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An Imperialist at bay : Leo Amery at the India Office, 1940-1945

Pressure for Indian independence had been building up throughout the early decades of the twentieth century, initially through the efforts of the Indian National Congress, but also later, when matters were complicated by an increasingly vocal Muslim League. When, in May 1940, Leo Amery was appointed by Winston Churchill as Secretary of State for India, an already difficult assignment had been made more challenging by the demands of war. This thesis evaluates the extent to which Amery’s ultimate failure to move India towards self-government was due to factors beyond his control, or derived from his personal shortcomings and errors of judgment. Although there has to be some analysis of politics in wartime India, the study is primarily of Amery’s attempts at managing an increasingly insurgent dependency, entirely from his metropolitan base. Much of the research is concentrated on his success, or otherwise, in influencing Churchill and diehard Conservatives, who wanted Britain to retain India at any cost, but also Labour colleagues in the coalition, who were much more closely aligned with Congress. Inevitably, Amery’s relationships with his two Viceroys, Lord Linlithgow and Viscount Wavell are central to this investigation. In different ways, his dealings with the dour, inflexible Linlithgow and the surprisingly radical, if irritable, Wavell varied between the cordial and the frosty, yet in both cases he regarded them with a considerable degree of intellectual snobbery. That said, the thesis demonstrates that he was unable to convince these colleagues in Delhi that the man on the spot did not always know best. For many years Amery had been irked by American opposition to his cherished principle of imperial preference, and their overall dislike of the perceived colonialism implicit in the British Empire. Once the USA had entered the war, transatlantic attempts to interfere in matters in India increased, further damaging Amery’s efforts to promote constitutional reform. It was all the more painful for him that his desire to counter these ideas was compromised by the need to appease American public opinion in the interests of the war effort. In making a balanced judgment on Amery at the India Office it is unwise to look only at his efforts to broker a constitutional settlement that ultimately foundered with the failure of the Simla conference in the summer of 1945. There is ample evidence of better outcomes in administrative and practical areas. From his early achievement in moderating the terms in which Congress could be prosecuted until his later successes in obtaining grain to alleviate famine he revealed a tenacity, and courage that could, on occasion, overcome the suspicion that he often generated amongst his peers.
Date January 2016
CreatorsWhittington, David
PublisherUniversity of the West of England, Bristol
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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