London: Thornton Butterworth Ltd., 1931. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This book is from the personal collection of Churchill's bibliographer, Ronald I. Cohen. This is the first edition, first printing, in the first variant of the quite scarce hardcover binding in the exceptionally rare dust jacket.
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. A 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. The horizontal spine title takes precedence and is also scarcer.
Hardcover first editions were issued in a striking orange dust jacket that ranks among the rarest dust jackets in the Churchill canon. Here is a spectacularly bright and clean, near-fine copy in the original dust jacket. The dust jacket is highly complete, with only minor loss. The jacket is also impressively bright overall, the spine only modestly and uniformly toned. There are nonetheless flaws. In addition to fractional loss to extremities, the upper right of the front face has a 2.5 inch (6.35 cm) closed tear and the lower right a .75 inch (1.91 cm) closed tear. Both tears were long ago reinforced – thankfully on the verso of the jacket - with sellotape, as was the upper spine and points on the upper edge of the rear face. The tape has predictably yellowed and slightly darkened the paper. Additionally there are a few small spots of incidental insect damage – three spots on the front face adjacent to the spine, one near the lower center of the front face, and a .5 inch angled line on the lower rear face adjacent to the spine.
The coarse orange cloth binding of the scarce hardcover edition proved highly susceptible to both soiling and sunning. This copy is stunning, the cloth remarkably clean, bright, tight, and square, with uniformly vivid orange hue. We note only the slightest hint of soiling at a few extremities and a .5 inch line of superficial scarring to the cloth of the lower rear cover adjacent to the spine, exactly matching the insect damage to the accompanying dust jacket. The contents are bright. Spotting appears almost entirely confined to the page edges. The top edge also shows some dust soiling.
Provenance is interesting. The sole previous ownership name is that of “Charles L. White | London” followed by an indecipherable date on the front free endpaper recto. Laid in is the “WITH COMPLIMENTS” slip of “The Guildhall Bookshop” with a handwritten note stating “Charles Locke White was a distinguished lawyer & priv. secretary to Lloyd George in his youth.” The slip is an unknown number of decades old. The former Middlesex address of the bookshop is, with some irony, now the site of an Indian restaurant.
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.
Reference: Cohen A92.1.a, Woods/ICS A38(a), Langworth p.150. Item #006930