Do you agree with the view that Indian desires for independence from Britain were caused mainly by the impact of the First World War?
The First World War broke out in 1914 and it caused severe distress among the people and industries of India. To a large extent, I agree that the First World War caused Indian desires for independence from the British, although I do believe that there was beginning to be attitudes and desires to part from the British before the war had begun, which some evidence is suggestive of.
Prior to the war, Indians had focussed on campaigning for ‘home rule’ but had never really wanted independence from the British entirely but this attitude changed after the war when campaigns for Purna Swaraj (total independence) began. This is suggested in source 13 when it states that “By 1900 the Indian National Congress was already established” so from my own knowledge, I am aware that originally the Indian National Congress strove towards getting India home rule from the British. This would mean that India had a constituent part of the state and were able to govern themselves. Similarly in source 14, a speech by Gandhi to Congress, we read that he was very supportive towards the British and that he believed “We are, above all, British citizens of the Great British Empire. The speech was given in 1915 which of course is in the middle of the war and at this point we can infer that Gandhi still had the attitude of supporting the British and that he believes that it’s their duty to fight in the war. This attitude of Gandhi’s had dramatically changed after the war and he no longer supported the British and he had wanted total independence from them. In 1920, he had begun his non-cooperation movements and Satyagraha campaign as part of the Indian Independence movement so it is clear from this that the war had significantly changed Gandhi’s support towards the British and he had a desire for independence from Britain. However, as we can infer from source 15, this attitude that Gandhi had had during the war had dramatically changed. Although we have a lot of evidence suggesting that Gandhi’s attitudes changed, this was highly influential within the country as he was seen as a role-model to people and therefore we can assume that this changed many people’s attitudes. Also, the British made promises before the war saying that Indians will be kept in good, clean conditions whilst fighting in the war whereas this was not actually the case. The trenches and other living conditions for the soldiers in the war didn’t live up to expectations meaning that the British were making promises that they could not keep, irritating the Indians. Also angering certain Indians, the British forced Muslims to fight in Turkey, fighting against fellow Muslims which of course caused I severe anger within certain people in India. Throughout the war, Gandhi had returned from South Africa, “convinced that the rule of the white man must end” which suggests the idea that Indian desires for independence was highly influenced by the war.
On the other hand, there is some evidence to suggest that there were already desires for independence before the war had begun which could disagree with the idea that the war was the main cause for change of attitudes within the Indians. This is particularly suggested in source 13 as we can infer from this source that there were already desires for independence from the British prior to the war. The specific line that suggests this is “Before 1914, the British had already faced economic boycotts”. This shows that even before the war had broken out, there were already reasons for the Indian to want independence from the British. Similarly in source 15, there is some evidence that there were these