Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography (Set of 3 Volumes)

Item Code: NAG777
Author: Sarvepalli Gopal
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2014
ISBN: 9780198079828
Pages: 1080
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.5 inch X 6.5 inch
Weight 2 kg
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Book Description
About The Author

Sarvepalli Gopal (1923-2002), Padma Vibhushan, was Director of the Historical Division of the Ministry of Extarnal Affairs in Indian from 1954 to 1966. He was also Professor of Contemporary History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Fellow of St Antony's Collage, Oxford; and Chairman of the National Book Trust of India.

About The Book (Volume-I)

Among the few great statesmen to emerge in Asia, Jawaharlal Nehru played a decisive role in the history of the twentieth century by putting India on the world map as a force to be reckoned with. Authored by one of the leading historians of India, these three volumes provide an authoritative first-hand account of Jawaharlal Nehru and his times.

Chronologically arranged, the first of the tree volumes discusses Nehru's early life and ends in1947. The second focuses on the first nine years of his Prime Ministership, and the third examine the last eight years of his life. Shifting effortlessly between the public and private spheres of Nehru the individual, the politician, and the family man, these volumes are as much a social and political history of their times as they are a biography.

This first volume traces Nehru's formative years, youth, entry in political, role in the Independence struggle, and his emergence as a leader of the Congress. It also highlights the role of Kamala Nehru in his life and events surrounding the transfer of power.

Drawing information from rare private papers, this intimate and sensitive portrait o0f Nehru will be indispensable for scholars, researchers, and student of modern Indian history, and politics, as well as the general reader.


Jawaharlal Nehru played a decisive role in the history of the twentieth century as a leader of the Indian people, as a representative of the new mood of Asia, and as a spokesman of the international conscience. So, striking as was his personality, any study of him is bound to be more than merely the personal biography of a great man. This first volume, which covers the period when he strove for India's freedom, has become, because of his influential position, almost a history of the last thirty years of the Indian nationalist movement. While the focus is on the man, and matters in which his interest was peripheral have been skirted over, yet the range is necessarily broad. In the next two volumes, which will cover his seventeen years as Prime Minister, the approach will be the same.

Throughout this volume I have referred to him as Jawaharlal and not as Jawaharlal Nehru. This has the advantage of making it easy to distinguish him from his father, Motilal Nehru, who figures prominently in the first half of the book. But there is also a wider justification. This volume deals primarily with the Indian scene; and to the people of India, who took him to their hearts, he was, and is, Jawaharlal.

This has not been an easy book to write. Jawaharlal was the hero of my youth. Then, for nearly ten years, I served him in the Ministry of External Affairs; and over a fairly long period, from April 1959 to December 1962, I saw him almost every day. He was the Prime Minister,' and I among the most junior of his officials. But my memory is crowded with instances of his personal generosity and affection. So to me his image still glows.

It is hard for me, therefore, to be objective about Jawaharlal Nehru. Yet I have tried; and I have been helped in this by the knowledge that this is what he himself would have wanted. His constant criticism of biographical writing in India was that it tended to be eulogistic and failed to assess the historical and impersonal forces at work.

This work has only been made possible by Shrimathi Indira Gandhi, who has given me unlimited access to her father's papers and placed no restriction on my freedom of opinion and judgement. These papers are now open up to September 1946 and lodged in the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library at New Delhi. When no references are given, the quotations are from these papers. References to some papers which were at Anand Bhawan, Jawaharlal Nehru's residence at Allahabad, are given as Anand Bhawan papers.

References to documents of the period after 1947 are given as from the Nehru papers. Many of Jawaharlal Nehru's letters, articles and statements are being published in the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, being brought out by the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund. Six volumes, covering the years up to the summer of 1936, have so far appeared, and references to these have been cited.

The official records consulted, unless otherwise stated, are those of the Government of India in the National Archives of India at New Delhi.

I am grateful to the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund which invited me to take up this work and granted me various facilities. Many people have talked to me about him, and this has been acknowledged in the footnotes. Sir Olaf Caroe has allowed me to consult his papers. Access was given to me by Dame lsobel Cri pps to such of the Cripps papers as are at Nuffield College, Oxford; by Lady Beatrix Evison to the papers of her father, A.V. Alexander (later Earl Alexander of Hillsborough), at Churchill College, Cambridge; by Mr Robin Hallett to the papers of his father, Sir Maurice Hallett, in the India Office Library; and by the Librarian of the British Library of Political and Economic Science in the London School of Economics to the diaries of Beatrice Webb in the Passfield papers. Dorothy Woodman permitted me to go through the Kingsley Martin papers and the Laski papers which were then in her possession. Shankar has been good enough to let me reprint one of his cartoons.

