Reading this monogram on British-Indian relations during the first half of the 20th century has taught me the importance of looking for sequences of events that represent evolving trends. The personal and political lives of Winston Churchill and Mohandas Gandhi, though distinctly different in cultural upbringing, followed and even shared one of those least travelled though spectacular paths through time. Herman has written a very engrossing and informative study of how both men, one a descendant from British aristocracy while the other from the Brahmin caste, were prominent participants in the dismantling of the British Empire. Though history records them only meeting at most twice in their lives, both represented unyielding views as to the continued British occupation of India. While Churchill, in various positions of authority in numerous ministeries like War and the Colonies, did every thing in his power to keep India from becoming independent, Gandhi strove to make it happened. Herman goes into great detail as to how both men - highly principled but often impulsive and hardheaded - used strategies to outwit each other. Where Churchill might use the long arm of the law to suppress Gandhi's many efforts to organize public protest, the latter would always be able to retaliate with yet a greater demonstration for national independence. The one that Herman spends a lot of time describing in his book is the series of passive, non-violent campaigns of civil disobedience (Satyagraha) in which Gandhi at various times called on all Indians not to pay taxes, turn up to work, or serve in the British civil service. What both men faced in 1947, with India winning independence, was something they could never have imagined in their wildest dreams. For Churchill, the "Jewell in the Crown" and the British Empire(Pax Britannica) was left a shadow of its once great imperious self. For Gandhi, who fell to an assassin's bullet that year, independence brought also partition between Hindus and Muslims and months of viscious blood-letting between the two factions. All in the name of gradually dismantling Victorian imperialism and finally implementing Westminster democracy and the dawning of the modern era for both England and India. Very few compromises or understandings between these two indomitable foes, and as Herman points out, maybe that was the way it was supposed to turn out. A desperate and protracted fight to protect two very different and conflicting visions of India's future
on May 26, 2009
Two of the great men of the 20th Century engaged in epic conflict that led to the independence of the "Jewel" in the British crown, and the end of the British Empire as it was known. After India and Pakistan, the Empire crumbled as more and more countries declared their independence. All resulting from a clash of wills between these two men.
Herman has crafted his book to make it educational,interesting, and highly readable. A great account of the clash of these two great men!
Most highly recommended!!!