Atiya Fyzee


Born in Istanbul, Atiya Fyzee was the daughter of Hasanally Feyzhyder, an Indian merchant attached to the Ottoman Court, and his first wife, Amirunissa. Belonging to the prominent Tyabji clan of Bombay, Atiya was one of the first elite Indian Muslim women to receive a modern education, appear in public unveiled and participate in women’s organizations. In her youth, she made important contributions to reformist journals for women in Urdu, including Tahzib un-niswan (Lahore) and Khatun (Aligarh).

While studying at a teachers’ training college in London in 1906-7, she also kept a travel diary that was first serialized in a monthly journal then published as Zamana-i-tahsil ('A Time of Education', 1921). Along with her sisters, Zehra (1866-1940) and Nazli Begum of Janjira (1874-1968), she patronized celebrated Muslim intellectuals such as Maulana Shibli Nomani and Mohammad Iqbal. Their published correspondence, Khutut-i Shibli ba-nam-i muhtarma Zahra Begum sahiba Faizi va ‘Atiya Begum sahiba Faizi (ed. Muhammad Amin Zuberi, 1930) and Iqbal (1947), attests to the close friendships that brought Atiya notoriety in literary and social circles.

Following her marriage to the artist and writer Samuel Rahamin, in 1912, Atiya pursued a variety of cultural activities on the international stage. Among their collaborations was an authoritative book in English on classical Indian music that ultimately went into three editions: Indian Music (1914), The Music of India (1925) and Sangt of India (1942). In this work, Atiya’s impressionistic and colourful prose was used to explicate Samuel’s illustrations of Indian melodies (ragmalas). Atiya also arranged music and choreography for two of her husband’s plays, Daughter of Ind and Invented Gods, when they were staged in London in the 1930s. While abroad, she gave lectures on Indian women, like ‘Epic Women of India’ (1919), which were published in international journals.

At partition, Atiya and Samuel migrated to Karachi with Nazli where they continued to bring together artistes in their private salon at their home, Aiwan-e-Rifat, modelled on their famous Bombay residence. After being evicted in the 1950s, they lived in reduced circumstances, suffering great hardship in their final years.

Published works: 

Indian Music (London: Goupil Gallery and W. Marchant, 1914)

Zamana-i-tahsil (Agra: Matba‘ Mufid-i-‘Am, 1921)

The Music of India (London: Luzac, 1925)

Sangt of India (Bombay, 1942)

Iqbal (Bombay: Victory Printing Press, 1947)

Gardens (Karachi: Ameen Art Press, n.d.)

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1877

Shaikh Abdul Qadir, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Syed Ali Bilgrami, Alma Latifi, Syed Ameer Ali, (Arthur) Oliver Villiers Russell Ampthill, M. A. Ansari, Thomas Walker Arnold, Badruddin Tyabji, the Maharaja and Maharani of Baroda, Emilie Barrington, Emma Josephine Beck, Mancherjee M. Bhownaggree, Mary Frances Billington, Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Blood, Hemangini Bonnerjee, Camruddin Abdul Latif, Vazirunnisa Latif, William Coldstream, Sunity Devi - the Maharani of Cooch Behar, Sir Henry Cotton, Catherine Crisp, Frank Crisp, Major-General John Baillie Ballantyne Dickson, Princess Catherine Hilda Duleep Singh, Princess Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh, Lady Alice Louisa Elliott, Sir Charles Alfred Elliott, Bhagwatsinghji Sagramsinhji - the Thakur of Gondal, Mrs K. G. Gupta, Lala Har Dayal, Major Saiyid Hasan Bilgrami, Edward Hughes, Syed Husain Bilgrami, Mohammad Iqbal, Jabir Ali, Margaret Elizabeth Child-Villers, countess of Jersey, Jagatjit Singh - the Maharaja of Kapurthala, Emily Kinnaird, Dame Maude Agnes Lawrence, Esther Lawrence, Sir William Lee-Warner, Sidney Low, Sir Charlies Lyall, Lady Florences Lyall, Miss A. J. Major, Mrs Sarala Bala Mitter, Theodore Morison, Nazli Begum of Janjira, Rafia Tyabji, Donald James Mackay, the eleventh Lord Reay, Lady Margaret Rice, George Frederick Samuel Robinson - first Marquess of Ripon, John Gerald Ritchie, Mrs P. K. Roy, Mrs P. L. Roy, Salman Tyabji, Sarhan Camruddin Latif, Flora, Mozelle Sassoon, Rachel Sassoon, Lady Edgeworth Leonora Scott, Lady Sinha, Cornelia Sorabji, Sydney Sprague, Navajbai Tata, Ratan Tata, Lady Mary Augusta Temple, Tyab Ali Akbar, Mary Augusta Ward, Helen Webb, Raymond West, Alice Augusta Woods, Sir (William Hutt) Curzon Wyllie.

Maria Grey Training College

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Indian Magazine and Review (‘Some Reminiscences of Kashmir’, 432, December 1906, pp. 314-16)

Asia (as “Shahinda” (Begum Fyzee-Rahamin), 'Epic Women of India’, 19.6, June 1919, p. 580)

Tahzib un-niswan (series of articles on studying in Britain in issues dated 26 January 1907 - 30 November 1907)

Precise DOB unknown: 

Kathleen Schlesinger, ‘The Basis of Indian Music’, The Musical Times (London) 56.868, 1 June 1915, pp. 335-9

Secondary works: 

In English:

Lambert-Hurley, Siobhan and Sharma, Sunil, Atiya’s Journeys: A Muslim Woman from Colonial Bombay to Edwardian Britain (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010)

Justuju, Naeem-ur Rahman, ‘Portrait of a Lady’, http://www.pakistanlink.com/Letters/2003/June/13/04.html

In Urdu:

al-Qadri, Mahir, 'Atiya Faizi', in Yadgar-i-raftagan, vol. 2 (Lahore: al-Badr, 1984)

Jafri, Ra’is Ahmad, 'Atiya Begum Faiz', Nigar 58.5 (November 1979), pp. 25-7

Nasrullah, Shaikh, 'Atiya Begam Faizi', Kya qafila jata hai (Karachi: Tahzib o Fan, 1984)

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

A. H. Fyzee (used in print)

Atiya Fyzee-Rahamin (used after marriage in 1912)

Atiya Begum (used after marriage in 1912)

Shahinda (pen-name)

Date of death: 
01 Jan 1967
Precise date of death unknown: 
Location of death: 
Karachi, Pakistan
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
17 Sep 1906
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1906-7, 1908, 1914, perhaps mid-1920s, 1937-9.


