London: Thornton Butterworth Ltd., 1931. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This first edition, first printing, is 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 fraction were issued in hardcover bindings, of which there are two variants - one spine-titled horizontally and one 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, complete, and notably clean within. The striking orange cloth binding is square, tight, and sharp-cornered with only mild spine toning. The chief defects are modest overall soiling and evidence of mild, superficial moisture exposure to the upper right front cover. The contents are compellingly clean. Spotting is endemic to the edition, but here there is only a faint hint of it confined to the top edges of the text block. The sole previous ownership mark is contemporary – an inked name and “1933” date on the upper front pastedown. The only apparent internal toning is some transfer browning to the endpapers from the pastedown glue. The binding is protected with 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 #007691