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Was Britain divided about Indian independence, 1930-47?

Source 4

Article in the BBC magazine The Listener (February 1935) entitled ‘The Great Betrayal’ repeating the text of a radio broadcast by Churchill of 30 January 1935


 CHAR 9/114/51-52

We've highlighted the parts of the document which appear in the transcription below.

Simplified Transcript

India has a lot to do with workers in Britain. The workers in Lancashire cotton factories have found that out. 100,000 have lost their jobs already. If the same thing happens after India gets self-government as happened after Ireland did, there’ll be two million workers unemployed. We’ve got a population of forty-five million with the best standard of living in Europe but one third of these will become poor if we give up our empire and world trade.

But India has received more benefit that England. A visitor from out of space may ask why India is so peaceful compared to Europe or the rest of Asia.
It’s because Britain has brought peace and prosperity to India in the same way we hope the League of Nations will do for Europe. As a result, India’s population has grown by a hundred million in the last fifty years.
War may be coming to Europe soon. Is this the time for Britain to get rid of its empire when our strength and future depends on India?
We’re not a foreign power in India. We’re the only people who have made their lives better. The shame of this new law is that we’ll no longer be able to protect the Indian people.

Original Transcript

India and the Wage-earners of Britain

… let me tell you India has quite a lot to do with the wage-earners of Britain. Why, the Lancashire cotton operatives have found that out all right. A hundred thousand of them are on the dole already; and if we lost India, if we had the same treatment from a Home Rule India as we have had (to our sorrow) from a Home Rule Ireland, it wouldn’t be a hundred thousand, it would be more like two million breadwinners in this country who would be tramping the streets and queuing up at the Labour Exchanges. We have in this island a population of forty-five millions living at a higher level than the people of any other European country. One-third of these would have to go down, out or under, if we ceased to be a great Empire with world-wide connections and trade. That would be the fate of the large population of Little England. And then they tell us that the relations of Great Britain and India are not a matter for the working-classes or for the ordinary elector.

But my friends, the benefits which Britain derives from India are only a fraction of the blessings we have given to India in return. I do not speak only of the fruitful exchanges of trade. If a visitor came from another planet and looked out over this worried, perplexed and tumultuous human scene he would say, "Why is this continent of India, which is almost as large and is populous as Europe, so different from Europe, so different from the rest of Asia, indeed from the rest of the world?

The answer would be that Britain has done for India quite surely and firmly what we all hope the League of Nations will someday be able to do for Europe, and that freed from war and famine, the population of India has bounded up by 100 million in the last fifty years.

There is one more question we must ask ourselves. The storm clouds are gathering over the European scene. … Is this, then, the time to plunge our vast dependency of India into the melting pot? Is this the time fatally to dishearten by such a policy all those strong clean forces at home upon which the strength and future of Britain depends?

‘We Are No Alien Power in India’

… We are the latest of many conquerors, and we are the only conquerors who have ever made the well-being of the Indian masses their supreme satisfaction. What is the chief shame of this India Home Rule Bill?
It is that we finally withdraw our guardianship from this teeming myriad population of Indian toilers. We withdraw our protection from their daily lives. ...

What is this source?

This is an extract from an article in the BBC magazine The Listener (February 1935) entitled ‘The Great Betrayal’, repeating the text of a radio broadcast that Churchill made on 30 January 1935.

Background to this source

In his broadcast, Churchill was criticising the National Government led by Stanley Baldwin (Conservative) for proposing a new form of government for India – which Churchill calls Home Rule – which would give the country a much greater level of self-government. The Government of India bill had majority support across British political parties though Churchill opposed to it. The Indian National Congress didn’t support the bill because it didn’t go far enough and because Indians hadn’t been consulted about it.

How can we use this source in the investigation?

Remember, we’re hoping that the source can be useful to us in investigating whether opinion in Britain was divided on the question of Indian independence. The sources can be analysed in two ways:

Surface level

  1. Why is does Churchill say that British workers should be concerned about Indian Home Rule?
  2. What benefits does he say British rule has brought to India?
  3. What other reasons does he give for why Britain should not give India greater self-government?
  4. Why does he call the India Home Rule Bill a “shame”?

Deeper level

Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?

On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference? Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?
British rule had many benefits for India and for Britain.

British workers were against Indian independence.

Other political leaders support greater independence for India.

There is evidence that some people in Britain supported Indian independence.

There is evidence that some people in Britain opposed Indian independence.

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • Churchill prepared his broadcast speech to be heard by members of the general public who might have no special understanding or interest in Indian politics. He wanted to show how important India was to Britain and Britain was to India.
  • The Government of India Act 1935 gave more power to elected Indian politicians in Indian provinces.
  • It also increased the electorate in India from about seven million to thirty-five million voters out of a total population of three hundred million.
  • The Act was supposed to create a federal system of government where local states would have their own government but there would be an overarching government for the whole of India.
  • The India National Congress and many princely states opposed the federal system and this was not established after the elections of 1937.

 Source 5

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