London: Thornton Butterworth Ltd., 1931. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the first edition, first printing, in the quite scarce hardcover binding. India is a collection of ten Churchill speeches as part of his campaign against the India Bill, over which he broke with his party’s leadership. The first edition is most commonly found in orange paper wraps. An unknown but certainly far smaller number were issued in hardcover bindings, of which there are two variants - one with the spine title reading horizontally and one with the spine title reading vertically.
This vertically spine-titled copy approaches very good condition, somewhat soiled and sunned but nonetheless fully intact and unrestored. The striking orange cloth remains square and tight, moderately spine sunned with some toning to the perimeter of the covers as well. Wear is light, mostly confined to the spine ends and corners. Differential toning to the endpapers corresponding to dust jacket flaps testify that this copy must have long been protected by the extravagantly rare dust jacket, which regrettably is lost. The contents are mildly age-toned, but otherwise quite clean internally. Spotting, endemic to the edition, is light, substantially confined to the top edge of the text block, which also shows dust soiling.
India is, in many ways, an archetypal work of Churchill’s “wilderness years” in the 1930s, which saw him out of power and out of favor, unable to leverage the policies to which he nonetheless applied himself with characteristic vigor and eloquence. Though his cause was lost, these speeches are considered to contain some of the finest examples of Churchill's rhetorical brilliance. Churchill spent formative time as a young 19th century cavalry officer fighting on the northwest Indian frontier, about which he would write his first published book. He certainly did not adopt an early progressive attitude toward relinquishing control over the crown jewel of Britain's colonial empire. Nonetheless, it is instructive to remember that many of Churchill's dire warnings about Indian independence proved prophetic. Churchill had warned that too swift a British withdrawal from India would lead to bloody civil war and sectarian strife between Hindus and Muslims, Hindu domination, and destabilizing political balkanization of the subcontinent. All these predictions came to pass and, to a considerable extent, persist today.
Nonetheless, there is no question that relinquishing India was more than simply a matter of policy. Churchill’s faith in the British Empire’s beneficence and destiny could approach obdurate. There was perhaps more than just characteristic wartime defiance in his 10 November 1942 utterance, “We have not entered this war for profit or expansion…Let me, however, make this clear… I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire. For that task, if ever it were prescribed, someone else would have to be found.” Someone else was found; Churchill’s wartime premiership fell to the Labour victory in the July 1945 General Election, relegating Churchill to Leader of the Opposition. In that capacity Churchill addressed the House of Commons on 6 March 1947 regarding the Indian Independence Bill of Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s Government: “It is with deep grief I watch the clattering down of the British Empire, with all its glories and all the services it has rendered to mankind… at least, let us not add – by shameful flight, by a premature, hurried scuttle… to the pangs of sorrow so many of us feel, the taint and smear of shame.” On 15 August 1947 the Indian Independence Bill took effect, creating the independent nations of India and Pakistan and birthing the world’s most populous democracy in what was arguably the largest single act of political liberation in history. Independence also unfettered religious and communal strife that has lethally festered and flared ever since, claiming Gandhi himself in January 1948.
Reference: Cohen A92.1.b, Woods/ICS A38(a), Langworth p.150. Item #005980