With the dawn of independence in 1947 the compelling need to write an authentic history of the Freedom Movement in India was keenly felt in enlightened circles. Such an account would, without doubt, be a perennial source of inspiration to the future generations in the responsible task of preservation of the country's hard-earned political freedom and enhancement of material prosperity and welfare. The traditions of the past and the experiences of the present should guide the hopes and expectations of the future. The Government of India took the necessary steps to compile the history of the Freedom Movement. They urged the State Governments as well to expedite the preparation of the regional histories of the Freedom Movement. Accordingly the Government of Kerala entrusted the research project to the Regional Records Survey Committee, Kerala. There were changes in the Committee, from time to time, in regard to both number and personnel. The history of the Indian Freedom Movement, according to the plan of the Central Board of Editors, has to be written in three volumes. In the first volume it was proposed to deal with the social, political, cultural and economic conditions of India up to the end of the nineteenth century. It is therefore appropriate to begin the first volume of the Freedom Movement of Kerala with the advent of the Western colonial powers and end it with the foundation of the Indian National Congress in 1885. During this period the impact of the West brought about visible changes in the life of the people through the introduction of English education and modern science. Sufficient attention has been paid to the inter-action of the events of European history and the developments in Kerala. Care has also been taken to note the mutual connection between the developments in British India and those in the States in social, religious and political fields. During the period covered by this volume, Kerala was divided into three political divisions, Malabar, Cochin and Travancore. Although there was community of blood, religion, language, customs and manners favouring a pan-Kerala union, the local jealousies and the parochial interests of the Rulers prevented such a union. The growth of national and social consciousness was steady and more or less uniform in the three political divisions. It gave the people a broader vision which helped them to subordinate local feeling and ultimately to get freedom from foreign yoke and realise the ideals of political unity and popular sovereignty. The second volume (1885-1938) would describe how the seeds of the new learning began to sprout, and the plants began to flower here and there. There was an important change in the outlook and political thought of the people. They began to question why they were not given a proper share in the government. They were not satisfied with the model of enlightened despotism, characteristic of the eighteenth century, which was philanthropic and beneficent, and employed more or less intelligently for the good of the people. It was nevertheless a despotism, everything coming from above, and nothing from the people below. The later stages of this period witnessed unfortunately the growth of intense communal feeling in Travancore, resulting in the demand for proportioned representation in the services and in the representative institutions. But it was only a passing phase in the progressive march towards nationalism. The third volume (1938-1948) would deal with the history of a memorable decade in the history of Kerala. It makes another stage in the development of the political thought of the people, which spontaneously grew out of their widening experiences and the changing needs of the time. phenomenal success of the latter in bringing the whole of India under their sway. Under the impact of western civilization the Indian society seemed to reel and fall. But it did not succumb to it. It recovered from the rude shock, drew inspiration from its own glorious past and gradually began to assert itself. This development transferred the static society into a dynamic one; it inspired the people to break the barriers of custom and superstition and engendered a spirit of nationalism. The foreigners who came to the shores of Kerala, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the English were not colonialists at the outset. They at first came not for conquest but for commerce, for lucre and not for sceptre. But flag followed trade.
A survey of our struggle for national independence necessarily involves unbiased and objective evaluation of men and events. In doing so, the socio-political set-up that existed at the time of the advent of the foreigners has to be borne in mind. That will unmistakably provide the correct perspective for comprehending the causes that led to the establishment of foreign domination in India. The Indian people strongly reacted to alien rule and, on occasions, violently. They had come face to face with a civilization that was quite strange to them. The people and their Rulers lost their power and importance in the country. Nevertheless the craving for independence lingered in the minds of Indians who hated their foreign masters. The impact of western culture and civilization and the dissemination of western political ideas brought about a revolution in Indian political thought which culminated in the realization of a new personality and of a new self-respect, arrd vitality. This kindled the fire of nationalism and inspired the quest for independence which ultimately paved the way for the overthrow of the British empire in India. It will be futile merely to condemn British imperialism for India's loss of her national freedom, if ever Indians could be considered a nation at that time. There were vital defects in the socio-political fabric of our society. As against this, there were some elements of dynamism and progress in the socio-political order of the foreign nations with whom Indians had come into contact. Their political and economic organisations were incomparably superior to those of the Indians, and much more so their military organisation and technical skill. These factors were vital advantages the English had enjoyed and they account The "Universal state" which the Mughals tried to establish in India could not endure the challenge of the overwhelming majority of its subjects whose religious susceptibilities were at variance with those of the Rulers. This internal challenge had disintegrated the Mughal empire and created a situation bordering on chaos. Still worse was the condition that prevailed in Kerala. The "Universal State" provided by the Chera Rulers had vanished. The land came to be divided among a large number of princes and chieftains often at war with one another. In the absence of a central power to hold them together, they fell an easy prey to the onslaught of the western colonial powers. What was the type of society over the destiny of which these rulers presided? It was a stratified and static society, caste-ridden and hide-bound by custom. The small group of Muslims and Christians who were outside the pale of the caste system did not quite harmonise with this. This state of affairs forced a large section of the population to be indifferent towards political developments. If indications there are any, they rather point to their active connivance with the invader.
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