Primarily London

Una Marson


Una Marson was born and grew up in Jamaica. After her work on the editorial staff of the Jamaica Critic in 1926, she founded her own magazine The Cosmopolitan, which she also edited. Having established herself in Jamaica, Marson moved to London in 1932 to experience life outside Jamaica and to find a wider audience for her literary work. She lodged with Harold Arundel Moody, and became involved with the League of Coloured Peoples. She worked for the League as its unpaid Assistant Secretary, organising student activities, receptions, meetings, trips and concerts. During her stay in England from Marson continued to publish on feminist issues, as she had in Jamaica. She also became increasingly interested in discussions about race, eugenics and the colour-bar, focussing on the most pressing issues faced by black migrants living in Britain.

During her first stay in Britain, Marson organized, staged and compered an evening of entertainment at the Indian Students Hostel. The line-up included the American singer John Payne, the pianist Bruce Wendell and the Guyanese clarinettist Rudolph Dunbar. By 1937 she was editor of the League’s journal and its spokesperson, working closely with Moody. Marson was also a member of the International Alliance of Women for Equal Suffrage and Citizenship and the British Commonwealth League (BCL). At the latter she met Myra Steadman, daughter of the suffragette Myra Sadd Brown. The All India Women’s congress was affiliated with the BCL. During the period she also became involved with the Left Book Club and encountered the writings of Rabindranath Tagore.

After two years in Jamaica, Marson returned to Britain in 1938. In 1939 Marson was offered work by the BBC as a freelancer for the magazine programme 'Picture Page' to arrange interviews with visitors from the Empire. She also drafted three-minute scripts for the programme. After the outbreak of the Second World War, Marson lectured occasionally at the Imperial Institute and worked as a talks and script writer for the BBC. In 1941 she was appointed full-time programme assistant to the BBC Empire Service, where she hosted and coordinated the broadcasts under the title 'Calling the West Indies'.

In November 1942 George Orwell asked her to contribute to the six-part poetry magazine 'Voice', broadcast on the Indian Section of the BBC’s Eastern Service, with Marson taking part in the fourth programme dedicated to American poetry, which also featured William Empson. She read her poem ‘Banjo Boy’. In the December edition of the programme she appeared alongside M. J. Tambimuttu, T. S. Eliot, Mulk Raj Anand, Narayana Menon and William Empson. This led Una to devise a similar programme for the West Indies, titled 'Caribbean Voices', which in later years under the direction of Henry Swanzy would introduce authors such as George Lamming, Sam Selvon, V. S. Naipaul and Edward Kamau Braithwaite to a wider audience. The programme ran for fifteen years until 1958. She returned to Jamaica in 1945 and died in 1965 from a heart attack.

Published works: 

Tropic Reveries (Kingston, Jamaica: Gleaner, 1930)

‘At What a Price’ (1932) [unpublished play]

Moth and the Star (Kingston, Jamaica: Una Marson, 1937)

London Calling (1938) [play]

‘Pocomania’ (Kingston, Jamaica, 1938) [unpublished MS]

Towards the Stars: Poems (London: London University Press, 1945)

Heights and Depths (Kingston, Jamaica: Una Marson, n.d.)


‘A Call to Downing Street’, Public Opinion, 11 Sept. 1937 , p.5

Date of birth: 
06 Feb 1905

Mulk Raj Anand, Z. A. Bokhari, Vera Brittain, Venu Chitale, T. S. Eliot, William Empson, Victor Gollancz, A. E. T. Henry (BBC), C. L. R. James, Jomo Kenyatta, Cecil Madden (BBC), Narayana MenonHarold Moody, George Orwell, Nancy Parratt, Christopher Pemberton (BBC), M. J. Tambimuttu, Mary Treadgold (BBC).

British Drama League, The International Alliance of Women, International League for Peace and Freedom

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Cosmopolitan

Jamaica Critic

The Keys

The Listener

Public Opinion


It is impossible to live in London, associating with peoples of other Colonies of the British Empire, without realising that British peoples the world over are working for self-realisation and development towards the highest and the best.

Secondary works: 

Delia, Jarrett-Macaulay, The Life of Una Marson, 1905–1965 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998)

Donnell, Alison, ‘Una Marson: feminism, anti-colonialism and a forgotten fight for freedom,’ in Bill Schwarz (ed.) West Indian Intellectuals in Britain (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003), pp. 114-31

Narain, Denise de Caires, 'Literary Mothers? Una Marson and Phyllis Shand Allfrey', Contemporary Caribbean Women's Poetry: Making Style (New York London: Routledge, 2002)


Archive source: 

BBC Written Archives, Caversham Park, Reading

George Orwell Archive, University of London

Una Marson papers, National Library of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica

City of birth: 
Sharon Village near Santa Cruz
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Una Maud Victoria Marson


14 The Mansions, Mill Lane West Hampstead
London, NW6 1TE
United Kingdom
51° 33' 5.5404" N, 0° 11' 56.7564" W
164 Queen’s Road Peckham
London, SE15 2JR
United Kingdom
51° 28' 23.7072" N, 0° 3' 5.0544" W
Date of death: 
06 May 1965
Location of death: 
Kingston Jamaica
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1932
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1932-6; 1938-45

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) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/59637]

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

Hsiao Ch'ien


Hsiao Ch'ien was born into a sinicized Mongolian family in Beijing, China, in 1910. His father died before his birth and his mother died when he was seven. In 1931, he enrolled at Furen University where he and a young American named William Allen founded the English magazine China in Brief. In 1933, he entered the Faculty of English at Yenching University but switched to the Faculty of Journalism later that year before graduating in 1936.

