Ramachandra GuhaApr 12, 2022
Rebels Against the Raj
Western Fighters for India's Freedom
Rebels Against the Raj: Western Fighters for India’s Freedom (Knopf, 2022) by Ramachandra Guha tells the extraordinary but little-known story of seven individuals, foreigners to India, who chose to struggle for a country other than their own. These rebels and renegades arrived in colonial India through the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and joined the fight for Indian independence.
Of the seven, four were British, two were American, and one was an Irishwoman. Four were men and three were women. Before and after being jailed or deported they did remarkable and pioneering work in a variety of fields: journalism, social reform, education, the emancipation of women, and environmentalism. Some of them lived and were active into the latter half of the twentieth century, many years after India’s independence.
This book tells their stories, each rebel motivated by idealism and genuine sacrifice; each connected to Gandhi, though some as acolytes where others found endless infuriation in his views; each understanding they would likely face prison sentences for their resistance, and likely live and die in India; each one leaving a profound impact on the region in which they worked, their legacies continuing through the institutions they founded and the generations and individuals they inspired.
The entwined lives of these seven figures provides a glimpse into India’s encounter with Euro-America, and with India’s story as a country searching for its identity and liberty beyond British colonial rule.
Ramachandra Guha is a renowned Indian author, historian and public intellectual based in Bangalore. He has written numerous well-received and best-selling books on modern Indian history, including India After Gandhi on India’s post-independence history, as well as biographies of Mohandas Gandhi in two volumes: Gandhi Before India and Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914-1948. He has also written and researched in a wide variety of fields, including social history, environmental history, and cricket history.
Shatrunjay Mall is a PhD candidate at the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He works on transnational Asian history, and his dissertation explores intellectual, political, and cultural intersections and affinities that emerged between Indian anti-colonialism and imperial Japan in the twentieth century.