Left Book Club


The Left Book Club was established in the context of the rise of fascism in Europe and the economic depression, when the need for the dissemination of left-wing politics was keenly felt among British intellectuals. It was an immediate success on its establishment, with 6,000 subscriptions after a month and a membership of 40,000 by the end of its first year. With links to the Communist Party of Great Britain, the LBC was explicit in its advocacy of a left-wing politics. It published books on a wide range of subjects, ‘from farming to Freud to air-raid shelters to Indian independence’ (Laity, p. ix), aiming for accessibility and education. The titles, many of which were newly commissioned, were sold to LBC members at discounted prices. Despite its attempts to bring politics and literature to working-class people, its activists were largely privileged men and women. The LBC organized summer schools and trips (including to the Soviet Union) and held lectures and rallies focused on political events such as the Spanish Civil War, with members also hosting local meetings to discuss the books.

Clearly espousing an anti-imperial stance, the LBC published books by Rajani Palme Dutt and Ayana Angadi, as well as by Santha Rama Rau and Bhabani Bhattacharya. In late 1936, authorities in India began to intercept Left Book Club books despatched (via the Phoenix Book Company) to members in India on the grounds that they contained ‘extremist propaganda’, and the India Office requested reports on the LBC’s activities. Evidence suggests that there were LBC Indian student discussion groups (such as the one formed by Promode Ranjan Sen Gupta, who was under government surveillance), and later an Indian Branch of the LBC, and that these groups attempted to subvert the censorship of LBC material in India. Further, in late 1937, there is evidence that Victor Gollancz, supported by Nehru, was attempting to start a Left Book Club in India in order to circumvent the ban (L/PJ/12/504, pp. 8, 10–11, 18–19). 

Published works: 

There were LBC editions of over 200 works. These include:

Attlee, Clement, The Labour Party in Perspective (1937)

Barnes, Leonard, Empire or Democracy? A Study of the Colonial Question (1939)

Bhattacharya, Bhabani, So Many Hungers! (1947)

Brailsford, H. N., Why Capitalism Means War (1938)

Brailsford, H. N., Subject India (1943)

Brockway, Fenner, German Diary, 1946

Burns, Emile, What is Marxism? (1939)

Cole, G. D. H., The People’s Front (1937)

Cripps, Stafford The Struggle for Peace (1936)

de Palencia, Isabel, Smouldering Freedom: The Story of the Spanish Republicans in Exile (1946)

Deva, Jaya (Ayana Angadi) Japan’s Kampf (1942)

Dutt, R. Palme, World Politics, 1918–36 (1936)

Dutt, R. Palme, India Today (1940)

Gollancz, Victor (ed.), The Betrayal of the Left (1941)

Horrabin, J. F., An Atlas of Empire (1937)

Koestler, Arthur, Scum of the Earth (1941)

Laski, Harold, Faith, Reason and Civilisation (1944)

Marquard, Leopold, The Black Man’s Burden (1943)

Mulgan, John (ed.), Poems of Freedom (1938)

Orwell, George, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)

Rao, Santha Rama, Home to India (1945)

Russell, A. G., Colour, Race and Empire (1944)

Snow, Edgar, Red Star Over China (1937)

Spender, Stephen, Forward from Liberalism (1937)

Strachey, John, The Theory and Practice of Socialism (1936)

Strachey, John, Federalism or Socialism? (1940)

Webb, Sidney and Webb, Beatrice, Soviet Communism: A New Civilization (1937)

Woolf, Leonard, Barbarians at the Gate (1939)

Monthly journal: Left News


L/PJ/12/504, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, p. 8

Secondary works: 

Dudley Edwards, Ruth, Victor Gollancz: A Biography (London, 1987)

Hodges, Sheila, Gollancz: The Story of a Publishing House, 1928–78 (London, 1978)

Laity, Paul (ed.), Left Book Club Anthology (London: Victor Gollancz, 2001)

Lewis, John, The Left Book Club: An Historical Record (London, 1970)


This file consists of correspondence and reports relating to the Left Book Club and its ‘Indian connections’, with information on the Britain-based Indians involved in the LBC, the connections between LBC activists and Indian anti-colonialists, and attempts to ban LBC material from entering India.

Date began: 
01 Feb 1936

A Left Book Club Discussion Group has been formed in London for Indian students, with Promode Ranjan SEN GUPTA, 7, Woburn Buildings, W.C., as secretary.

