Colgate University Libraries


The British Empire was a testament to the greatness and superiority of the society, government, and culture of the British people. For young men, the great maps of the British Empire were intoxicating, illustrating the immensity of Britain's possessions and fueling British beliefs of the importance of the imperial mission (Attlee 6). Even though the Empire spanned the entire globe, one possession stood above all the rest. In 1960, at an Oxford lecture on the British Empire, former Prime Minister Clement Attlee stated, "At the dawn of the century the Indian Empire was by far the most populous of all countries under the British Crown. The possession of India dominated our strategy" (Attlee 28). This self-acknowledged greatness of the British crown, coupled with the importance of India, were underlying factors of the British reactions to the events between WWII and the final partition in 1947. In this paper, I will argue that Britain's stated belief in its own benevolence towards India is severely undermined by its own actions, the prevailing situation within India, and international influences. First, I will examine Britain's handling of the "India question" from 1946 to 1947, and how, as presented in The Times, Britain viewed its own results. Second, I will explain how various factors within India forced the defeated British to give into Indian demands. Third, I will examine to what effect Britain's new post-war status and relations with the United States forced Indian independence. Finally, I will reveal how the British strived to preserve their international image and economic presence with the subcontinent.