In 1939, just before the Second World War broke out, he travelled to England to teach Chinese at the School of Oriental and African Studies and serve as a foreign correspondent for Takung Pao. After the outbreak of war, he also served as a war correspondent. SOAS relocated to Cambridge during the Second World War so, after spending one night in London, Hsiao Ch'ien went to Cambridge. He was classified as an 'enemy alien' by the Home Office but this changed after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the Chinese became members of the grand alliance.

The BBC chose Hsiao Ch'ien to report back to China about the European war and the war effort of the English. Around this time, he became good friends with Mulk Raj Anand and supported the Indian call for independence. He voiced his support for the Indian cause in his weekly BBC broadcast but the censors deleted it before it went on air. Later George Orwell, who was head of the BBC's Far Eastern Division, invited him to do several special broadcasts to the Indians and Americans, but strictly on the subject of literature.

SOAS moved back to London in July 1940 and Ch'ien took up residence in a house that catered especially to Asians; he shared the ground floor flat with a Tamil named Rajarantu, who later became the first deputy premier and foreign minister of Singapore. In wartime London, Hsiao Ch'ien socialized with Bloomsbury Group affiliates like Bertrand Russell, Leonard Woolf and E. M. Forster, with whom he became close friends. According to his autobiography, he first met Forster at the PEN Club memorial meeting for Rabindranath Tagore held on 9 May 1941. However, according to India Office files, this meeting was hosted by Krishna Menon and the India League. The speakers were Edward Thompson, Hewlett Johnson (Dean of Canterbury), Nagendranath Gangulee (Tagore's nephew), Beatrix Lehmann (actress), Bhicoo Batlivala, Helen Kirkpatrick (Chicago Daily Tribune) and M. Maisky (Soviet ambassador). Other attendees included Mulk Raj Anand, Tahmankar, Sunder Kabadia, Krishnarao Shelvankar, Alagu Subramanian, Iqbal Singh, Sasadhar Sinha and Asha Bhattacharya led the singing of Tagore's songs.

In June 1944, Hsiao Ch'ien became a journalist for Dagongbao and set up an office in Fleet Street, London. Soon afterwards he was sent to France and other parts of Western Europe as a war correspondent; he covered the meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco, and attended the Potsdam Conference in July 1945.

Hsiao Ch'ien returned to Shanghai in 1946 and took up writing. He was considered right-wing by the Chinese government and banished to the countryside but later received redress. He died in 1999 in Beijing.

Published works: 

Etching of a Tormented Age: A Glimpse of Contemporary Chinese Literature (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1942)

China but not Cathay (London: The Pilot Press, 1942)

'China's Literary Revolution', in E. M. Forster, Ritchie Calder, Cedric Dover, Hsiao Ch'ien and others, Talking to India: A Selection of English Language Broadcasts to India, ed. and with an introduction by George Orwell (London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1943), pp. 27-34

The Dragon Breads versus The Blueprints: (Meditations on Post-War Culture) (London: The Pilot Press, 1944)

A Harp with a Thousand Strings: A Chinese Anthology (London: Pilot Press, 1944)

The Spinners of Silk (London: Allen & Unwin, 1944)

British Graphic Arts (Shanghai: Zung Kwang Publishing Co., 1947)

(as Qian Xiao) How the Tillers Won Back Their Land (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1951)

(as Qian Xiao) Chestnuts and Other Stories (Beijing: Chinese Literature, 1984)

(as Qian Xiao) Semolina and Others (Hong Kong: Joint Publishing Co., 1984)

Traveller without a Map, translated by Jeffrey C. Kinkley (London: Hutchinson, 1990)

(as Qian Xiao) 'Letters from Cambridge'

(as Qian Xiao) 'Symphony of Contradictions'

(as Qian Xiao) 'Bloody September'

(as Qian Xiao) 'Three Days in London'

(as Qian Xiao) 'London under Silver Kites'

Date of birth: 
27 Jan 1910

Mulk Raj Anand (friend), Bhicoo BatlivalaZ. A. Bokhari, E. M. Forster (friend), Margery Fry (stayed at Fry's cottage in Aylesbury), John Lehmann (PEN Club), George Orwell (BBC), Bertrand Russell (attended tea parties with Russell), Stephen Spender (PEN Club), M. J. Tambimuttu, H. G. Wells (PEN Club), Leonard Woolf (met at Monk's House).

Contributions to periodicals: 

New Statesman and Nation (1939)

Daylight: Volume I: European Arts and Letters Yesterday: Today: Tomorrow ('The New China Turns to Ibsen', 1941, pp. 167-74)

Life and Letters Today, 81, May 1944, pp. 102-10, 110-19 ('Epidemic' and 'The Galloping Legs', published under the title 'Two Chinese Stories')


O. M. Green, International Affairs Review Supplement 19.11, 1943 (China But not Cathay)

Mulk Raj Anand, Life and Letters Today 43.86, 1944, pp. 52, 54 (The Spinners of Silk)


Secondary works: 

Chen, Theodore Hsi En, Thought Reform of the Chinese Intellectuals (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1960)

Gittings, John, 'The Scholar Who Went Back Home', obituary, Guardian (18 February 1999)

Hsia, Chih-Tsing and Wang, David D., A History of Modern Chinese Fiction (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999)

Involved in events: 

China Campaign Committee, organized by Victor Gollancz, Kingsley Martin, Margery Fry, Harold Laski (the society lobbied on behalf of China's resistance against Japan in the war)

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

Qian Xiao

Xiao Bingqian

Date of death: 
11 Feb 1999
Location of death: 
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1939
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 



Milton Village, Cambridge

School of Oriental and African Studies, Christ College, Cambridge

King's College, London

G. V. Desani


G. V. Desani was born in Nairobi, Kenya, where his parents were working as wood merchants. The family returned to Karachi in 1914, where Desani was educated. He arrived in Britain at the age of 17, to escape from an arranged marriage. When he arrived in England in 1926, he was befriended by George Lansbury, who helped him acquire a reader's pass to the British Museum Reading Room. During this period he also found work as an actor in films. Furthermore, he worked as a foreign corespondent for a number of Indian newspapers and news agencies, such as the Associated Press, Reuters and The Times of India. He returned to India in 1928, touring Rajasthan, on which he subsequently lectured extensively for the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway Company.

