London: Thornton Butterworth Ltd., 1931. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the first edition, first printing, in the first variant of the quite scarce hardcover binding. 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 edition is most common in orange paper wraps. An unknown but far smaller number were issued in hardcover bindings, of which there are two variants - one with the spine titled horizontally and one with the spine titled vertically. Churchill’s bibliographer, Ronald Cohen, gives precedence to the horizontally-titled variant which, in our experience, is also scarcer.
This horizontally titled hardcover first printing is in good plus condition, sound and complete, marred, its defects aesthetic rather than substantive. The striking orange cloth binding is square and tight but significantly dulled and grubby, with irregular toning in addition to the soiling and superficial scuffing. The contents are respectably clean. Spotting, endemic to the edition, is quite light, primarily confined to the prelims. Age-toning is modest, manifest only to the page edges. The sole previous ownership mark appears to have been an inked inscription on the upper rear pastedown that is now so faded as to be barely legible and indecipherable. The binding is protected beneath a clear, removable, mylar 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, relinquishing India seemed more than simply a matter of policy. 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 Labour 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.a, Woods/ICS A38(a), Langworth p.150. Item #006902