Signposts on the Road to Decline

In late 1930 the Tory leadership in Britain’s governing coalition decided to back independence for India despite the increasing, vicious sectarian violence that graphically showed India was not yet ready for the British to leave. Later, historian A.L. Rowse would link partisan self-interest to the failure of nerve and collapse of morale that lay behind the policies of the ruling caste. It was in 1931, Rowse wrote, that “the caste lost confidence in itself and, undermined by fear, it lost not only confidence but conscience. Confused in mind about everything, except the main chance––its own preservation, it survived from year to year, from month to month, from day to day, by blurring the clarity of all issues, even the most dangerous––that of the nation’s safety; it maintained its enormous majority by electoral trickery, it spoke and perhaps thought in the language of humbug, it hoped to stave off conflict . . . by offering appeasement.

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