In this connection it may be stated that in the 22.5.37 issue of “Time and Tide” there was published a letter from Dharam Yash DEV. In it he protested against the censorship of books exercised by the Government of India, with particular reference to Left Book Club literature. He contended that books not normally banned in India are seized by Customs when they are imported in the L.B.C. edition.

Precise date began unknown: 
Key Individuals' Details: 

Rajani Palme Dutt (on the LBC panel of speakers), Victor Gollancz (founder and publisher), Harold Laski (commissioning editor), Sheila Lynd (worked for LBC), Betty Reid (worked for LBC), Emile Burns (on selection committee), John Strachey (instrumental in foundation of Club and commissioning editor).


This note on Indian students in Britain involved in the Left Book Club is suggestive of the way in which left-wing networks transgressed cultural and ‘racial’ boundaries, bringing Indians and Britons together in pursuit of their political ideals. The censorship of LBC material in India is further indicative of the intersection of the Communist ideals associated with the Club and the anti-colonial ideologies that were a threat to the Government of India. The protest against this censorship by Indians in Britain emphasizes the importance of Britain as a site of anti-colonial activism by South Asians.


Ayana Angadi (Jaya Deva) (his Japan’s Kampf was an LBC book), Bhabani Bhattacharya (his So Many Hungers! was an LBC book), Miss Bonnerji (Indian branch of the LBC), Amiya Bose (Indian branch of the LBC), Ben Bradley, Stafford Cripps (instrumental in foundation of Club), Dharam Yash Dev (wrote a letter in the 22/5/37 issue of Time and Tide protesting against the Government of India censorship of LBC books), Promode Ranjan Sen Gupta (organized a Left Book Club discussion group for Indian students in London), Mahmud-us-Zaffar Khan (Nehru’s personal secretary – liaised with Gollancz in relation to his attempt to set up an LBC in India), Cecil Day Lewis (spoke at LBC meetings), Jawaharlal Nehru (supported Gollancz’s attempts to set up an LBC in India), George Orwell (his The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia were LBC books), Sylvia Pankhurst (spoke at LBC meetings), Santha Rama Rau (her Home to India was an LBC book), Paul Robeson (spoke at LBC meetings), Ellen Wilkinson (supporter of the LBC).

Date ended: 
01 Jan 1948
Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/504, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Papers of Sir Victor Gollancz, Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick

Precise date ended unknown: 


Henrietta Street
London, WC2E 8PW
United Kingdom
Involved in events details: 

LBC national rally, Royal Albert Hall, London, February 1937

Conference on civil liberties in India, London, 17 October 1937

M. Kumaramangalam


Mohan Kumaramangalam was born in London in 1916 to Paramasiva and Radhabhai Subbarayan. He studied at Eton and then at King's College, Cambridge University. He became President of the Cambridge Majlis in Lent 1937 and President of the Cambridge Union in Michaelmas 1938. He was also a member of the Federation of Indian Students' Societies and an active socialist. He was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple and went to India in 1939.

Mohan Kumaramangalam was a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) until 1966 when he joined the Indian National Congress.

Published works: 

Indians Fight for Equality in South Africa (Bombay; People's Publishing House, 1946)

India's Language Crisis (Madras: New Century Book House, 1965)

Democracy and Cult of Individual (New Delhi: National Book Club, 1966)

Constitutional Amendments (New Delhi: All India Congress Committee, 1971)

Coal Industry in India (New Delhi: Oxford & IBH Pub. Co., 1973)

Communists in Congress (New Delhi: D. K. Publishing House, 1973)

Judicial Appointments (New Delhi: Oxford & IBH Pub. Co, 1973)

Steel Holding Company (New Delhi: Mainstream, 1973)

Date of birth: 
01 Nov 1916

Indira Gandhi (served in her cabinet), M. K. Gandhi, Khushwant Singh.

