London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1931. First edition, first printing, wraps issue. Paperback. This is an exceptionally clean and well-preserved first edition, first printing, in the striking but fragile orange softcover ("wraps") 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.
This first printing is in very good plus condition. The orange wraps binding remains square, the wraps firmly attached, the spine uncreased, clearly unread. The wraps, including the spine, retain strong orange hue and are also quite clean. Trivial loss is confined to the upper and lower front joint and there is only incidental shelf wear to extremities, including a small, faint crease to the lower front corner. The contents are surprisingly bright and clean, with no previous ownership marks. Light spotting appears confined to the bottom edge of the text block.
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, and 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.c; Woods/ICS A38(a), Langworth p.150. Item #007743