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Last updated:07 May 2015


For decades India’s fortunes were inextricably linked with those of the United Kingdom, usually at the expense of India.

The growth of textile production in North West England was at the expense of manufacturing in India, whose workers were used for the production of raw materials and food, which was often exported without regard for food security of its producers and their families.

Industrialisation and the associated growth of a labour movement were accompanied, as in the West by the adoption of socialist intentions. In India however, it was the Communist Party which was dominant in the early days.

Cover of Trade Unionism in India by Ben BradleyThe All-India Trade Union Congress was formed in 1920 and the Communist Party in 1926. Throughout the next few years there were increasing waves of strikes and confrontations.

In 1929 a large number of trade unionists were arrested and jailed in Northern India, in what was known as the Meerut Conspiracy Trial. Three of the defendants were English and communist, including one Mancunian, Lester Hutchings.

An international campaign for the release of the prisoners kept the case alive through to the 1933 appeal when sentences were reduced. As part of the campaign, Manchester's street theatre group the Red Megaphones performed a Workers Theatre Movement play.


Related Objects of the Month

August 2014: Autographs - and a link to Indian independence

Autograph album"Long Live Indian Independence". With these words the men of the British Battalion of the XV International Brigade in Spain greeted the visit of Jahawarlal Nehru and V. Krishna Menon.

October 2011: Gandhi in Darwen, September 1931

Cotton crisis resolutionOn 28 April 1931 a mass meeting was held in Blackburn to voice concerns about the state of the Lancashire cotton industry, in the light of the Indian National Congress Party's boycott of British goods - particularly textiles - five months later Gandhi visited Darwen to see conditions for himself


Resources about India in the library collection

Ben Bradley, India: what we must do (1942) - Shelfmark: AG India Box 1

Jean Jones, Ben Bradley: fighter for India's freedom (no date) - Shelfmark: AG India Box 3

J Hindle and M Brothers, Conditions in the textile industry of India: the report of an investigation (1927) - Shelfmark: AG India Box 2

Arthur W Silver, Manchester men and Indian cotton, 1847-1872 (1966) - Shelfmark: H50

Peter Harnetty, Imperialism and free trade - Lancashire and India in the mid-nineteenth century (1972) - Shelfmark: H41

S Saklatvala and MK Gandhi, Is India different?: the class struggle in India - correspondence on the Indian labour movement and modern conditions (1927) - Shelfmark: AG India Box 1

Romesh Dutt, The economic history of India in the Victorian age - from the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 to the commencement of the twentieth century 5th ed. (1900) - Shelfmark: K04

R Palme Dutt, India to-day (1940) - Shelfmark: E08

Edward Thompson, A history of India (1927) - Shelfmark: Q41