Bolshevism, Islamism, Nationalism: Britain’s Problems in South Asia, 1918–1923
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As many scholars have noted, in the immediate years after the First World War, the British Empire faced important challenges to its future survival, not least of which was the growth of three key movements: Bolshevism, Islamism and nationalism. This thesis examines how Britain coped with these problems, by exploring the internal government debates regarding foreign policy formulation towards South Asia, specifically in the countries of Persia and Afghanistan. It is the contention of this work that the current literature on this subject suffers from certain flaws, the first being that not enough writers have discussed the interrelation of these three movements. Secondly, there has been a lack of focus on how officials in London and in Delhi thought quite differently on the issue of Britain’s foreign policy in South Asia after 1918. This thesis will address these, and other, gaps in the literature. It will contend that there were those within the Home government who displayed a particular mode of thought – a ‘Great Game mentality’ – towards this region. This mentality was influenced by the legacy of the earlier, 19th-century rivalry between Britain and Russia, and resulted in a tendency to over-emphasise the threat of Russian Bolshevism to Britain’s imperial interests in South Asia, whilst at the same time under-emphasising the threat of nationalism and pan-Islamism across Persia, Afghanistan and India. When the Indian government questioned this Great Game mentality, it was largely ignored and frequently maligned. The work will demonstrate how those of the Great Game mind-set dominated the creation of Britain’s policy towards Persia, Afghanistan and adjoining regions in 1918 and 1919, how events of 1920 and 1921 forced London to reassess this Great Game thinking, and how (by 1922 and 1923) this re-evaluation had developed into re-formulation of British foreign policy in South Asia.
AuthorsCampbell, Heather Alison
- Theses