Government of India Act 1919

British Commonwealth of Nations (1931)

11 Dec 1931

The British Commonwealth of Nations was the result of the 1926 Balfour Declaration which stipulated that the relationship between Britain and her Dominions was equal in status. This stipulation was formalized officially in Section 4 of the Statute of Westminster in 1931. It stated: 'No Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this Act shall extend, or be deemed to extend, to a Dominion as part of the law of that Dominion, unless it is expressly declared in that Act that that Dominion has requested, and consented to, the enactment thereof.' In section 1, 'Dominions' were specified as: 'the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, the Irish Free State and Newfoundland'. The main effect of the Statute was the establishment of legislative equality between these dominions and the United Kingdom.

Concerning the status of Great Britain and the Dominions, the Balfour Declaration stipulated: 'They are autonomous communities within the British empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate to one another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.' The Balfour Declaration was one of the outcomes of the 1926 Imperial Conference in London. Section III concerns the special position of India: 'It will be noted that in the previous paragraphs we have made no mention of India. Our reason for limiting their scope to Great Britain and the Dominions is that the position of India in the Empire is already defined by the Government of India Act, 1919. We would, nevertheless, recall that by Resolution IX of the Imperial War Conference, 1917, due recognition was given to the important position held by India in the British Commonwealth. Where, in this Report, we have had occasion to consider the position of India, we have made particular reference to it.' India was included in the proposed Sub-Conference on Merchant Shipping Legislation. As a result of the Declaration, four basic characteristics of members of the Commonwealth were agreed: these were equality of status, autonomy in internal and external affairs, common allegiance to the Crown and the free association of the member states in the Commonwealth. Many of the recommendations of the Balfour Declaration became law in 1931.

Meanwhile, however, in the period between the Declaration of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster of 1931, British-Indian relations worsened, culminating in the failure of the Round Table Conferences (1930-1932). The Indian National Congress fought for Dominion status for India, the Simon Commission was boycotted and Gandhi launched a major civil disobedience movement. The strained Anglo-Indian relationship in this period left India out of the Statute of Westminster, 1931, and without Dominion status.

The London Declaration of 1949 ended the British Commonwealth of Nations. In order to accommodate constitutional changes in India, the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations declared: 'The Governments of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Ceylon, whose countries are united as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations and owe a common allegiance to the Crown, which is also the symbol of their free association, have considered the impending constitutional changes in India.

'The Government of India have informed the other Governments of the Commonwealth of the intention of the Indian people that under the new constitution which is about to be adopted India shall become a sovereign independent republic. The Government of India have however declared and affirmed India's desire to continue her full membership of the Commonwealth of Nations and her acceptance of The King as the symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth. [...] Accordingly the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Ceylon hereby declare that they remain united as free and equal members of the Commonwealth of Nations, freely co-operating in pursuit of peace, liberty, and progress.'

Thus, with the London Declaration, the British Commonwealth of Nations officially ended and became the Commonwealth of Nations.

People involved: 

Leopold Amery (Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs), Stanley Baldwin (Prime Minister), Arthur Balfour (Lord President of the Council), Lord Birkenhead (Secretary of State), Stanley Bruce (Prime Minister of Australia), Maharaja of Burdwan (India) Austen Chamberlain (Foreign Secretary), Winston Churchill (Chancellor of the Exchequer), Gordon Coates (Prime Minister of New Zealand), W. T. Cosgrave (President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State), Desmond FitzGerald (Minister for External Affairs of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State), Nicolaas Christiaan Havenga (South Africa),  James Berry Munik Hertzog (Prime Minister of South Africa), Mackenzie King (Prime Minister of Canada),   W. S. Monroe (Newfoundland), Kevin O'Higgins (Vice President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State).

Published works: 

'Declaration by the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, 28 April 1949', Parliamentary Debates, 1948-1949, no. 464, p. 370.

