Rebels Against the Raj: Western Fighters for India’s Freedom

By Ramachandra Guha


‘A narrative of startling originality … As discussions of Britain’s colonial legacy become increasingly polarised, we are in ever more need of nuanced books like this one’ SAM DALRYMPLE, SPECTATOR

Rebels Against the Raj tells the little-known story of seven people who chose to struggle for a country other than their own: foreigners to India who across the late 19th to late 20th century arrived to join the freedom movement fighting for independence.

Of the seven, four were British, two American, and one Irish. Four men, three women. Before and after being jailed or deported they did remarkable and pioneering work in a variety of fields: journalism, social reform, education, organic agriculture, environmentalism.

This book tells their stories, each renegade motivated by idealism and genuine sacrifice; each connected to Gandhi, though some as acolytes where others found endless infuriation in his views; each understanding they would likely face prison sentences for their resistance, and likely live and die in India; each one leaving a profound impact on the region in which they worked, their legacies continuing through the institutions they founded and the generations and individuals they inspired.

Through the entwined lives, wonderfully told by one of the world’s finest historians, we reach deep insights into relations between India and the West, and India’s story as a country searching for its identity and liberty beyond British colonial rule.

Format: Paperback
Release Date: 19 Jan 2023
Pages: 496
ISBN: 978-0-00-849880-1
RAMACHANDRA GUHA was born and raised in the Himalayan foothills. He studied in Delhi and Kolkata, and has lived for many years in Bengaluru. His many books include a pioneering environmental history, The Unquiet Woods, a landmark history of his country, India after Gandhi, and an authoritative biography of Mahatma Gandhi, both volumes of which were chosen by the New York Times as a Notable Book of the Year. Having previously taught at Yale, Stanford, and the London School of Economics, he is currently Distinguished University Professor at Krea University. Guha’s awards include the Leopold-Hidy Prize of the American Society of Environmental History, the Howard Milton Award of the British Society for Sports History, the R. K. Narayan Prize and the Fukuoka Prize. He is the recipient of a honorary doctorate in the humanities from Yale University.

‘A narrative of startling originality … his excitement at discovering a forgotten chapter of Indian history is contagious … As discussions of Britain’s colonial legacy become increasingly polarised, we are in ever more need of nuanced books like this one’Sam Dalrymple, Spectator -

‘Fascinating and provocative … Guha organises his material expertly and presents it clearly and stylishly, illuminating an aspect of Raj history which is often forgotten or neglected but which is nonetheless crucial for an understanding both of present-day India and of Britons’ complex and ambivalent past relationship to this ‘jewel’ in their collective crown. This superb book does them justice, as well as adding a new dimension to the histories both of subject India and of imperial Britain - and being a thoroughly good read’Literary Review -

‘Guha has done well to remind us of these forgotten stories, all the more as India, like much of the world, is becoming more xenophobic and intolerant, believing all the virtues lie in national frontiers’Irish Times -

‘Illuminating and engaging … Guha’s wide-ranging research and lucid narration brings to life these men and women … Rebels Against the Raj, however, makes a larger, more important and incisive point. Guha calls the lives and work of these rebels a morality tale for the world we now inhabit - a world incandescent with xenophobia and jingoism, and full of contempt for thoughts and ideas that a culture can imbibe from outside its borders’New Statesman -

‘Eminently readable and dazzling … Painstakingly researched, this is history writing at its best. It is indeed a masterly study of hitherto neglected western figures of modern India and opens a new way of engaging with the complex fault-lines between nationalism and imperialism, between India and the West … Guha’s outstanding work … couldn’t be more relevant. Every Indian should read this book’The Tribune -