Decolonization Resource Collection: Nationalism

Crowds march through the streets of Dublin to commerate the Easter Rising (1939). Getty Images. Image courtesy of the Independent.

Primary sources

Mohammed Ali Jinnah, “Presidential Address to the Muslim League” (1940)
In his address to the Lahore Conference that passed a resolution calling for the partition of British India into three sovereign states, Jinnah declares his full-fledged support for Pakistani independence. According to Stanley Wolpert, this was the moment during which Jinnah abandoned his support for Hindu-Muslim unity in favor of an independent Muslim state.

Indian National Congress, “‘Quit India’ Resolution” (1942)
After the rejection of the Cripps Offer, Congress leaders felt compelled to launch an agitation campaign. Gandhi suggested that the British should “Quit India” while they still  had time to do so. Jawaharlal Nehru was asked to amend Gandhi’s original resolution, and this amended resolution was passed in July 1942. The Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, then imprisoned all Congress leaders before they could take any action.

U Thant, “The Congo Problem” (1962)
In this excerpt from the records of the United Nations Security Council, Secretary-General of the United Nations and Burmese diplomat U Thant comments on the UN’s efforts to establish a stable, democratic central government in what was formerly Belgian Congo. Thant also explicitly refuses to recognize the independence of the copper and cobalt-rich region of Katanga.

Secondary sources

Articles and essays

Chuku, Gloria I., “Women and Nationalist Movements,” in Toyin Falola (ed.), The End of Colonial Rule, Nationalism and Decolonization, Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2002.
In this article, Chuku explores the role of women in anticolonial, nationalist movements across Africa. This essay is part of a collection that places the concepts of nationalism and gender at the center of African decolonization post-World War II.

Meaney, Neville, “Britishness and Australian Identity: The Problem of Nationalism in Australian History and Historiography,”  Australian Historical Studies 32, 116 (2001).
This article explores the conceptual problems and contextual assumptions found in the treatment of Britishness in Australian history, especially as it has affected the understanding of Australia’s relations with the world. It examines firstly the problem of the teleology of nationalism and its uses in Australian history, secondly the notion of Britishness in Australian identity, thirdly the Australian view of Britain and the Empire/Commonwealth in the twentieth century and lastly the implications of this for tensions between the community of culture and the community of interest in Australia.

O’Malley, Kate, “Learning the Tricks of the Imperial Secession Trade: Irish and Indian Nationalism in the ’30s and ’40s,” History Ireland 18, 4 (2010).
Throughout the first half of the twentieth century many household names from the Indian nationalist movement came to Ireland. Keen friendships developed between a variety of Irish and Indian agitators, embracing many of the leading political and literary figures of the day from both countries. As a result of their shared imperial histories, comparisons and connections influenced the respective revolutionary activists.

Seal, Anil, “Imperialism and Nationalism in India,” Modern Asian Studies 7, 3 (1973).
Among the dominant themes of world history during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have been the imperialism of the west and the nationalism of its colonial subjects. Nowhere were these themes developed more spectacularly than in South Asia; its history quite naturally came to be viewed as a gigantic clash between these two large forces. The subject then was held together by a set of assumptions about the imperialism of the British and the reactions of the Indians against it.

Silvestri, Michael, “‘The Sinn Fein of India’: Irish Nationalism and the Policing of Revolutionary Terrorism in Bengal,” Journal of British Studies 39, 4 (2000).
In this article, Silvestri explores connections in rhetoric between anti-imperial movements in Ireland and Bengal, and how violence and rhetoric often reinforced one another. This revolutionary link between Ireland and British South Asia may seem far-fetched, but this article is part of a growing movement in decolonization studies focused on comparative historiography.

Smith, Elizabeth, “Emancipate Your Husbands: Women and Nationalism in Guinea, 1953–1958,” in Jean Allman, Susan Geiger, and Nakanyike Musisi (eds.), Women in African Colonial Histories, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2002.
In this essay, Smith discusses the upending of gender roles and traditionally female responsibilities as nationalism rocked the French colony of Guinea during the mid-twentieth century. Smith assesses the role of women in Guinea’s nationalist movement, and, in turn, how nationalism influenced the role of women in Guinean colonial and postcolonial society.

 Books and readers

Bhatt, Chetan, Hindu Nationalism: Origins, Ideologies and Modern Myths, Bloomsbury Press, 2001.
This book examines the history and ideologies of Hindu nationalism and Hindutva from the end of the last century to the present, and critically evaluates the social and political philosophies and writings of its main thinkers. Hindu nationalism is based on the claim that it is an indigenous product of the primordial and authentic ethnic and religious traditions of India. The book argues instead that these claims are based on relatively recent ideas, frequently related to western influences during the colonial period.