Secondary works: 

Amery, Leopold, My Political Life (London: Hutchinson, 1953) 

Currey, Charles Herbert, A Brief History of the British Commonwealth since Waterloo (Sydney; London: Angus & Robertson, 1954)

de Smith, S. A., 'The London Declaration of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, April 28, 1949', The Modern Law Review 12 (1949), pp. 351-354

Kendle, John, The British Empire-Commonwealth, 1897-1931 (London: Frederick Warne, 1972)

Kitchen, Martin, The British Empire and Commonwealth: A Short History (Basingstoke: Macmilllan, 1996)

Levine, Philippa, The British Empire: Sunrise to Sunset (Harlow: Longman, 2007)

Lloyd, Trevor Owen, The British Empire, 1558-1995 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)

McIntyre, William James, A Guide to the Contemporary Commonwealth (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001)

Moore, Robin James, Making the New Commonwealth (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987)

Stockwell, Sarah, The British Empire: Themes and Perspectives (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008)

Wheare, Kenneth Clinton, The Statute of Westminster and Dominion Status (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1938)

Simon Report

07 Jun 1930
Event location: 

London, Bombay, Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, Delhi, Lucknow, Patna, Calcutta, Rangoon, Madras, Nagpur


The Indian Statutory Commission, commonly referred to as the Simon Commission after its chairman Sir John Allsebrook Simon, was sent to India in 1928 (February - March and October 1928 - April 1929) to study potential constitutional reform. In 1930, the Commission published its two-volume report, also known as the Simon Report.

The Simon Commission was dispatched to India in 1928 to review the the Government of India Act 1919. The Commission, appointed by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, did not include any Indian delegates. As a result, the Indian National Congress and a faction of the Muslim League, led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, decided to boycott the Commission. Upon arrival in Bombay on 3 February 1928, the Commission was met by protests. In London, the London Branch of the Indian National Congress planned a demonstration upon the return of the Commission.

The Simon Report was met with disappointment and condemnation throughout India. The Indian National Congress mistrusted the findings of the Commission and the Congress boycotted the Report. Gandhi subsequently started the Civil Disobedience Movement. Mohammed Ali Jinnah made it clear that the report was unacceptable to Hindus, Muslims and Indian nationalists. The Muslims considered the Report to be reactionary; the executive Board of the All-India Muslim Conference called the Report 'unacceptable'. Prominent members of the Legislative Assembly of India such as Mian Mohammed Shah Nawaz, Gaya Prasad Singh, Dr. Ziauddin and M. R. Jayakar criticized it as well. Even the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, made it clear that the Report stood no chance of public acceptance in India.

In London, the Workers' Welfare League of India and the London Branch of the Indian National Congress organized a demonstration against the Commission. Some 200 demonstrators marched from Trafalgar Square to Victoria Station; many of the demonstrators were removed by the police. Shapurji Saklatvala, who led the demonstration, raised the issue in Parliament but was informed that the Home Secretary, Joynson Hicks, had sanctioned this police operation.

In the wake of the Report, a series of Round Table Conferences were set up from 1930 to 1932. The outcome of the Commission and the Conferences was the Government of India Act 1935. The Act ended the dyarchy and direct elections were introduced for the first time. Sind was separated from Bombay, Orissa was separated from Bihar and Burma was separated from India. Provincial assemblies were to include more elected Indian representatives, who could lead majorities and form governments. However, governors retained discretionary powers regarding summoning of legislatures, giving assent to bills and administering certain special regions.

Sir John Simon
People involved: 

Clement Attlee, Edward Cadogan, George Lane-Fox, Vernon Hartshorn, Donald Howard, Harry Levy-Lawson, Sir John Allsebrook Simon.

Annie Besant, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, M. R. Jayakar, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Mohammed Shah Nawaz, Jawaharlal Nehru, Motilal Nehru, Lala Rajpat Rai, Shapurji Saklatvala, Mian Gaya Prasad Singh, Dr. Ziauddin.

Published works: 

Documents Concerning the Origin and Purpose of the Indian Statutory Commission: Reprinted from a Statements Prepared for Presentation to Parliament, in Accordance with the Requirements of the 26th Section of the Government of India Act (5 and 6 Geo. V., chapter 61 (Worcester, MA; New York City: Carnegie Endownment for International Peace, Division of Intercourse and Education, 1930)

Indian Statutory Commission - Publications (1930)

Interim Report of the Indian Statutory Commission: Review of Growth of Education in British India (London: H. M. S. O., 1929)

Separation of Burma, Separation from Burma: Views of Burma's Future Through a British Report on the Constitutional Position of India, 1930 (Pekhon: Pekhon University Press, 2003)

Secondary works: 

Acharya, M. K., The Commission Boycott, or, Rights vs. Concessions: A Psychological Study (Madras: Sri Rama Press, 1928)

Ahmad, Waheed, 'Report of the Simon Commission: An Analysis of the Report and the Significance of Its Recommendations in the Constitutional Discussion Leading to the Enactment of the Government of India Act, 1935', Journal of the Research Society of Pakistan, 11 (1974)

Andrews, C. F., India and the Simon Report (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1930)

