Cover image for Nehru : a political life
Nehru : a political life
Brown, Judith M. (Judith Margaret), 1944-
Publication Information:
New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xvi, 407 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Format :


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DS481.N35 B762 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
DS481.N35 B762 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The first prime minister of India after independence from British rule, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) was a major architect of India as a nation state. His dedication to politics led to imprisonment under British rule, a deeply disturbed family life, and eventually to nearly two decades in power during which he ceaselessly pursued his vision of a transformed and democratic India. reflected new developments in Indian politics. Drawing on previously unconsulted sources including Nehru's post-1947 papers, Judith Brown offers a complete and penetrating account of Nehru. Casting light on both the public and private Nehru, the book also provides an array of insights into the history of India's nationalist movement and international standing, and into the complexities of constructing a new nation state in the aftermath of imperial rule.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Sarvepalli Gopal, author of the extant academic biography Jawaharlal Nehru, did not have access to an archive controlled by the Gandhi family, which contains postpartition materials. Brown, however, did have access to the materials related to Nehru's establishment of the territory and the constitution of India, plus the neutralist, socialist, and anticolonial figure Nehru cut on the international stage. Grinding political matters fine indeed, Brown molds the milled facts into the major phases of Nehru's emergence under Mohandas Gandhi's tutelage as a leading, much-jailed, anti-British nationalist. While the civics tenor of Brown's work is not for the casual reader, its vault of information about India's independence movement will be vital for serious students. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), India's first prime minister, was from a well-to-do Kashmiri family. To rise in politics he had to connect with the real India represented by the maverick apostle of nonviolence, Mohandas Gandhi. As Gandhi's political heir, Nehru presided over the birth of the republic in 1947, then clung to power as his authority ebbed with illness and age. His patrician sense of knowing what was good for India, even when that clashed with the realities of nation-building and imperial devolution, lies at the core of Brown's biography. In the foreground, as colonial rule grudgingly fades, are Nehru's cycles of imprisonment for anti-British protests and his uneasy adaptation to the dynamics of party struggle and social change. The pressures of Indian tradition in conflict with Nehru's Western upbringing, and the East-West ambivalence of his public and private lives, put his personality under agonizing strain, which emerges here largely in passing. Brown, biographer of Gandhi and an Oxford historian, focuses upon the challenges to Nehru as father of Indian independence. Although Nehru's family ties and friendships do not escape scrutiny, it is the political side of Nehru that dominates the book. Despite the density of detail, Brown sometimes evades or downplays controversial aspects of Nehru's stewardship of India-the domestic impact of the Japanese-sponsored Indian National Army formed by Chandra Bose from prisoners of war; Nehru's stubbornly embarrassing and damaging appointments; his dubious flirtations with communism and the Soviet bloc. Nevertheless, this is the fullest one-volume life of Nehru available, and a primer of 20th-century Indian politics. Illus. not seen by PW. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) was one of the great political figures of the 20th century, beloved by both the masses and the elite in India. His greatest contribution as prime minister (1947-64) was the creation of a liberal constitution, the maintenance of the world's largest democracy, and perhaps, above all, the establishment of a secular polity in a nation characterized by religious affiliation. No other Third World country has had such an enviable history. However, Nehru was very much a product of his time and did not have the vision to see the coming victory of global capitalism. The memory of British rule prevented many Indians for a generation from embracing global capitalism because of its association with imperialism, and from allying with the West in the Cold War. Tharoor (under-secretary-general, Communications and Public Information, UN) shares this analysis of Nehru in this easy-to-read portrait that deals with his brilliance and failures. The author is one of the few Indians who clearly acknowledges the colossal blunder made by Gandhi and Nehru in 1939, when Congress resigned from government positions, and in 1942, when they subjected themselves to prison for several more years with the Quit India movement. By giving up all their political strength and advantage over wounded pride and absurd principle, they virtually created Pakistan. Brown (Univ. of Oxford) is a fine historian and renowned author of several highly acclaimed academic works on Gandhi. Her book is more comprehensive and academic than--and not as emotional as--Tharoor's, and is the volume to read for an account of Nehru's life. The strength of this good historical book that is not unhistorical (a rarity) is Brown's placement of Nehru's political life and choices within his generation's. However, she does not see Nehru's egregious errors of 1939 and 1942 or his immoral conduct over Kashmir, which has led to so much bloodshed. ^BSumming Up: Both--recommended. Most levels and libraries. R. D. Long Eastern Michigan University