Desani returned to Britain in the summer of 1939, only weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War.  He continued to work as a writer, journalist, and broadcaster for the Indian Section of the BBC Eastern Service and the Home Division. Desani broadcast both in Hindustani and in English and was praised for his wit, humour and ability as a script-writer. He also acted in radio plays. Furthermore, Desani lectured for the Ministry of Information and the Imperial Institute, regularly touring the regions and speaking to soldiers, schools and university colleges. These lectures featured as one of his Talks Programmes in Hindustani, titled 'My Lecture Tours' (broadcast 8 May 1943). They were widely praised and drew large audiences.

During this period, he wrote his best known work of fiction, the experimental novel All About Mr. Hatterr (later republished and revised as All About H. Hatterr). On publication the book was very well received by critics. For example, T. S. Eliot praised it as a remarkably original book: 'It is amazing that anyone should be able to sustain a piece of work in this style and tempo and at such length'. The critic C. E. M. Joad compared the book to 'Joyce and Miller with a difference: the difference being due to a dash of Munchhausen and the Arabian Nights'.  With its inventive use of language and its endorsement of hybridity, the work is a trailblazer for the fiction of Salman Rushdie, who has acknowledged its influence.

While in England, Desani also published his ‘poetic play’ Hali, as well as short fiction, sketches and essays. Shortly after the publication of Hali, Desani left Britain and returned to India. He was offered a position as cultural ambassador for Jawaharlal Nehru, however he did not take this up. In 1959 he travelled to Burma to study Buddhist and Hindu culture. During the 1950s and 1960 he wrote a regular column, 'Very High, Very Low', as well as articles for The Times of India and Illustrated Weekly of India. In 1967 he was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin, a position he held until his retirement in 1978. He spent the final years of his life in Dallas.

Published works: 

All About Mr. Hatterr, A Gesture (London: Aldor, 1948); revised edition published as All About H. Hatterr (London: Saturn Press, 1949)

Hali: A Poetic Play (London: Saturn Press, 1952)

Hali and Collected Stories (Kingston, NY: McPherson & Co., 1991)

Date of birth: 
08 Jul 1909

Mulk Raj Anand, A. L. Bakaya (BBC), Edmund Blunden,  Z. A. Bokhari, Ronald Boswell (BBC), Malcolm Darling (BBC), T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Attia HosainC. E. M. Joad, George Lansbury, L. F. Rushbrook Williams, Una Marson, Narayana Menon, Jawaharlal Nehru, George Orwell, Raja Rao, M. J. Tambimuttu.

Contributions to periodicals: 

Illustrated Weekly of India


Fred Urquhart, Life and Letters Today 59.136 (All About Mr Hatterr)

Secondary works: 

Bainbridge, Emma, ‘“Ball-Bearings All The Way, And Never A Dull Moment!”: An Analysis of the Writings of G. V. Desani’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of Kent at Canterbury, 2003)

Daniels, Shouri, Desani: Writer and Worldview (New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, 1984)

Innes, C. L., A History of Black and Asian Writing in Britain, 1700–2000, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)


Archive source: 

Desani Papers, University of Texas, Austin

BBC Written Archives Centre, Caversham Park, Reading

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Govindas Vishnoodas Desani

G. V. Dasani (changes his name to Desani in 1941)


40 Kew Bridge Court
London, W4 3AE
United Kingdom
51° 29' 19.3164" N, 0° 17' 2.796" W
Hillcrest OX1 5EZ
United Kingdom
51° 43' 26.2992" N, 1° 16' 30.414" W
6 Devonshire Terrace
London, W2 3HG
United Kingdom
51° 30' 49.6584" N, 0° 10' 48.0684" W
Date of death: 
15 Nov 2000
Location of death: 
Dallas, Texas
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1926
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1926-8, 1939-52

William Butler Yeats


W. B. Yeats was a prolific and prominent Anglo-Irish poet and literary figure.

At various stages of his life, Yeats was influenced by and influenced Indians. As a young adult, Yeats was drawn to Theosophy and met Mohini Chatterjee when he visited Dublin in 1885. After this meeting, Yeats wrote three poems (published in 1889) that refered to India: ‘The Indian to his Love’, ‘The Indian upon God’, and ‘Anushuya and Vijaya’. Yeats was further influenced by his reading of the great fourth century Indian poet and dramatist, Kalidasa. Yeats later wrote a poem entitled 'Mohini Chatterjee' (published in 1933 in the collection The Winding Stair and Other Poems).

In 1912, William Rothenstein wrote to Yeats about the need for an introduction for Tagore's Gitanjali which was to be published by the India Society. Yeats sent his introduction to Gitanjali from Dublin. Yeats was instrumental in having a performance of Tagore’s play, The Post Office, performed at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in October 1913. As he was so prominent in literary circles, Yeats was also linked to other Indian poets such as Sarojini Naidu and Manmohan Ghose, and encouraged a young Indian student at Oxford, G. K. Chettur, to publish his poems in 1922 (for which Chettur dedicated the anthology to Yeats).

Later in life (in the 1930s), Yeats became friends with Purohit Swami. Yeats wrote an introduction to Purohit Swami's book about his Master, Shri Bhagwan Hamsa. They translated the Upanishads together in Majorca in 1935-6. Yeats introduced Purohit Swami to his friend the stage actress Margot Ruddock, who became a disciple of the Swami's.

