Chapter-10 : Emergence of Modern Nationalism in India

Arora IAS Class Notes 

Factors Leading to Modern Nationalism in India

Growth of Indian Nationalism:

  • Explained by India’s response to British rule and a mix of other factors:
    • Worldwide Nationalism:French Revolution’s ideas of self-determination.
    • Indian Renaissance:Cultural revival and social reforms.
    • British Modernization:Unintended consequence of British policies.
    • Reaction to British Rule:Resistance to British imperialism.

Understanding Nationalism vs. Colonial Interests:

  • Recognition of British rule harming India’s economy.
  • Nationalist movement emerged to challenge colonial exploitation.

Political & Economic Unification by British Rule:

  • Established a unified state larger than previous empires.
  • Introduced a professional civil service, judiciary, and codified laws.
  • Developed modern transportation and communication networks (railways, roads, etc.).
  • Unified economic fate of different regions.
  • Enabled easier communication and mobilization of people.

Influence of Western Thought and Education:

  • Modern education exposed Indians to Western ideas.
  • Liberal and radical thinkers like Mill, Rousseau, Paine inspired Indian nationalists.
  • English language facilitated communication among leaders from different regions.
  • Exposed educated Indians to functioning democracies, highlighting a lack of rights in India.
  • English-educated middle class became the core of the nationalist movement.

Role of Press and Literature:

  • Growth of Indian-owned newspapers in English and vernacular languages, despite restrictions.
  • Criticized British policies and urged national unity.
  • Spread ideas of self-government, democracy, and civil rights.
  • Facilitated exchange of ideas among nationalist leaders.

Rediscovery of India’s Past:

  • Historical research by Europeans and Indians highlighted India’s rich heritage.
  • Countered colonial myths of Indian servility.
  • Boosted self-respect and confidence among educated Indians.

Progressive Social and Religious Reform Movements:

  • Aimed to remove social evils and unite Indian society.
  • Played a significant role in the growth of nationalism.

Rise of the Middle Class Intelligentsia:

  • Emergence of a new urban middle class due to British administration and economy.
  • Well-educated, with a sense of unity and purpose.
  • Provided leadership to the Indian National Congress.

Impact of Contemporary World Movements:

  • Success of national liberation movements in other countries inspired Indian nationalists.
  • Examples: South American revolutions, Greece, Italy, and Ireland.

Reactionary Policies and Racial Arrogance of British Rulers:

  • British policies perpetuated racial superiority and discrimination.
  • Lytton’s policies (reduced ICS exam age limit, Delhi Durbar during famine, Vernacular Press Act, Arms Act) provoked opposition.
  • Ilbert Bill controversy: Exposed limitations of expecting fair play from British.
  • Taught nationalists the power of organized agitation.


Political Associations Before the Indian National Congress

Early Dominance of Aristocratic Elements:

  • Early 19th-century political associations mostly led by wealthy and aristocratic individuals.
  • Primarily local or regional in focus.
  • Key demands included administrative reforms, Indian participation in administration, and promotion of education.

Shift Towards Educated Middle Class:

  • Later in the 19th century, political associations increasingly dominated by educated middle-class professionals like lawyers, journalists, doctors, and teachers.
  • Adopted a broader perspective and agenda, reflecting evolving socio-political dynamics.


Political Associations in Pre-Colonial India


  1. Bangabhasha Prakasika Sabha (1836):
    • Founded by associates of Raja Rammohan Roy.
    • Advocated for socio-cultural reforms and vernacular language use.
  2. Zamindari Association (Landholders’ Society):
    • Established to protect landlord interests.
    • Initiated organised political activity and constitutional agitation.
  3. Bengal British India Society (1843):
    • Formed to collect and disseminate information about British India.
    • Focused on peaceful and lawful means for the welfare of all classes.
  4. British Indian Association (1851):
    • Result of the merger between Zamindari Association and Bengal British India Society.
    • Sent petition to British Parliament demanding reforms in the Charter of the Company, partially accepted in Charter Act of 1853.
    • Demands included a separate legislature, separation of executive and judicial functions, and reduction in salaries of higher officers.
  5. East India Association (1866):
    • Organised by Dadabhai Naoroji in London to discuss Indian issues.
    • Later expanded with branches in prominent Indian cities.
  6. Indian League (1875):
    • Founded by Sisir Kumar Ghosh to foster nationalism and political education.
  7. Indian Association of Calcutta (1876):
    • Also known as the Indian National Association.
    • Founded by Surendranath Banerjea and Ananda Mohan Bose.
    • Aimed at promoting political, intellectual, and material advancement of Indians.
    • Demanded reforms in civil service examinations and protested against repressive British laws.
    • Organised an all-India conference in Calcutta in 1883, laying groundwork for an all-India nationalist organisation.
    • Merged with Indian National Congress in 1886.


  • Poona Sarvajanik Sabha (1867) – Founded by Mahadev Govind Ranade.
  • Bombay Presidency Association (1885) – Founded by Badruddin Tyabji, Pherozeshah Mehta, and K.T. Telang.


  • Madras Mahajan Sabha (1884) – Founded by M. Viraraghavachari, B. Subramania Aiyer, and P. Ananda Charlu.

Pre-Congress Campaigns (1875-1885)

  • Import duty on cotton (1875)
  • Indianisation of government service (1878-79)
  • Opposition to:
    • Lytton’s Afghan adventure (1878)
    • Arms Act (1878)
    • Vernacular Press Act (1878)
  • Support for:
    • Right to join volunteer corps
    • Ending plantation labor abuses (against Inland Emigration Act)
    • Ilbert Bill
    • All-India Fund for Political Agitation
    • Pro-India candidates in British elections
  • Against reduction in maximum age for Indian Civil Service exam (Indian Civil Service agitation)











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