Russell and Indian Independence


  • Andrew G. Bone McMaster University



At the height of the Sino-Indian border dispute in 1962, Bertrand Russell, as “a lifetime friend of India” (Unarmed Victory, p. 88), appealed to Prime Minister Nehru for peace. Yet for the first 75 years of Russell’s life, India had not been an independent, developing state whose non-aligned diplomacy he could (usually) admire, but rather an economically and stra­tegically vital part of the British Empire. Thus Russell’s fraternal bond with India was formed during its protracted struggle against British rule. The central purpose of this article is to reconstruct Russell’s occasionally contorted connection with that historic contest, and it will do so by drawing on a wealth of neglected textual material. More than simply fleshing out a significant but overlooked chapter in Russell’s political life, this assessment of his decades-long association, as participant and observer, with the campaign for Indian independence also strives to capture the complex essence of his thinking on questions of empire generally.