Cambridge Union

Secondary works: 

Haksar, P. N., Premonitions (Bombay: Interpress, 1979)

Kiernan, V. G., 'Mohan Kumaramangalam in England', Socialist India, 23 February 1974

Archive source: 

Cambridge Majlis minute book, Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge

L/PJ/12/4, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Mohan Kumaramangalam

Surendra Mohan Kumaramangalam


King's College Cambridge, CB2 1ST
United Kingdom
52° 12' 15.588" N, 0° 7' 2.064" E
Eton College SL4 6DW
United Kingdom
51° 28' 59.628" N, 0° 36' 20.6352" W
Date of death: 
30 May 1973
Location of death: 
Tags for Making Britain: 

Shapurji Saklatvala


The nephew of J. N. Tata, Shapurji Saklatvala travelled to England in 1905 to recuperate from malaria and to manage the Tata company office in Manchester. He married Sarah Marsh in 1907 (a waitress he had met at the hydro in Matlock where he had been treated). They moved to London in 1907 and Saklatvala joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1909. In 1921, Saklatvala was adopted as the Labour candidate for Battersea North, despite joining the Communist Party in the same year. In November 1922, he won the seat for Labour and was defeated in December 1923. He regained the seat in October 1924, when he stood as a Communist representative and held the seat until 1929. Saklatvala was the 3rd Asian to become an MP in Britain (all incidentally of Parsee background).

Saklatvala raised Indian issues in Parliament. He was a member of the Indian Home Rule League (founded in 1916). He was also a founder member of the Workers' Welfare League in 1917. This League was initially concerned with the working conditions of Indian seamen in London, but soon widened its objectives to improve the position of all types of Indian workers. He was an influential figure to Indian students in London in the 1920s and 1930s, but was banned from returning to India because of his Communist affiliations. He died in his home in London in January 1936 and was buried in the Parsee burial ground in Brockwood, Surrey.

Date of birth: 
28 Mar 1874

Mulk Raj Anand, Mancherjee Merwanjee Bhownaggree (previous Asian MP), Clemens Palme Dutt (CPGB), Rajani Palme Dutt (CPGB), Jomo Kenyatta, Harold Laski, Krishna Menon, Dadabhai Naoroji (previous Asian MP), Walter Neubald, George Padmore, Sehri Saklatvala (daughter), S. A. Wickremasinghe.

Member of Communist Party, Independent Labour Party, India Home Rule League, Social Democratic Foundation, Workers' Welfare League


Hinnells, John R., Zoroastrians in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996) 

Hinnells, John R., The Zoroastrian Diaspora: Religion and Migration (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)

Squires, Mike, ‘Saklatvala, Shapurji (1874–1936)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) [] 

Squires, Mike, Saklatvala: A Political Biography (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990)

Saklatvala, Sehri, The Fifth Commandment: A Biography of Shapurji Saklatvala (Salford: Miranda Press, 1991)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain (London: Pluto Press, 2002)

Wadsworth, Marc, Comrade Sak: Shapurji Saklatvala, A Political Biography (London: Peepal Tree, 1998)

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/406, Scotland Yard Report on Central Association of Indian Students, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras.

Communist Party Archive, People's History Museum, Manchester

Saklatvala Papers, Mss Eur D1173, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras.

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


Derbyshire , DE4 3NZ
United Kingdom
53° 7' 23.2356" N, 1° 33' 37.6452" W
2 St Albans Villas,
Highgate Road,
London , NW5 1QY
United Kingdom
51° 33' 6.3252" N, 0° 8' 28.0428" W
Date of death: 
16 Jan 1936
Location of death: 
London, England
Dates of time spent in Britain: 


Nathalal Jagivan Upadhyaya


N. J. Upadhyaya, a Brahmin from a poor family, was born in the Indian State of Nawanagar. A British ‘protected person’ rather than a British citizen by virtue of his birthplace, he arrived in England in 1922, having worked as a schoolteacher, on a Gujarati newspaper, then on the Bombay Stock Exchange, where he accumulated the means to come to England. Unlike many of his more privileged fellow migrants, Upadhyaya arrived without knowledge of the English language but quickly tried to master it. On his arrival in England, he stayed with a fellow Communist, Adela Knight, in Abbey Wood, London, and became involved in political activities.

Considering his lack of proficiency in English on arrival, Upadhyaya’s prominence in the Communist Party and in other workers’ organizations was quite remarkable. For the Communist Party he recruited Indians, organized meetings in London, distributed literature and wrote articles. He was also instrumental in founding the Indian Seamen’s Union in 1925, assuming the role of Secretary, with Shapurji Saklatvala as President. In this role, he encouraged Indian seamen to strike against their pay and conditions and to join unions, and helped deserters to secure jobs in hotels and restaurants in London. Upadhyaya also protested against the application of the Coloured Seamen’s Order to Indians and against police stopping Indians in the street and asking to see their Certificates of Registration. In 1928, he founded the Liverpool Indian Association. According to Indian Political Intelligence surveillance reports, Upadhyaya, known among Communist Party members as ‘Paddy’, would disseminate Communist literature among sailors in the docks by posing as a missionary carrying a Bible with leaflets hidden inside.