Arora, K. C., Indian Nationalist Movement in Britain, 1930-1949 (New Delhi: Inter-India Publications, 1992)

Bakshi, S. R., Simon Commission and Indian Nationalism (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1977)

Banerji, Sir Albion Rajkumar and Menon, V. K. Krishna, The Report and the Conference: Being an Study of the Simon Report (1930)

Besant, Annie Wood, The Simon Report (London: India Bookshop, for the Commonwealth of India League, 1930)

Bose, Subhas Chandra, The Indian Struggle, 1920-1942 (Calcutta: Netaji Research Bureau; Delhi; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997)

Bridge, Carl, Holding India to the Empire: The British Conservative Party and the 1935 Constitution (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1986)

British Indian Association (India), Statement on the Recommendation of the Indian Statutory Commission, by the Landholders of India (Calcutta, 1930)

Brock, R. W., The Simon Report on India: An Abridgement (London: Dent, 1930)

Cadogan, Edward Cecil George, The India We Saw (London: John Murray, 1933)

The Commission [i.e. The Simon Commssion on Indian Statutory Reform] and After. By a Liberal (Bombay: D. B. Tarapolevala, 1928)

(Constitutional Reform) Communal Decisions, Cmd. 4147 (1932)

Daily Mail (1917-35)

Dhawan, Thakur Datta, Memorandum Submitted to the Indian Statutory Commission on Reforms in the North West Frontier, Based on the Resolution Passed at a Special Meeting of the Provincial Hindu Conference at Peshawar, on 27th March 1928 (Peshawar, 1928)

Durkal, Jayendraray Bhagavanlal, Indian Education: Case for Indianization of Education, Religious Instruction, Therapeutic View of Education: Being the Statement (Part II) Submitted to the Education Committee, The Indian Statutory Commission (Jurat: J. B. Durkal, 1928)

Edwardes, Michael, The Last Years of British India (London: Cassell, 1963)

Gangulee, Nagendranath, Notes on Indian Constitutional Reform, Incorporating Memorandum Submitted to the Indian Statutory Commission (Calcutta, 1930)

Gopal, Sarvepalli, The Viceroyalty of Lord Irwin, 1926-1931 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957)

Government of India Acts, 1919 and 1935 

Husain, Azim, Fazl-i-Husain: A Political Biography (Bombay: Longmans, 1946)

India: The Commission and the Conference: A Reprint of Leading Articles from The Times on the Indian Question from the Return of the Statutory Commission from India to the Conclusion of the Round-Table Conference in London (London, 1931)

Indian Legislative Assembly Debates, 1921-35

Indian Round Table Conference, Proceedings, 1930-32

Joint Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform, Minutes of Evidence, 3 vols (London: 1934)

Joint Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform, Report (London: 1934)

Khaliquzzaman, Choudhry, Pathway to Pakistan (Lahore: Longmans, 1961)

Memoranda Submitted by the Government of India to the Indian Statutory Commission, Pts 6-7 (Rangoon, Burma: Superintendent, Govt. Print and Stationary, 1928)

Moghe, Krishnaji Balvant, The Indian States in Their Relations with the British Paramount Power and the Government of British India: The Butler Committee and the Statutory Commission on Indian Reforms (Bombay, 1928)

Nehru, Jawaharlal, An Autobiography: With Musings on Recent Events in India (London: John Lane, 1936)

Parliamentary Debates, 1917-35

Proposals for Indian Constitutional Reform, Cmd. 4268 (1933)

Ratcliffe, Samuel Kerkham, What the Simon Report Means (London: New Statesman, 1930)

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

Setalvad, Chimanlal, Recollections & Reflections: An Autobiography (Bombay: Padma Publications, 1946)

Simon, Sir John Allsebrook, India and the Simon Report: A Talk (New York: Coward-MacCann, 1930)

Simon, Sir John Allsebrook, Retrospect: The Memoirs of Viscount Simon (London: Hutchinson, 1952)

Sitaramayya, B. Pattabhi, The History of The Indian National Congress, 1885-1935 (Madras, 1935)

Sivasvami Aiyar, Sir Paramanheri Sundaram, The Simon Commission Report Examined (1930)

Templewood, Samuel John Gurney Hoare, Nine Troubled Years (London: Collins, 1954)

Times (1917-1935)

Times of India, 20 June (1930)

Times of India, 25 June (1930)

Times of India, 26 June (1930)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2001)

Wood, Edward Frederick Lindley (Earl of Halifax), Fulness of Days (London: Collins, 1957)