Mr Christopher Hill most kindly read the manuscript and made many valuable suggestions. Mr Martin Gilbert has helped me with the proofs. I have exploited to the full the goodwill and scholarship of my colleagues at the Centre for Historical Studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru University. I am grateful to all of them.


The years after the suppression of the revolt in 1858 marked the heyday of the raj in India. The British regarded themselves as a superior race ruling by right of conquest, and they saw no reason why they should not remain in India indefinitely. There was little hesitancy about accepting this position. Even Gladstone, who spoke normally in terms of holding India in trust and training Indians in self-government, could write in one of his unbuttoned moods, 'when we go, if we are ever to go .... Efficient administration was all that seemed to be required in order to maintain India within the empire in the in- terests of the British. They led the world in trade and manufacture, and India fitted smoothly into this pattern of world domination. Railways were laid down, with great profit to British investors and manufacturers but with little advantage to economic growth in India. There was a decline in the production of foodgrains and an incentive to grow cotton and jute, which were required by the factories in Britain, and indigo and opium, which sold at high prices abroad. India's export surplus was utilized to balance Britain's deficits with Europe and the United States; but British capital was mostly invested in 'white settler' countries. The banks in India were largely foreign and made no effort to attract Indian capital and direct it to the promotion of Indian industry. The refusal to permit industrialization on any major scale not only arrested progress but distorted the existing economy by increasing the pressure on land, with all the attendant evils of rural indebtedness, absentee landlordism and a large increase in landless labour and seasonal unemployment. The annual per capita income in 1875 has been officially estimated at about £2; and nearly 29 millions are thought to have died of starvation in the years from 1854 to 1901.

It was taken for granted that efficiency in administration meant that it would be, at any level that mattered, untouched by Indian hands. Education in the English language had been introduced in schools, and in 1857, the year that the revolt broke out, universities were established in the three leading towns of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. But the products of these institutions were recruited to no higher posts than those of clerks. Entry by competitive examination into the higher official ranks was in theory open to Indians, but was made in practice almost impossible. All the senior appointments in the civil service were closed to Indians; and in the army, of course, there were no Indian officers at all. Indians were not permitted even to enlist in the volunteer corps.

Yet this unbroken monopoly of power had to be maintained in a vast country distant from the ultimate seat of authority, and by a civil service and troops which were numerically insignificant in comparison to those over whom they ruled. The revolt left with most British a legacy of hatred for Indians as well as an acceptance of the expediency of buttressing their rule with Indian support, if this could be obtained without compromise of their control. The obvious answer seemed to lie in an arrangement with the feudal classes. There were the 662 Indian Princes, with their principalities scattered over the country. Some, like Hyderabad, were as large as an Indian province, others were no more than small estates. But all these Princes had in common-a total dependence on the British, who allowed them, in return for loyalty, to exercise despotic power over their subjects. In British India itself were the rural gentry, the zamindars of Bengal, the talukdars of the United Provinces and the land- lords in other parts of the country. The revenue payable by them to the Government had been settled either in perpetuity or for long terms. It was on these men, whose economic interests were tied to those of the colonial system, that the British relied. It was from their ranks that nominees were chosen for the powerless legislative councils. Other empty, loud-sounding forms were also created to bind the conservative elements of Indian society to the empire without devolving any power or even influence. The Queen was declared Empress of India, an Imperial Assembly was held at Delhi, all the leading Indian Princes were given the title of Counsellors to the Empress, and uneducated young men of high birth were recruited to the lower levels of the public service.

There was, however, another class in India, the small, growing, elite of Indians educated in the English language. By 1885 they were not more than about 50,000. Some of them went into official service; but the majority, the lawyers, the doctors and the journalists, familiar with English political literature, were eager for wider avenues of public work. They were not revolutionaries, asserted their loyalty, and sought only greater opportunities of official employment, administrative reform, facilities for trade and a measure of elections to the legislative councils. For a time, in the years after 1880 when Glad- stone was Prime Minister, an attempt was made to rely on this educated sector rather than on the upper classes. But even in the short term the attempt did- not succeed. Local self-government never took root, while the effort to win middle-class support for the central government was broken by the weakness of the authorities -and the fierce hostility of the British community in India.

The only result was a further quickening of political awareness and the formation of various associations, culminating with the establishment of the Indian National Congress in 1885.

