Hopkinton, New Hampshire: Dragonwyck Publishing, 1990. First U.S. edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is a superior, jacketed copy of the first U.S. edition, only printing. First published in 1931, India is a collection of 10 speeches by Churchill as 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 1931 British first edition is most commonly found in orange paper wraps. A much rarer variant was issued in a hardcover binding. This U.S. first edition of 1990 is a beautiful and exacting reproduction of the hardcover variant of the British first edition. Of note, the binding size, color, and print are exceptionally close to the original clothbound 1931 first edition. The contents add a substantive new foreword by Manfred Weidhorn. The original text is bracketed within by reproductions of the original orange wraps. Unfortunately the remaining stock of this excellent reproduction was destroyed by fire and there are no other such modern reprints. Moreover, this reproduction has similar vulnerabilities to the original British first edition hardcover – both the cloth binding and jacket quite prone to fading and soiling.
Here is an exceptional, fine copy. The binding is flawless and completely without wear or soiling. The sole exterior blemish we find to report is a minor dimple in the spine cloth, clearly a binding flaw. The contents are beautifully crisp and bright with no previous ownership marks and no spotting. The clean, crisp, and complete orange dust jacket shows just a trivial hint of wrinkling to the spine head and barely discernible color shift to the spine. The dust jacket is protected with a removable, archival quality clear cover.
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 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. 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 A92.2.b, Woods/ICS A38(b), Langworth p.152. Item #006328