, 1941)

Dutt, Rajani Palme, George Bernard Shaw: A Memoir, and ‘The Dictatorship of the Proletariat’, the famous 1921 article by George Bernard Shaw (London: Labour Monthly, 1951)

Joad, C. E. M. (ed.), Shaw and Society (London: Odhams Press, 1953)

Lawrence, Dan H., Bernard Shaw: A Bibliography, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983)

Rao, Valli, ‘Seeking the Unknowable: Shaw in India’, Shaw 5, special issue, ‘Shaw Abroad’, ed. by Rodelle Weintraub (1985), pp. 181-209

Shah, Hiralal Amritlal, ‘Bernard Shaw in Bombay’, Shaw Bulletin 1.10 (November 1956), pp. 8-10


The extract shows Shaw’s admiration for Gandhi; Shaw makes an insightful comment on India’s position within the British Empire, and describes the caste system as analogous with the English class system.

Archive source: 

George Bernard Shaw Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin

Fabian Society Archives and Bernard Shaw Collection, Archives Division, London School of Economics Library

Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Bernard F. Burgunder Collection of George Bernard Shaw, Department of Manuscripts and Archives, Cornell University Libraries, Ithaca, New York

1933-40 correspondence and papers related to ‘Political Science in America’ lecture, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries, New York

Manuscript Collections, British Library, St Pancras

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
02 Oct 1950
Location of death: 
Ayot Saint Lawrence, Hertfordshire, England
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Apr 1876
Dates of time spent in Britain: 



Shaw's Corner, Ayot Saint Lawrence, Hertfordshire

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) []

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

Santha Rama Rau


Born in 1929 to Benegal Rama Rau, a member of the Round Table Conference, financial advisor to the Simon Commission and ambassador, and Dhanvanthi Rama Rau, a pioneer of birth control and president of the All-India Women’s Conference, Santha Rama Rau was a journalist, dramaturge and travel writer. She travelled widely throughout her life, moving to England with her family in 1929, when just six years old, because of her father’s involvement with the Simon Commission. During the 1930s, she attended a Quaker school in Weybridge, Surrey, with her older sister Premila, before moving on to St Paul’s School, London. Her book Gifts of Passage describes the years of her childhood as ‘spent in English schools and in holidays on the Continent’ (p. 23), which underlines the cosmopolitan, elite character of her life. When in London, her parents took in refugees from concentration camps, including Lilian Ulanowsky, a Jewish refugee from Vienna who became guardian for the sisters when their mother went to join their father in South Africa. The family were all in South Africa during the outbreak of the Second World War. Unable to get passage back to England, they decided to return to India, when Santha was 16, to stay with the children’s grandmother. Rama Rau describes returning to India and experiencing nostalgia for Britain in her Home to India, the book which launched her career as a writer and was published when she was just 22 years old.

Rama Rau completed her university education at Wellesley College in the US in 1944, and made her home in New York City from the early 1950s. She married the diplomat Faubion Bowers, an expert on Asian arts and theatre. The two travelled together through Southeast Asia, Africa and Soviet Russia. They had a son together but later divorced, and Rama Rau went on to marry Gurdon Wallace Wattles in 1970.

In her book on Rama Rau, Antoinette Burton describes ‘the modicum of fame [she] achieved’ as resulting ‘mainly from her success at being recognized as an authority on India on the eve of independence’ (p. 4). To the ‘West’, she offered an ‘insider’s view’ of Indian culture, countering stereotyping and Orientalist misrepresentations, especially in This is India. Her literary achievement that is perhaps best known in Britain is her adaptation of E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India for the stage, produced on Broadway in 1962 after runs in Oxford and London, which served as the basis of David Lean’s 1985 film of the novel.

Published works: 

Home to India (New York: Harper, 1945)

East of Home (New York: Harper, 1950)

This is India (New York: Harper, 1954)

A View to the Southeast (New York: Harper Brothers, 1957)

My Russian Journey (New York: Harper, 1959)

A Passage to India: A Play by Santha Rama Rau from the Novel by E. M. Forster (London: Edward Arnold, 1960)

Gifts of Passage (New York: Harper & Row, 1961)

The Cooking of India (New York: Time-Life Books, 1969)

The Adventuress (New York: Dell, 1970)


Rama Rau, Santha, Gifts of Passage (London: Victor Gollancz, 1961), pp. 23-4

Date of birth: 
24 Jan 1923

This book comprises a series of short stories prefaced with brief autobiographical passages which provide a context to the stories. The stories loosely follow the first thirty years of Rama Rau’s life.


E. M. Forster (adapted his A Passage to India for the stage), Sarojini Naidu, Dhanvanthi Rama Rau (mother).

Contributions to periodicals: 

'Letter from Bombay', New Yorker (3 May 1952)

Holiday (October 1953) [Cover story on India]

Travel Bazaar: India, an Explorer’s Country’,Harper's Bazaar (September 1957), pp. 106, 308

Holiday (series of articles on Southeast Asia; July, August, September 1955; February, July, August, September 1956; August 1957)


New York Times


In London we could not, of course, help knowing a good deal about what was going on in India. My father, as Deputy High Commissioner for India, was inextricably involved in many of the developments, and conversation at home was full of references to the growing power of the nationalist movement, of the imprisoning of Indian leaders, of Mahatma Gandhi’s revolutionary ideas…We talked about Gandhi, Nehru, Sapru, Rajagopalachari, and countless other names that became great in Indian history in their own time. Some of them were related to our family, many were personal friends. It was a curiously intimate yet distant view of India’s progress.