The British Government were not happy about this, but could find no rational grounds for complaint. The Congress was not so much a party in opposition as an over-eager suppliant. Its supporters hoped that the British, who had, for their own reasons, helped to unify India, would now proceed to introduce modern technology and economic organization as well as representative government. That their rulers should reject such proposals, dismiss the Congress as a tiny group which represented nobody and encourage divisive trends in Indian politics were all shocks to their innocence.

About The Book (Volume-II)

Nehru's tenure was fraught with domestic and foreign issues like the struggle between India and Pakistan of Kashmir, first elections of free India based on adult suffrage, demand for the creation of new linguistic providences, and the Suez crisis. The Second volume show how Nehru's principled leadership ensured that he was considered among the foremost statesmen.


This second volume of the biography of Jawaharlal Nehru covers the first nine years of the prime ministership, from August 1947 to November 1956. I have chosen the latter date as a convenient point at which to end this volume not only because, chronologically, it falls approximately half-way in Nehru's term of office, but also because, in domestic affairs, economic planning, foreign policy and almost every other sphere of his public activity it marks, curiously, the end of one phase and the beginning of a second, and more sombre, period.

As in the first volume, this is more than the personal story of an individual. The analysis, of course, throughout takes as its starting-point the hopes and efforts of the Prime Minister. More is said about matters in which Nehru was keenly interested, while those problems in which his involvement or responsibility was marginal have received correspondingly less attention. But the book spreads out to become, in a sense, the history of the first years of free India.

I am grateful to Shrimati Indira Gandhi for access to the private papers of Jawaharlal Nehru for the period after 1947. All letters and other documents to which no references are given are from these papers. The only official records which I have been able to consult are some files of the Prime Minister's secretariat.

Mr Christopher Hill most kindly read the manuscript and made many suggestions for its improvement. I have been sustained, during the making of this book, by the support of my colleagues at the Centre for Historical Studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

About The Book (Volume-III)

This third volume focuses on Nehru's efforts to sustain the economic and social advance of the Indian people without loosening the hold on the principles of this foreign policy. It bears testimony to the enduring impact of his policies and achievements in the national as well as the international sphere.


This third and last volume of the biography of Jawaharlal Nehru covers the years from the end of 1956 to Nehru's death in May 1964. As in the earlier volumes, the study of the personality branches out to take into view general forces and trends which affected, or were influenced by, him.

I am grateful to Shrimati Indira Gandhi for granting me access to Nehru's private papers. I have also been permitted to consult some official files of these years.

I have, as usual, taken full advantage of the learning and consideration of my colleagues at the Centre for Historical Studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Contents (Volume-I)

List of Illustrations and Maps11
1 Unformative Years16
2 Marking Time29
3 Immersion in Politics35
4 Among the Peasants42
5 The Moderate Disciple of Gandhi58
6 In Nabha Jail74
7 Escape into Administration81
8 Europe 1926-192797
9 The Campaign for Independence110
10 Action - and Anti-Climax138
11 Agrarian Crisis in the United Provinces154
12 In and Out of Prison172
13 Death of Kamala Nehru193
14 Leading the Party200
15 Out of Tune with the Congress222
16 The War Crisis249
17 The Cripps Mission276
18 Collision Course288
19 Post-War Prelude300
20 The Cabinet Mission313
21 The Interim Government326
22 The Transfer of Power342
Biographical Notes363
Contents (Volume-II)

List of Illustrations and Maps11
1 Sad Morning13
2 Kashmir and Hyderabad26
3 The Shaping of Foreign Policy43
4 Domestic Pressures66
5 Korea and Tibet100
6 Kashmir 1951-1953113
7 The Korean Settlement134
8 The Road to Elections149
9 The Zenith of World Influence 1953-1954166
10 The Fine Art of Government196
11 'The Light of Asia'226
12 The Problem of Linguistic Provinces256
13 Suez272
14 Hungary291
15 Mid-Term Assessment300
Biographical Notes319
Contents (Volume-III)

illustrations Maps9
1 The Domestic Scene13
2 The World Outside32
3 Kerala 1957-195953
4 Tibet, China and Pakistan 1957-195975
5 Towards Cooperative Farming106
6 The Growing Rift with China 1960127
7 Crusade in the Congo145
8 Strengthening National Feeling162
9 Round the World - to Goa185
10 China Goes to War204
11 Light and Shadows232
12 FullStop266
Appendix: The Northern Boundary of India303
Biographical Notes307
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