Upadhyaya was subjected to police interrogation and generally considered to be a suspicious and potentially threatening figure. His name was on the list of Indians to whom passport facilities should not be granted without previous reference to the India Office, and in 1927, questions were raised in parliament about the possibility of deporting him under the 1920 Aliens Order; as a British protected person, he was technically an ‘alien’ rather than a ‘British subject’ so could legally be deported. The government decided against it ultimately, on the grounds that it would be politically insensitive.

Highly conscious of the wealth and class divisions among Indians in Britain, Upadhyaya encouraged poor Indians to beg money from rich Indians. Despite his working relationship with eminent Communist figures such as Clemens Palme Dutt and Saklatvala, it would seem that Upadhyaya himself remained constrained by his class background, failing to gain admission to circles of more privileged Indians in London. He is reported to have remarked on his suspicious treatment by frequenters of the Gower Street India Club and Indian Students’ Hostel. Little is known of Upadhyaya’s personal life. Surveillance reports describe him as frequenting ‘Soho cafes’ and also suggest that he was an alcoholic. By 1933, reports claim he was no longer involved in Communist politics and even that he was a Government agent! By 1936, he was employed as a paper salesman.


L/PJ/12/234, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, p. 14

Date of birth: 
01 Aug 1895

This Indian Political Intelligence file comprises documentation and correspondence relating to N. J. Upadhyaya. The documentation in the file relates in particular to a debate among officials about whether or not Upadhyaya should face deportation.


S. A. Dange, G. S. Dara, M. G. Desai, Clemens Palme Dutt, George Hardy, Mohamed Ally Khan (member of Communist Party), Mrs Adela Knight (Communist who supported him on his arrival in Britain and asked Saklatvala to help him further, active in Workers’ International Relief), S. N. Mitra (worked for Communist Party), Harry Pollitt, M. N. Roy, Shapurji Saklatvala, Pulin Behari Seal, Mohamed Ali Sepassi, C. B. Vakil.

Central Association of Indian Students Abroad, Communist Party of Great Britain (Colonial Section), Communist Party of India, India Club, Indian Study Circle, National Minority Movement, Seamen's Minority Movement.

Contributions to periodicals: 

Various Communist publications.


As the Secretary of the Indian Section of the Workers’ Welfare League of India, and as an authoritative representative of a section of British workers, I beg to submit to you that the work undertaken by Mr Upadhyaya’s committee is as much in the interest of the British seafarers as in that of the Indians themselves.

We now have not the least doubt that the main purpose of British Imperialism outside Great Britain, Australia and Canada, is to exploit underpaid and illiterate oriental labour and by force of the economic comparisons so created, to undermine and shatter the standard of life and the Trade Union rates of the British workers themselves.

I therefore appeal to you all, in the name of the British working class, to do the utmost both in the House and outside, to prevent the authorities from acting under pressure of selfish imperialists and capitalists and to protect further, Mr Upadhyaya’s great and benevolent work.

Secondary works: 

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


This is an extract from a letter to ‘Members of Parliament’ from Shapurji Saklatvala, dated 2 June 1927. The letter was sent as a document of support to a letter from Upadhyaya himself – which is addressed to Lt. Commander Sir Frederick Hall, MP, and is a defence of his activities in response to the parliamentary questions raised by Hall in the House of Commons. That Upadhyaya became the subject of parliamentary questions, and that Saklatvala took it upon himself to support his fellow Communist, suggest the prominence to which Upadhyaya, from a very modest background and having arrived in Britain with no knowledge of the English language, had risen in political circles, thereby implying his skills and energy in mobilizing for minority workers’ rights in Britain. The extract is also interesting for its alignment of the political interests of the Indian and British working classes, suggesting the existence and importance of an international socialist struggle against the dual but related structures of imperialism and capitalism.

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/233, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/PJ/12/234, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

City of birth: 
Atkot, Nawanagar State
Country of birth: 
Other names: 



Bostall Lane
London, SE2 0SY
United Kingdom
51° 29' 10.3956" N, 0° 6' 50.1264" E
Brixton Road
London, SW9 0AA
United Kingdom
51° 28' 29.478" N, 0° 6' 45.4284" W
Kennington Oval
London, SE11 5RP
United Kingdom
51° 28' 58.98" N, 0° 6' 57.0888" W
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
22 Oct 1922
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1922-1936 (at least)

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