Rajnarayan Chandavarkar

Rajnarayan Chandavarkar has completed a social history of the Bombay working class in the early 20th century. He is a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

India for the English

Rajnarayan Chandavarkar, 8 March 1990

The history of the British Raj is emotional, complex and controversial. It invokes guilt and shame, nostalgia and pride, for diferent reasons, in Britain as well as in India. It represents not merely a relic of the past but a vibrant, self-generating, living myth. Its collective memory, images and symbols have proved indispensable to the definition of Englishness, or perhaps Britishness. In the ‘sceptical’ 1960s, Trevor Royle tells us, some people considered the British Raj a ‘shameful thing’, and ‘the idea of empire was met with derision by younger intellectuals’; now, in the Eighties, happily liberated from guilt, ‘people want to know … why the privilege of being British has been so absolute,’ and ‘the benefits of empire … are being examined again with interest and, let it be said, not a little pride.’

Midnight’s children come to power

Rajnarayan Chandavarkar, 30 March 1989

When Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto recently signed their Islamabad accord, the similarities in their lives and backgrounds immediately attracted widespread attention. They were born, after all, to the same, Western-educated, international, urban élite in the Indian sub-continent. They were both, more and less, midnight’s children, although the younger Benazir might be more accurately attributed to the early hours of the morning. They shared an Oxbridge past. Their parents had been assassinated by their political opponents. They entered office almost as naturally as if they were claiming their inheritance. Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded his mother, is the grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister; wearing the mantle of her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the former President who was deposed and then hanged by her predecessor, Benazir presents herself simply as the Daughter of the East. The pundits have been swift to discern in these lineages the peculiar weaknesses of south Asian democracy.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences