London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1931. First edition, first printing. Paperback. This superior collector-worthy pair are the first edition, first printing, in the striking but fragile orange softcover ("wraps") binding, accompanied by the look-alike second and final printing in green wraps, both housed in a two-chambered green goatskin Solander case. India is a collection of ten Churchill speeches, part of his campaign against the India Bill over which he broke with his party’s leadership. Though his cause was lost, these speeches are considered to contain some of the finest examples of Churchill's rhetorical brilliance.
The first printing is in very good condition. We find it increasingly difficult to find copies thus. The orange wraps binding remains tight, complete, and vividly hued. We note no color shift between the spine and covers. There is a mild vertical spine dimple, but no actual creasing. Light wear is confined to extremities and soiling is negligible. The contents are atypically clean with no previous ownership marks and notably free of spotting; we find only three faint spots on the fore edges. The second printing in green wraps is also a very good example. The binding is square, clean, tight, and complete. The lack of any spine creasing indicates that this copy is unread. We note only faint creasing and incidental wear to a few corners and a small, circular stain at the front cover fore edge. The contents are mildly age-toned but quite clean, with no previous ownership marks and light spotting confined to the title page and page edges.
The handsome green goatskin Solander case features raised spine bands and red leather labels printed and ruled in gilt. Within, the case features bifurcated compartments, the second printing on the right, the first printing housed beneath a secondary cloth clamshell cover on the left. Condition of the case is fine, with no appreciable wear, soiling, or toning noted.
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. 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 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, to Churchill relinquishing India seemed more than simply a matter of policy. There was perhaps more than just 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. Under Prime Minister Clement Attlee, the Indian Independence Bill took effect on 15 August 1947, 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.c & A92.1.e; Woods/ICS A38(a), Langworth p.150. Item #006043