Despite his many connections, Yeats did not manage to visit India in his lifetime.

Published works: 

The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (London: Kegan Paul, 1889)

'The Way of Wisdom', The Speaker (14 April 1900), pp.40-1

Introduction to Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali (London: India Society, 1912)

Preface to Rabindranath Tagore, The Post Office (London: Macmillan, 1914)

Introduction to Shri Purohit Swami, An Indian Monk (London, Macmillan, 1932)

The Winding Stair and Other Poems (London: Macmillan, 1933)

Introduction to Bhagwan Shri Hamsa, The Holy Mountain (London: Faber & Faber, 1934), translated by Shri Purohit Swami

Shri Purohit Swami and W. B. Yeats, The Ten Principal Upanishads (London: Faber & Faber, 1937)

Autobiographies (London: Macmillan, 1955)

Date of birth: 
13 Jun 1865
Secondary works: 

Bachchan, Harbans Rai, W. B. Yeats and Occultism: A Study of his works in relation to Indian lore, the Cabbala, Swedenborg, Boehme and Theosophy (London: Books from India Ltd, 1976)

Boehmer, Elleke, Empire, the National and the Postcolonial, 1890-1920: Resistance in Interaction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)

Bridge, Ursula (ed.), W. B. Yeats and T. Sturge Moore: Their Correspondence, 1901-1937 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1953)

Chettur, G. K., Sounds and Images (London: Erskine Macdonald, 1922)

Chettur, G. K., The Last Enchantment: Recollections of Oxford (Mangalore: Mangalore Press, 1934)

Dasgupta, R. K., Rabindranath Tagore and William Butler Yeats: The Story of a Literary Friendship (Delhi: University of Delhi, 1965)

Devy, Ganesh N., 'The Indian Yeats', in Toshi Furomoto et al (eds) International Aspects of Irish Literature (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1996), pp.93-106. 

Dutta, Krishna and Robinson, Andrew (eds), Selected Letters of Rabindranath Tagore (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)

Finneran, R. J., Harper, G. M., and Murphy, W. H. (eds), Letters to W. B. Yeats, 2 vols (London: Macmillan, 1977)

Harwood, John, Olivia Shakespear and W. B. Yeats. After Long Silence: 1923-1938 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989)

Lago, Mary, 'The Parting of the Ways: a Comparative Study of Yeats and Tagore', India Literature 6.2 (1963)

Lennon, Joseph, Irish Orientalism: A Literary and Intellectual History (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2004)

McHugh, Roger (ed.), Ah Sweet Dancer: W. B Yeats - Margot Ruddock (London: Macmillan, 1970)

Mokashi-Punekar, Shankar, The Later Phase in the Development of W. B. Yeats: A Study in the Stream of Yeats' Later Thought and Creativity (Dharwar: Karnatak University, 1966)

Pitt, Mair, The Maya-Yogi and the Mask: A Study of Rabindranath Tagore and W. B. Yeats (Salzburg: University of Salzburg, 1997)

Rothenstein, William, and Lago, Mary McClelland, Imperfect Encounter: Letters of William Rothenstein and Rabindranath Tagore, 1911-1914, ed., introduction and notes by Mary McClelland Lago (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972)

Williams, Louise Blakeney, 'Overcoming the Contagion of Mimicry: The Cosmopolitan Nationalism and Modernist History of Rabindranath Tagore and W. B. Yeats', The American Historical Review 112.1 (2007), pp. 69-100

Archive source: 

Houghton Library, Harvard University, Boston

John J. Burns Library, Boston College, Boston

National Library of Ireland, Dublin

Correspondence with Rabindranath Tagore, Visva-Bharati Archives, Santiniketan

Correspondence with Purohit Swami, University of Delaware

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

W. B. Yeats

Date of death: 
28 Jan 1939
Location of death: 
Roquebrune, France
Tags for Making Britain: 

Manmath Mallik


Manmath Mallik trained as a barrister at Middle Temple in 1875. He had travelled to England in 1873 to study at Christ's College, Cambridge. He wrote a number of books about India and was Fellow of the Zoological Society.

In the 1906 General Election, Manmath Mallik stood as Liberal candidate for St George's, Hanover Square. He lost to the Unionist candidate by 2,073 votes. He stood again in 1910 at Uxbridge but was again defeated by the Unionist candidate by 4,719 votes.

Manmath Mallik was the grandfather of Baron Chitnis, the son of his daughter Lucia.

Published works: 

The South Africa Problem: A View of the Political Situation (London, 1903)

The Problem of Existence: Its Mystery, Struggle and Comfort in the Light of Aryan Wisdom (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1904)

Impressions of a Wanderer (London T. Fisher Unwin, 1907)

A Study in Ideals: Great Britain and India (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1912)

Orient and Occident: A Comparative study (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1913)


S. N. S., The Bookman, December 1912, p. 180

Date of birth: 
03 Oct 1853

Review of A Study in Ideals


C. W. Saleeby, Academy and Literature, 6 August 1904; Westminster Review, November 1904 (Problem of Existence)

S. N. S., The Bookman, December 1912 (A Study in Ideals)

Athenaeum, 9 August 1913; The Spectator, 12 July 1913 (Orient and Occident)


Time and again Anglo-Indian writers have taken the reading public into their confidence and, in the frankest language, stated their opinions of the educated Indian, or "the Babu," as they style him; but rarely has a native of India been accorded the privilege of returning the compliment by plainly telling just what he thought of the Englishman in Hindostan and at home. In this circumstance, the publication of this volume presenting the ideas of a Bengalee barrister regarding institutions as they exist in Great Britain, the relations of the Mother Country with the Colonies, British rule in India, and the Britons in whose charge it is placed, is of more than passing interest.