Chatterjee, Partha, Nationalist Thought at the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse? Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1986.
In this book, Chatterjee questions whether nationalism is a “problem in history of political ideas.” Using Indian nationalism as his primary example, Chatterjee breaks his analysis of the theme of nationalism in colonial studies into three “moments”: the moment of departure, the moment of maneuver, and the moment of arrival.

Chatterjee, Partha, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.
Chatterjee looks at the creative and powerful results of the nationalist imagination in Asia and Africa that are posited not on identity but on difference with the nationalism propagated by the West. Arguing that scholars have been mistaken in equating political nationalism with nationalism as such, he shows how anticolonialist nationalists produced their own domain of sovereignty within colonial society well before beginning their political battle with the imperial power by dividing their culture into material and spiritual domains.

Champion, C.P., The Strange Demise of British Canada: The Liberals and Canadian Nationalism, 1964-1968, Montreal, Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010.
Using a fascinating array of personal papers, memoirs, and contemporary sources, this ground-breaking study demonstrates the ongoing influence of Britishness in Canada and showcases the personalities and views of some of the country’s most important political and cultural figures. An important study that provides a better understanding of Canada, this book also shows the lasting influence Britain has had on its former colonies across the globe.

Gellner, Ernest, Nations and Nationalism, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006.
First published in 1983, Nations and Nationalism remains one of the most influential explanations of the emergence of nationalism ever written. This updated edition of Ernest Gellner’s now-canonical work includes a new introductory essay from John Breuilly, tracing the way the field has evolved over the past two decades, and a bibliography of important work on nationalism since 1983.

Hansen, Thomas Blom, The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.
Hansen analyzes Indian receptivity to the right-wing Hindu nationalist party and its political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which claims to create a polity based on “ancient” Hindu culture. Rather than interpreting Hindu nationalism as a mainly religious phenomenon, or a strictly political movement, Hansen places the BJP within the context of the larger transformations of democratic governance in India. Hansen demonstrates that democratic transformation has enabled such developments as political mobilization among the lower castes and civil protections for religious minorities.

Lawrence, Adria, Imperial Rule and the Politics of Nationalism: Anti-Colonial Protest in the French Empire, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
In this pathbreaking study of the decolonization era, Lawrence asks why elites in French colonies shifted from demands for egalitarian and democratic reforms to calls for independent statehood, and why mass mobilization for independence emerged where and when it did. Lawrence shows that nationalist discourses became dominant as a consequence of the failure of the reform agenda.

Menon, Jisha, The Performance of Nationalism: India, Pakistan, and the Memory of Partition, Cambridge University Press, 2012.
This book considers the formation of the Indian and Pakistani nations, in the wake of the most violent chapter of their history: the partition of the subcontinent. Menon offers a fresh analysis of nationalism from the perspective of performance. Menon recuperates the manifold valences of ‘mimesis’ as aesthetic representation, as the constitution of a community of witnesses, and as the mimetic relationality that underlies the encounter between India and Pakistan.

Pandey, Gyanendra, Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism, and History in India, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Through an investigation of the violence that marked the partition of British India in 1947, this book analyses questions of history and memory, the nationalization of populations and their pasts, and the ways in which violent events are remembered (or forgotten) in order to ensure the unity of the collective subject – community or nation. Stressing the continuous entanglement of ‘event’ and ‘interpretation’, the author emphasizes both the enormity of the violence of 1947 and its shifting meanings and contours.

Sevea, Iqbal Singh, The Political Philosophy of Muhammad Iqbal: Islam and Nationalism in Late Colonial India, Cambridge University Press, 2012.
This book reflects upon the political philosophy of Muhammad Iqbal, a towering intellectual figure in South Asian history, revered by many for his poetry and his thought. The book studies Iqbal’s critique of nationalist ideology and his attempts to chart a path for the development of the ‘nation’ by liberating it from the centralizing and homogenizing tendencies of the modern state structure.

Sharkey, Heather J., Living with Colonialism: Nationalism and the Culture in the Anglo Egyptian Sudan, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003.
This book examines the history of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (1898-1956) and the Republic of Sudan that followed in order to understand how colonialism worked on the ground, affected local cultures, influenced the rise of nationalism, and shaped the postcolonial nation-state. Relying on a rich cache of Sudanese Arabic literary sources, including poetry, essays, and memoirs, as well as on colonial documents and photographs, this perceptive study examines colonialism from the viewpoint of those who lived and worked in its midst.