Book Review in Wall Street Journal

April 16, 2013

Curries without Worries

India’s Founding Fathers

By the time Queen Victoria was declared Empress of India, the subcontinent’s ancient political traditions had been all but erased.

Britain dominated India for almost two centuries—initially through the East India Co. and later directly as the Raj—finally granting it independence in 1947. The Indian anti-colonial struggle was unique in that it reached its goal without violent overthrow. This was one of the great achievements of the nationalist movement’s enlightened leadership.

In “Righteous Republic: The Political Foundations of Modern India,” the historian Ananya Vajpeyi shows how these leaders looked to ancient Indian texts and traditions as they led the nation toward swaraj, or self-rule. The author profiles five prominent anti-colonial leaders and examines how each of them contributed to the nation’s successful “search for the self”: Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, who need no introduction; the Bengali poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath…

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