In 1900, India was part of the British Empire; but by the end of 1947, India had achieved independence. In 1885, educated middle-class nationals had founded the Indian National Congress (INC). Their aim was to get a much greater say in the way India was governed.
In response to this development, the Morley-Minto reforms were introduced in 1909.
- Morley was the Secretary of State for India and Lord Morley was Viceroy of India. Their reforms lead to each province in India having its own governor and Indian nationals were allowed to sit on the councils which advised these governors.
- As early as 1917, Britain had toyed with the idea of giving India a measure of self-government: “the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire”.
In 1919, the Government of India Act was introduced.
This introduced a national parliament with two houses for India.
About 5 million of the wealthiest Indians were given the right to vote (a very small percentage of the total population)Within the provincial governments, ministers of education, health and public works could now be Indian nationals.
- In India, the 1920’s saw the emergence of three men who were to have a huge impact on the future of India: Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah
- Gandhi persuaded many of his followers to use non-violent protests. They had sit-down strikes, they refused to work, they refused to pay their taxes etc. If the British reacted in a heavy-handed manner, it only made the British look worse; essentially, the British would come across as bullies enforcing their rule on the bullied. However, there were those in India who wanted to use more extreme measures.
- Part of the 1919 Government of India Act stated that a commission would be established after 10 years to assess whether India could/should have more self-rule. This first met in 1928 – the Simon Commission. This commission reported in 1930. There were no Indians on the commission. It proposed self-government for the provinces but nothing else.
At this time, a sympathetic Viceroy to India had been appointed – Lord Irwin. He believed that India should have dominion status – and he publicly expressed this idea. Irwin pushed for the issue to be discussed. He organised two Round Table conferences in 1930 and 1931. They were both held in London.
- In 1935, the Government of India Act was introduced. Britain, at this time, had a National Government and progress was made over India purely because Stanley Baldwin, the Tory leader, and Ramsey-MacDonald, the Labour leader, agreed on a joint course of action. Winston Churchill was bitterly opposed to it.
- In 1945, the newly elected Labour government headed by Clement Attlee wanted to push ahead with solving what was seen as the “Indian Problem”. However, the religious rivalry in India was coming to a head and made any potential solution very complex. Attempts to draw up a compromise constitution that was acceptable to both Muslims and Hindus failed.
- The Governor-General of India, Lord Wavell, invited Nehru to form an interim government in August 1946. Early in 1947, Atlee announced that Britain would leave India no later than June 1948. In August 1947, the Indian Independence Act was signed.