Was Britain divided about Indian independence, 1930-47?

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, leader of the Indian National Congress, with the Indian viceroy Lord Irwin at a garden party in Delhi, 1930 (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

By the 1930s Britain had been ruling India for over a hundred and fifty years in one form or another. Most of the subcontinent was ruled directly by British officials while other areas were ruled by princes who were allied to the British. But British rule hadn’t gone unopposed. There had been rebellions and other forms of protest. From the 1880s onwards, the Indian National Congress had been campaigning for greater independence for India.


By the 1930s this campaign had gained momentum. The campaign had a high profile and much support in India and across the world, but how did Britain respond to this campaign? What evidence can we find to show different views on the subject of Indian independence and what was the basis of this division? Were there:

  1. Ideological reasons – whether imperialism was right or wrong and whether Indians should be allowed to govern themselves?
  2. Strategic reasons – whether Britain would be more or less powerful if India became independent?
  3. Pragmatic reasons – whether the British could maintain effective rule in India and how much support there was for the independence movement?

Your challenge

We have a box of sources from the Churchill Archive for you to investigate.

  • Your challenge is to study the sources in the Source Box and use them to explore whether Britain was divided, and why, on the issue of independence for India.
  • Your teacher will be able to help you with a recording framework and suggestions on how to present your work.