Meanwhile all around us in Europe, we got a similarly personal though far less exalted view of the events that were shaping our generation. On French beaches we might meet groups of Hitler Youth on some kind of organized walking tour. At school in England we might be asked to support the international youth camps of the League of Nations. Like so many of our friends, we took in refugees from Dachau and other concentration camps until they could find places of their own in London or get a work permit or a visa to America. My sister, with thousands of idealistic people of her age, felt strongly about the Spanish Civil War, and I, deeply impressed by her sentiments, fell in love with a young man I had never met only because he wrote beautiful poetry and was killed in Spain.

All this was, naturally, quite typical of the generation that grew up in Europe between the wars. The only thing that set us apart in our minds was that we would return to India to live, that eventually our loyalties would be tied to a country that was growing daily less familiar.

Secondary works: 

Burton, Antoinette, The Postcolonial Careers of Santha Rama Rau (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2007)

Rama Rau, Dhanvanthi, An Inheritance: The Memoirs of Dhanvanthi Rama Rau (London: Heinemann, 1978) [1977]


The autobiographical passage is highly suggestive of the cosmopolitan lifestyle which Santha Rama Rau led for much of her childhood and adulthood. Her description of the way in which she was shaped by events in England, Europe and India position her as an elite transnational subject, crossing boundaries of nation with relative ease. Her privileged social background is also clear from her personal connections with major figures in Indian history, as well as the fact that her migrant family were able to offer shelter to refugees during the war. Indeed, this last subverts conventional constructions of Indians in Britain as in need of shelter and patronage, and emphasizes the role of class as well as ‘race’ in shaping the position of minorities. Rama Rau’s relationship with India – defined by both intimacy and distance – anticipates contemporary descriptions and discussions of the South Asian diasporic experience.

Archive source: 

Santha Rama Rau Papers, Howard Gottlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Current name city of birth: 
Current name country of birth: 
Other names: 

Vasanthi Rama Rau

Santha Rama Rau Wattles


St Paul's Girls' SchoolLondon, W6 7BS
United Kingdom
51° 29' 27.4596" N, 0° 14' 2.5872" W
Weybridge, Surrey, KT13 9EE
United Kingdom
51° 22' 53.4216" N, 0° 26' 58.7472" W
Date of death: 
21 Apr 2009
Location of death: 
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1929
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 


Attia Hosain


Attia Hosain was born into a wealthy landowning family in northern India. Her father was educated at Cambridge University, and her mother was the founder of an institute for women's education and welfare. Hosain attended the Isabella Thoburn College at the University of Lucknow, becoming the first woman from a landowning family to graduate in 1933. She also undertook private tuition in Urdu and Persian at home, where she was brought up according to the Muslim tradition. Influenced by the left-wing, nationalist politics of her Cambridge-educated brother and his friends, Hosain became involved with the All-India Progressive Writers’ Association, a group of socialist writers which included Ahmed Ali, Mulk Raj Anand and Sajjad Zaheer. Encouraged by the poet and political activist Sarojini Naidu, she attended the 1933 All-India Women’s Conference in Calcutta, reporting on it for Lucknow and Calcutta newspapers. In this period, she also began to write short stories.

In 1947, determined to avoid going to the newly created Pakistan, Hosain left India for Britain with her husband, Ali Bahadur Habibullah, who undertook war repatriation work. The couple had two children, and Hosain chose to remain in Britain. She continued to write and began work as a broadcaster, presenting a woman's programme for the Indian Section of the Eastern Service of the BBC from 1949. During her time at the BBC, she broadcast on a wide range of topics, from art to music to religion to cinema. As well as reading scripts, she participated in discussion programmes and acted as a roving reporter for the Weekend Review. In 1953 she published her first work of fiction, a collection of short stories titled Phoenix Fled. This was followed in 1961 by her only novel, Sunlight on a Broken Column.

Published works: 

'Of Meals and Memories', in Loaves and Wishes: Writers Writing on Food, ed. by Antonia Till (London: Virago, 1992), pp. 141-6

Phoenix Fled (London: Chatto & Windus, 1953)

Sunlight on a Broken Column (London: Chatto & Windus, 1961)

Date of birth: 
20 Oct 1913
Contributions to periodicals: 

The Pioneer (Calcutta)

The Statesman (Calcutta)


E. L. Sturch, Times Literary Supplement, 4 December 1953 (Phoenix Fled)

Secondary works: 

‘Attia Hosain’, SALIDAA: South Asia Diaspora Literature and Arts Archive []

Bharucha, Nilufer E., ‘I am a Universalist-Humanist’, Biblio 3.7-8 (July - August 1998)

Bondi, Laura, ‘An Image of India by an Indian Woman: Attia Hosain’s Life and Fiction’, unpublished MA thesis (University Degli Studio Venezia, 1993)

Burton, Antoinette, Dwelling in the Archive: Women Writing House, Home, and History in Late Colonial India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)

Desai, Anita, ‘Hosain, Attia Shahid’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography []

Holmstrom, Lakshmi, ‘Attia Hosain: Her Life and Work’, Indian Review of Books 8-9 (1991)

Archive source: 

Six radio scripts broadcast by Hosain, BBC Written Archives Centre, Caversham Park, Reading

Involved in events: 

All-India Women’s Conference, Calcutta, 1933

Participant in the First All-India Progressive Writers’ Conference, Lucknow, 1936

Acted in Peter Mayne’s West End play The Bird of Time, London, 1961

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
23 Jan 1998
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1947
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1947 until death


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