Wrench, Guy Theodore, In Defence of the Agrarian: A Criticism of the Simon Commission's Report and an Alternative Policy (Cawnpore: Country League, 1930)

Zetland, Lawrence John Lumley Dundas, Marquis of Zetland, 1876-1961, 'Essayez': The Memoirs of Lawrence, Second Marquess of Zetland (London: John Murray, 1956)

Archive source: 

Mss Eur C 152, Holifax Collection, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Mss Eur E 240, Templewood Collection, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

S. P. Sinha


Satyendra Prasanno Sinha was born in Raipur in Bengal in 1863. He entered Presidency College, Calcutta, in 1878, married Gobinda Mohini, with whom he had four sons and three daughters, in 1880, and left for England in 1881 without taking a degree.

In England he joined Lincoln's Inn where he won a scholarship of £50 a year for four years to study Roman Law, Jurisprudence, Constitutional Law and International Law. Later he also won the Lincoln's Inn scholarship of £100 for three years. Sinha was called to the Bar in 1886 and finished his education by touring the European continent. In 1886, he returned to Calcutta where he joined the City College as a lecturer in law and he also practised as a barrister.

In 1905 Sinha was appointed as advocate-general of Bengal, a post that was confirmed in 1908, and in 1909 Lord Morley appointed him legal member of the Governor-General's Executive Council, the first Indian in this position. In 1915 he was elected President of the Indian National Congress. In 1917, Sinha returned to England to work for Secretary of State, E. S. Montagu, first as an assistant, and later as a member of the Imperial War Cabinet and Conference along with the Maharaja of Bikanir. In London he stayed with William Wedderburn for a few days. He received the freedom of the City of London in 1917, took a place on the King's Counsel in 1918 (the first Indian to do so), and in 1926 was made a bencher of Lincoln's Inn. In 1919, he was made Under-Secretary of State for India, raised to the peerage of Baron Sinha of Raipur and saw the Government of India Act of 1919 through the House of Lords. He returned to India in 1920.

It is known that his third son, Sushil Kumar, studied at Colet Prepatory School in Hammersmith (1907-9), St Paul's School, London (1909-13) and Balliol College, Oxford (1913-7) and joined the Indian Civil Service but appeared to settle in England. In 1926, Sinha joined the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London but his health forced him to winter in India. He died in Berhampore, Bengal, on 4 March 1928.

Published works: 

The Future of India: Presidential Address to the Indian National Congress, 1915 (London: J. Truscott & Son, 1916)

The Insistent Claims of Indian Reform: Speeches at the Banquet in London to Lord Sinha on 7th March 1919 (London: P. L. Warner, 1919)

Speeches and Writings of Lord Sinha, with a Portrait and a Sketch (Madras: G. A. Natesan and Co., 1919)

Date of birth: 
24 Mar 1863

Maharaja of Bikanir (collegue in the Imperial War Cabinet and Conference Cabinet), E. S. Montagu, Lord Morley, Bhupinder Singh (Maharaja of Patiala), William Wedderburn.

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Bengalee (member of editorial board)

Secondary works: 

Cokayne, G. E., The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, 8 vols. (1887–98); new edn, ed. V. Gibbs and others, 14 vols. in 15 (1910–98); microprint repr. (1982) and (1987)

FitzGerald, S. V., 'Sinha, Satyendra Prasanno, first Baron Sinha (1863-1928)', rev. Tapan Raychaudhuri, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) []

Husainy, Abi, 'Pulling it all together: case study of Lord Satyendra Prasanna Sinha (1863-1928)',

Sen, S. P., Dictionary of National Biography (Calcutta: Institute of Historical Studies, 1972-74)

Sengupta, S., and Basu, A., Samsada Bangali Caritabidhana (Kalikata: Sahitya Samsad, 1976)

Sir S. P. Sinha: A Sketch of His Life and Career (Madras: Natesan, 1918)

Archive source: 

Official papers relating to the Paris peace conference, Mss Eur F 281, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Letters to Lord Carmichael and W. R. Gourlay, Hardinge MSS, Cambridge University Library

National Archives of India, New Delhi

Nehru Memorial Library, New Delhi

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

Satyendra Prasanno Sinha

Satyendra Prasanna Sinha

Lord Sinha


Lincoln's Inn London, WC2A 3TL
United Kingdom
51° 30' 52.6572" N, 0° 6' 40.3056" W
Date of death: 
04 Mar 1928
Location of death: 
Berhampore, Bengal, India
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1881
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1881-6, 1917-20, 1926

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