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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

Member of the *Commonwealth since 1947. Britain's involvement with the Indian subcontinent began in the 17C, and for the next 150 years was largely the history of the *East India Company. After the *Indian Mutiny (1857) the British government took control, appointing a viceroy to rule in the name of Queen Victoria; she herself was proclaimed Empress of India in 1876, adding the title 'Ind. Imp.' (from the Latin Indiae Imperatrix) to her coins from 1893.
At this same period a movement for independence was beginning. The first Indian National Congress met in Bombay in 1885; from it developed the Congress party, which has been the main force in Indian politics in the 20C. In 1906 the Muslim League was formed, to safeguard the interests of the subcontinent's large minority of Muslims.

The leading figure in the later independence movement was Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948). Living in South Africa from 1893 to 1915, he developed there a political technique of passive resistance to win rights for the oppressed. Back in India his similar campaigns of civil disobedience proved an effective weapon against British rule. They undoubtedly speeded up the eventual withdrawal of the British (in 1947), but that was achieved at a cost which to Gandhi was a tragedy – the cost of partition.

He believed that the Hindu and Muslim communities could together share a single democracy, but the Muslim League was committed to the creation of an independent Muslim country, *Pakistan, and the British government came to the conclusion that this was the only solution. Violence erupted in the period immediately before the British withdrawal and the process of partition was accompanied by widespread communal massacres, with a million or more deaths. Gandhi devoted all his energies to reconciling the communities. It was not a Muslim but a Hindu fanatic who assassinated him in 1948.

The excellence of Anglo-Indian relationships at this final stage is suggested by the fact that the last viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, was invited to stay on as the first governor general. The family of the first prime minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964), remained in power for most of the following half century, with his daughter Indira Gandhi (no relation to the Mahatma) and his grandson Rajiv Gandhi in turn holding the premiership. Both, tragically, were assassinated, in 1984 and 1991.

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