Nehru: A Political Life

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The first prime minister of India after independence from British rule, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) was a major architect of India as a nation state. His dedication to politics led to imprisonment under British rule, a deeply disturbed family life, and eventually to nearly two decades in power during which he ceaselessly pursued his vision of a transformed and democratic India. This compelling biography depicts the phases of Nehru's life and shows how each phase reflected new developments in Indian politics. Drawing on new sources including Nehru's post-1947 papers which have not been accessible before, Judith M. Brown offers the most complete and penetrating account of Nehru yet written. Casting new light on both the public and private Nehru, the book also provides an array of insights into the history of India's nationalist movement and international standing, and into the complexities of constructing a new nation state in the aftermath of imperial rule."A superb book. Judith Brown catches the spirit of Nehru's times as well as his own tribulations and achievements."-Wm. Roger Louis, University of Texas at Austin

Author Biography: Judith M. Brown is Beit Professor of Commonwealth History, University of Oxford, and professorial fellow of Balliol College, Oxford.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Brown's political biography, drawing on access to new papers from Nehru's years as prime minister, offers a nourishing and balanced life, largely sympathetic but willing to acknowledge Nehru's errors. — Steve Coll
Publishers Weekly
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), India's first prime minister, was from a well-to-do Kashmiri family. To rise in politics he had to connect with the real India represented by the maverick apostle of nonviolence, Mohandas Gandhi. As Gandhi's political heir, Nehru presided over the birth of the republic in 1947, then clung to power as his authority ebbed with illness and age. His patrician sense of knowing what was good for India, even when that clashed with the realities of nation-building and imperial devolution, lies at the core of Brown's biography. In the foreground, as colonial rule grudgingly fades, are Nehru's cycles of imprisonment for anti-British protests and his uneasy adaptation to the dynamics of party struggle and social change. The pressures of Indian tradition in conflict with Nehru's Western upbringing, and the East-West ambivalence of his public and private lives, put his personality under agonizing strain, which emerges here largely in passing. Brown, biographer of Gandhi and an Oxford historian, focuses upon the challenges to Nehru as father of Indian independence. Although Nehru's family ties and friendships do not escape scrutiny, it is the political side of Nehru that dominates the book. Despite the density of detail, Brown sometimes evades or downplays controversial aspects of Nehru's stewardship of India-the domestic impact of the Japanese-sponsored Indian National Army formed by Chandra Bose from prisoners of war; Nehru's stubbornly embarrassing and damaging appointments; his dubious flirtations with communism and the Soviet bloc. Nevertheless, this is the fullest one-volume life of Nehru available, and a primer of 20th-century Indian politics. Illus. not seen by PW. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300092790
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 440
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction 1
Pt. 1 An Imperial Heritage, 1889-1920 7
1 India and the British Raj: Opportunity and Challenge 9
2 The Young Nehru: Privilege and Promise 30
3 The Turning Point 50
Pt. 2 The Ambiguities of Mass Nationalism, 1920-1939 63
4 The Making of a Politician 65
5 A Radical Bound, 1926-31 81
6 Whither India? 104
7 Isolation 120
Pt. 3 The Tragedies of an Imperial Ending, 1939-1948 137
8 The Experience of War, 1939-1945 139
9 The Experience of Independence, 1945-1948 157
Pt. 4 Founding a Nation, 1948-1956 183
10 Imagining the Nation 185
11 Structuring the Nation 203
12 Forging the Nation 223
13 Creating an International Identity 244
Pt. 5 Frustration of Vision, 1957-1964 273
14 The Realities of Democratic Leadership 275
15 A New India? 299
16 The Erosion of Authority 316
Conclusion 338
App Elections in India, 1952-1962 346
Notes 349
Bibliography 392
Index 399
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