Secondary works: 

Venn, J. A. (ed.), Alumni Cantabrigienses, Volume IV, part II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1931)

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

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

Manmath Chandra Mallik

Manmatha Chandra Mallik


Christ's College
St Andrew's Street
Cambridge, CB2 3AR
United Kingdom
52° 12' 10.764" N, 0° 7' 25.3848" E
Date of death: 
01 Jan 1922
Precise date of death unknown: 
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1873
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Tags for Making Britain: 

Progressive Writers' Association


The Progressive Writers’ Association was established in London in 1935 by Indian writers and intellectuals, with the encouragement and support of some British literary figures. It was in the Nanking Restaurant in central London that a group of writers, including Mulk Raj Anand, Sajjad Zaheer and Jyotirmaya Ghosh drafted a manifesto which stated their aims and objectives: ‘Radical changes are taking place in Indian society…We believe that the new literature of India must deal with the basic problems of our existence to-day – the problems of hunger and poverty, social backwardness, and political subjection. All that drags us down to passivity, inaction and un-reason we reject as re-actionary. All that arouses in us the critical spirit, which examines institutions and customs in the light of reason, which helps us to act, to organize ourselves, to transform, we accept as progressive’ (Anand, pp. 20-21). Comprising mainly Oxford, Cambridge and London university students, the group met once or twice a month in London to discuss and criticize articles and stories.

The PWA built on the foundation of the controversial collection of stories titled Anghare, published in 1932 and edited by Sajjad Zaheer, with contributions also from Ahmed Ali, Mahmuduzzafar and Rashid Jahan. This volume, which provoked considerable hostility in India and was eventually banned because of its political radicalism and also, according to some, obscenity, was influenced by the radical and literary avant-garde movements in Britain, where both Zaheer and Ali had spent some time studying.

In his memoirs, Zaheer claims the leftist writer Ralph Fox was particularly influential in encouraging the formal organization of the group in London. Anand and Zaheer’s attendance of the International Congress for the Defence of Culture in Paris on 21-6 June 1935, with its emphasis on freedom of expression and the interrelationship between art and society, was also an influence. On the peripheries of this congress, Anand went on to present an address at the Conference of the International Association of Writers for the Defence of Culture in London on 19-23 June 1936. The meeting was organized by the International Association of Writers for the Defence of Culture which aimed to stimulate translations and seek publication of works which were censored in the country of the author, as well as to set up a foundation for a world award, and fight, through culture, against war and fascism. Anand and Zaheer internalized much of what was said at these congresses which shaped the central issues of concern for the PWA.

In 1935, Zaheer left London for India via Paris taking the beginnings of the organization back to India for development. The All-India Progressive Writers’ Association had its official inaugural meeting in Lucknow on 9-10 April 1936, with the writer Premchand presiding. The organization continued to campaign for independence and advocate social equality through their writings. It was unfortunately riven by tensions between a desire to strengthen the links of the organization with Communism, and an opposition to this. Those in the latter camp, such as Ahmed Ali, voiced the dangers of the reduction of literature to a vehicle for propaganda. The PWA continued after independence but is said to have lost some of its energy in its later years.

Published works: 

New Indian Literature 1 (London, 1936)

Zaheer, Sajjad (ed.) Anghare (‘Burning Coals’) (1932)


Zaheer, Sajjad, ‘Reminiscences’, in S. Pradhan (ed.) Marxist Cultural Movement in India, Vol. 1 (Calcutta: National Book Agency, 1979)

Other names: 

Progressive Writers' Group

All-India Progressive Writers' Association

Secondary works: 

Anand, Mulk Raj, ‘On the Progressive Writers’ Movement’, in S. Pradhan (ed.) Marxist Cultural Movement in India, Vol. 1 (Calcutta: National Book Agency, 1979)

Coppola, Carlo, ‘The All-India Progressive Writers Association: The European Phase’, in Coppola (ed.) Marxist Influences and South Asian Literature, Vol. 1 (Winter 1974; Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan), pp. 1-34

Gopal, Priyamvada, Literary Radicalism in India: Gender, Nation and the Transition to Independence (London and New York: Routledge, 2005)

Zaheer, Sajjad, The Light: The History of the Movement for Progressive Literature in the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)


In this piece, Zaheer recalls the formation and development of the Progressive Writers’ Association.

Date began: 
24 Nov 1934

We knew from the beginning that living in London we could neither influence Indian literature nor create any good literature ourselves. Side by side with our realising the advantages of forming the association in London, this feeling was strengthened. A few exiled Indians could do little more than draw up plans among themselves and produce an orphanlike literature under the influence of European culture. The most important thing that we learnt in Europe was that a progressive writers’ movement could bear fruits only when it is propagated in various languages and when the writers of India realise the necessity of this movement and put into practice its aims and objects. The best that the London Association could do was to put us in contact with the progressive literary movements abroad, to represent Indian literature in the West and to interpret for India the thoughts of Western writers and the social problems which were profoundly influencing Western literature.

Key Individuals' Details: 

Ahmed Ali (founding member, contributed to Anghare), Mulk Raj Anand (founding member, drafted manifesto), Hajrah Begum, Prem Chand (first President), Ismat Chugtai, Anil D’Silva, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Jyotirmaya Ghosh (founding member, helped to draft manifesto), Rashid Jahan (founding member, contributed to Anghare), Mahmuduzzafar (founding member, contributed to Anghare), Saadat Hasan Manto, Taseer (attended London meetings), Sajjad Zaheer (founding member, edited Anghare and helped to draft manfesto).


This passage outlines both the importance and the limitations of the location of the foundation of the PWA in London. London was formative to the Association in so far as the European avant-garde movement encountered there by its protagonists, as well as European political events (i.e., the rise of Fascism), instigated and helped to shape its development. Further, the distance of London from India arguably enabled the articulation of a more radical and critical politics than would have been possible within India. However, Zaheer’s notion of an ‘orphanlike’ literature, or a literature in exile, highlights the problematic detachment of the production in Britain of a socially and politically engaged Indian literature from its key concerns and preoccupations.


