Spanish Civil War

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

Indian Committee for Food for Spain

Published works: 

Jawaharlal Nehru 'Spain! Why?’ [pamphlet published by The Indian Committee for Food for Spain]

Key Individuals' Details: 

Feroze Gandhi, C. L. Katial, Protool C. Bhandari


India League

Tags for Making Britain: 

Indira Priyadarshini Nehru


Indira Gandhi was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamala Nehru. As Nehru’s daughter, she became actively involved in the struggle for India’s independence. Indira Gandhi was educated at a number of schools and colleges in India and abroad. She first visited Europe in 1926, accompanying her parents to Switzerland for her mother’s convalescence. She visited Paris and London with her parents in 1927 and returned to India in December 1927. In April 1930 she formed the youth wing of the Indian National Congress, the ‘Vanar Sena’. She attended the Ecole de Bex in Switzerland, December 1927; St Mary’s Convent School in Allahabad, May 1931; and The Pupil’s Own School in Pune (Poona), May 1931 - April 1934. She passed her matriculation examination in April 1934 and in July 1934 was admitted to Rabindranath Tagore’s Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan, Bengal.

In April 1935 Indira moved to Europe with her mother. In 1936 she joined the Indian National Congress. In February 1936 she attended Badminton School near Bristol and then in 1938 she joined Somerville College, Oxford. In the same year she became a member of the India League and through the contacts of her father was introduced to many figures involved with the Indian struggle for independence in the UK. Krishna Menon persuaded Indira to give speeches at meetings. She was involved with the India League's campaigns especially in support of Spanish Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. While in England she met with her future husband Feroze Gandhi, who was also a member of the India League and studying in London. Plagued by ill-health, she was attended to by C. L. Katial and she made repeated trips to convalesce in Switzerland.

Indira returned to India in 1941 together with Feroze Gandhi, whom she married in 1942. She took an active part in the Quit India movement and was imprisoned in Naini Central Jail from September 1942 to March 1943. Indira Gandhi served twice as India's Prime Minister and was assassinated on 31 October 1984.

Date of birth: 
19 Nov 1917

Miss B. M. Baker (headmistress of Badminton School), P. C. Bhandari (Dr), M. K. Gandhi, Agatha Harrison, Carl Heath (President of the India conciliation group), Naoroji Jal, C. L. Katial, Kailas Nath Kaul and Sheila Kaul (maternal uncle and aunt who lived in London), Parvati Kumaramangalam, George Lansbury (Labour leader of the 1930s), Harold J. Laski, Muriel Lester (social worker in London, who was host to M. K. Gandhi during his 1931 visit), Krishna Menon, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lailamani Naidu and Padmaja Naidu (daughters of Sarojini Naidu), Sarojini Naidu, P. Subbarayan (barrister and political leader of Tamil Nadu), Edward John Thompson, Rabindranath Tagore.

University Labour Club


Secondary works: 

Brass, Paul R., ‘Gandhi, Indira Priyadarshini (1917–1984)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2007) []

Frank, Katherine, Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi (London: Harper Collins, 2002) 

Gandhi, Sonia (ed.), Freedom's Daughter: Letters between Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, 1922-1939 (London: Hodder & Staughton, 1989)

Gandhi, Sonia (ed.) Two Alone, Two Together: Letters between Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, 1922-1964 (New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2004)

Vadgama, Kusoom, India in Britain: The Indian Contribution to the British Way of Life (London: Robert Royce, 1984)

Involved in events: 
City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Indira Nehru, Indira Gandhi


Somerville College
Woodstock Road
Oxford, OX2 6HD
United Kingdom
51° 47' 16.224" N, 1° 16' 50.1636" W
Badminton School Bristol, BS9 3BA
United Kingdom
51° 29' 35.25" N, 2° 38' 44.484" W
Date of death: 
31 Oct 1984
Location of death: 
Delhi, India
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1936
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1927 (short visit), 1936 - Spring 1937 (Badminton School), September 1937 - November 1938 (Oxford University), April 1939 - December 1939, January 1941.

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