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date: 26 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Indian nationalism has often been seen as an exemplar of the nationalisms of colonial subjects struggling to be free—but with one striking difference. Whereas most colonial nationalists sought to break free from and carve ‘national’ states of their own out of those empires, Indian nationalists alone aspired to take over an empire as a whole; claiming every province and principality the British ruled for the nation. It was, in this sense, a movement not only profoundly ambitious but also, in critically important ways, unique. Yet paradoxically, the very breadth of its scope circumscribed its modalities and constrained its programmes. Rather than seeking to explain why nationalism in India ‘failed’ to conform to other models, European or Latin American or Arab, or to speculate why other anti-colonial nationalisms did not subsequently emulate the ‘norm’ it might be thought to have established, this essay maps Indian nationalism’s distinctive development until 1947.

Keywords: Colonial institutions, social reform, liberalism, colonial public sphere, Congress, regional, religious and cultural nationalisms, swadeshi, Gandhi, non-cooperation, Jinnah, partition

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