Bengal: The Nationalist Movement 1876-1940

Leonard A. Gordon
Back to library
Nationalism in India developed unevenly in different regions and drew upon varied cultural traditions and diverse socio-political conditions. This work analyses the interplay of Indian nationalism and Bengali regionalism from the later nineteenth century to 1940 in one of India's most troubled areas. As large in population as France and Germany combined, Bengal has always been an area of major importance in the Indian subcontinent. Calcutta, its principal city, was the capital of the British Indian Empire for nearly a century and a half, during which time it grew considerably in size and influence as a centre of both government and business. Thus by reason of proximity the Bengali people were more closely involved with British rule than any other specific group in India. They also had more opportunities for education and developed a greater political awareness. Today the region is split into West Bengal, which is part of India, and Bangladesh, which was formerly part of Pakistan. This division, largely along Hindu/Muslim lines, was made at the end of British rule in 1947. The total population now is well in excess of 115 million and there is a great deal of both national and regional consciousness in both parts of Bengal. Based on nationalist sources, government records, and interviews, the present volume traces the emergence of professional politicians attempting to mobilize the masses, and revolutionaries devoted to violent upheaval. A general account of the national movement in Bengal is interwoven with detailed portraits of such important leaders as R.C. Dutt, Aurobindo Ghose, C.R. Das, and Subhas Bose. Politically-conscious Bengalis passed from early pre-eminence in the movement to a much more limited role once Mahatma Gandhi gained control over the Indian National Congress.