Suniti Kumar Chatterji, E. M. Forster, Ralph Fox, Attia Hosain, Aldous Huxley, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Herbert Read, John Strachey.

Date ended: 
01 Jan 1956
Precise date ended unknown: 


Nanking Restaurant
Denmark Street
London, WC2H 8LX
United Kingdom
Involved in events details: 

Founding meeting; Nanking Restaurant, London; 24 November 1934.

International Congress for the Defence of Culture, Paris; 21-6 June 1935 (Anand and Zaheer attend; formative to aims of association).

Official inauguration of the All-India Progressive Writers’ Association, Lucknow, April 1936.

Conference of International Association of Writers for the Defence of Culture, London; 19-23 June 1936 (Anand presents address).

Sylvia Pankhurst


Born in Old Trafford in 1882, Sylvia Pankhurst was influenced in her youth by the political activism of her parents, Emmeline and Richard Marsden Pankhurst, who were members of the Fabian Society and the Independent Labour Party and helped establish the Women’s Franchise League. Wanting to become an artist, she attended Manchester Art School and, from 1904, Chelsea’s Royal College of Art. Her work, which combined socialist realism and Pre-Raphaelite allegory, was influenced by her art teacher, Walter Crane. Following Pankhurst’s arrival in London, her parents’ friend, Keir Hardie, became an important figure in her life. On his return from visiting India in 1909, he discussed with her his findings and opinions. Increasingly involved with the Women’s Social and Political Union, Pankhurst devoted her energies from 1906 onward to fighting for women’s suffrage, becoming known for her militancy. Using journalism to fund her activism, she wrote a series of articles on women’s labour for the WSPU newspaper, Votes for Women, went to America on a lecture tour, and in 1911 published The Suffragette on the movement’s history.

A committed socialist, Pankhurst became involved with working women in London’s East End, and supported George Lansbury MP when he stood for re-election in Bromley-by-Bow on a women’s suffrage ticket. In 1913 she established the militant East London Federation of Suffragettes, which supported trade union struggles including the Dublin lock-out. Pankhurst founded the Woman’s Dreadnought in 1914, later renamed the Workers' Dreadnought, through which she came into contact with Rajani Palme Dutt, who contributed articles to the paper from 1917 until her split with the Communist Party in 1921.

During the First World War she led anti-war campaigns, continued her social welfare work, and began to support revolutionary movements. She met Lenin after the war and, in 1920, helped form the British Communist Party from which she was later expelled. In 1924 she moved to Red Cottage in Woodford Green, where she was joined by Silvio Erasmus Corio, an Italian exile who had briefly converted to Islam in the early 1920s. At this time she wrote India and the Earthly Paradise, a ‘romantic Communist’ contribution to Indian nationalism which ‘may have been the last result of her contacts with fringe elements of that movement’ and was published in Bombay in 1926 (Romero, p. 179). Pankhurst named R. N. Chaudry as a source for the book. It is possible that the seminars she organized with Nora Smythe while living at Red Cottage brought her into contact with ‘like-minded Indians’ (Romero, p. 179). Pankhurst’s path crossed with that of Dhanvanthi Rama Rau a little later, in 1929, when Rama Rau gave an impassioned speech disputing the right of British women ignorant of the realities of India to organize a Conference on Indian Social Evils (Rama Rau, pp. 168-172). Rama Rau recalls being ‘deeply touched’ by remarks Pankhurst made in response (Rama Rau, p. 172).

She gave birth to her only child, Richard Keir Pethick, in 1927. In the 1930s Pankhurst committed herself to promoting peace, fighting fascism, assisting Jewish refugees and supporting Spanish republicans. Ethiopian independence became a consuming concern following the Italian invasion. In 1935 she established the journal New Times and Ethiopian News, which publicized and supported Haile Selassie’s anti-colonial campaign. With her son, Pankhurst went to live in Ethiopia in 1956 and died in Addis Ababa in 1960.

Published works: 

The Suffragette: The History of the Women’s Militant Suffrage Movement, 1905-1910 (New York: Sturgis & Walton Co., 1911)

Housing & the Workers’ Revolution: Housing in Capitalist Britain and Bolshevik Russia (London: Workers’ Socialist Federation, 1919)

Rebel Ireland (London: Workers’ Socialist Federation, 1919)

Soviet Russia as I Saw it (London: Workers’ Dreadnought Publishers, 1921)

Communism and its Tactics, ed. by Mark A. S. Shipway (Edinburgh: Mark Shipway, [1921-2] 1983).

The Truth About the Oil War (London Dreadnought Publishers, 1922)

Writ on a Cold Slate (London: Dreadnought Publishers, 1922)

India and the Earthly Paradise (Bombay: ‘Bombay Chronicle’ Press, Sunshine Publishing House, 1926)

Delphos: The Future of International Language (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., nd (1928?))

Is an International Language Possible? A Lecture, etc. (London: Morland Press, 1928)

Save the Mothers: A Plea for Measures to Prevent the Annual Loss, etc. (London: Alfred A. Knopf, 1930)

The Suffragette Movement: An Intimate Account of Persons and Ideals (London: Longmans & Co., 1931)

The Home Front: A Mirror to Life in England During the First World War (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1932)

The Life of Emmeline Pankhurst: The Suffragette Struggle for Women’s Citizenship (London: Werner Laurie, 1935)

British Policy in Eastern Ethiopia: The Ogaden and the Reserved Area (Woodford Green, 1945)

British Policy in Eritrea and Northern Ethiopia (Woodford Green, 1945)

Education in Ethiopia (Woodford Green: ‘New Times & Ethiopia News’ Books, 1946)

The Ethiopian People: Their Rights and Progress (Woodford Green: ‘New Times and Ethiopia News’ Books, 1946)

Ex-Italian Somaliland (London: Watts & Co., 1951)

Eritrea on the Eve: The Past and Future of Italy’s ‘First-Born’ Colony, Ethiopia’s Ancient Sea Province (Woodford Green: ‘New Times & Ethiopia News’ Books, 1952)

Why Are We Destroying the Ethiopian Ports? With An Historical Retrospect, 1557-1952, etc. (Woodford Green ‘New Times and Ethiopia News’ Books, 1952)

(With Richard Pankhurst) Ethiopia and Eritrea: The Last Phase of the Reunion Struggle, 1941-1952, etc. (Woodford Green: Lalibela House, 1953)

Ethiopia: A Cultural History (Woodford Green: Lalibela House, 1955)


Pankhurst, Sylvia, India and the Earthly Paradise (Bombay: ‘Bombay Chronicle’ Press, Sunshine Publishing House, 1926), pp. 636-8

Date of birth: 
05 May 1882

Herbert Asquith, R. N. Chaudry, James Connolly, Silvio Erasmus Corio, Walter Crane, Clemens Palme Dutt, Rajani Palme Dutt, Keir Hardie, C. L. R. James, George Lansbury, V. I. Lenin, Adela Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst, Emmeline Pankhurst, Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, Dhanvanthi Rama Rau, F. M. Sayal, Haile Selassie, Norah Smythe.

Communist Party of Great Britain, East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELF, later renamed the Women’s Suffrage Federation, and then the Workers' Socialist Federation), Independent Labour Party, Women’s International League, Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), Women’s World Committee against War and Fascism.

Contributions to periodicals: 

Ethiopia Observer

New Times and Ethiopian News

Women’s Dreadnought (renamed Workers’ Dreadnought)


In the days to come peoples, differing as they do, in diet, costume and habits, in work and recreation, under the influence of climate and natural conditions, will serve each other, learn from each other, and enjoy each other’s variety free from the hatreds born of the present economic rivalries. When the Northman of the future confronts the people of the far East or South, he will feel, neither the mingled fear and contempt of the exploiter of a weaker and more numerous race, nor the jealous hatred of the worker who fears the lower paid competitor will steal his job.

And they who today, by reason of class or race are oppressed and exploited, will commingle as friends and comrades with the descendants of those who were once their conquerors and foes.

Whilst we must work for Swaraj as a necessary step in the evolution of the peoples of India, and one which leaves them more free than now to unravel their own problems, we must recognise that this is but one step on the road by which they and all peoples must travel. Before us all lies one hope and one goal: mutuality. Whilst competition and exploitation are the basis of the social organism, the expulsion of the foreign exploitation simply means the growth of the native exploitation.

Our goal is the end of all exploitation: the world-wide abundance, mutuality and fraternity of the Earthly Paradise.

Secondary works: 

Alem-Ayehu, G., ‘Reflections on the Life and Work of Sylvia Pankhurst: The Ethiopian dimension’ (priv. coll. and private information, 2004 [S. Ayling])

Banks, O., The Biographical Dictionary of British Feminists, Vol. 1. (Brighton: Wheatsheaf, 1985)

Bullock, I and Pankhurst, R. (eds), Sylvia Pankhurst: From Artist to Anti-Fascist (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992)

Davis, M., Sylvia Pankhurst: A Life in Radical Politics (London: Pluto Press, 1999)

Dodd, K. (ed.), A Sylvia Pankhurst Reader (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993)

Hannam, J., ‘Pankhurst, (Estelle) Sylvia (1882-1960)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2007), [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37833]

Harrison, S., Sylvia Pankhurst: Citizen of the World (London: Hornbeam Publishing, 2009)

Mitchell, D., The Fighting Pankhursts: A Study in Tenacity (London: Jonathan Cape, 1967)

Pankhurst, R., Sylvia Pankhurst: Artist and Crusader: An Intimate Portrait (London: Paddington Press, 1979)

Pankhurst, S., ‘Sylvia Pankhurst’, in Myself When Young, by Famous Women of To-day, ed. by E. A. M. Asquith, Countess of Oxford and Asquith (London: Frederick Muller, 1938), pp. 259-312

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

Romero, P. W., E. Sylvia Pankhurst: Portrait of a Radical (London: Yale University Press, 1987)

Schreuder, M. W. H., and Schrevel, Women, Suffrage, and Politics: The Papers of Sylvia Pankhurst, 1882-1960, from the Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis, Amsterdam (Reading: Adam Matthew, 1991)

Tickner, L., The Spectacle of Women: Imagery of the Suffrage Campaign, 1907-1914 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1987)

Winslow, B., Sylvia Pankhurst: Sexual Politics and Political Activism (London: UCL Press, 1996)

Wright, P., ‘The Stone Bomb’, London Review of Books (23 August 2001)


The passage quoted above both articulates Sylvia Pankhurst’s anti-colonial and anti-racist endorsement of the Indian campaign for self-rule; and indicates the wider idealistic Communist and utopian contexts within which she situated the swaraj movement, and which inspired and informed her commitment to promoting this particular cause. 

Archive source: 

Correspondence and papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis, Amsterdam

Correspondence, Women’s Library, London

Correspondence with Society of Authors, Add. MSS 56769-56771, British Library, St Pancras

Correspondence with the Independent Labour Party, British Library of Political and Economic Science

Letters to David Lloyd George, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Letters to the Manchester Guardian, John Rylands, University of Manchester

Correspondence with William Gillies, Labour History Archive and Study Centre, Manchester

Correspondence with Ada Lois James, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison

Correspondence with F. W. Pethick-Lawrence, Trinity College, Cambridge

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst

Date of death: 
27 Sep 1960
Location of death: 
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Laurence Housman


Laurence Housman, brother of the poet A. E. Housman, was a playwright, writer and illustrator. Houseman was a committed pacifist and socialist. He was an early supporter of Indian independence and a member of Krishna Menon's India League.

Date of birth: 
18 Jul 1865
Secondary works: 

Cockin, Katharine, ‘Housman, Laurence (1865–1959)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/34014]

City of birth: 
Bromsgrove, Wocestershire
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
20 Feb 1959
Location of death: 
Glastonbury, Somerset


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