n Journal for Contemporary History - Empire's soldier : Gandhi and Britain's wars, 1899 - 1918

Volume 39, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0258-2422
  • E-ISSN: 2415-0509



Towards the latter stages of World War I, Mohandas K Gandhi urged Indian peasants to take up arms on behalf of the British. This alienated his liberal pacifist supporters in Europe who were aghast that the apostle of non-violence had seemingly disavowed his own teachings. But Gandhi, during his South African sojourn from 1893-1914, had openly declared his enthusiasm to support the British Empire in its attempts to assume hegemony in the region. He participated on the side of the British in the brutal South African War of 1899-1902 and in their violent suppression of the Zulu uprising in 1906. Alongside this, he formulated his ideas of . This article traces Gandhi's South African years from 1893 to 1914 and seeks to make sense of the apparent contradiction of his taking up arms on behalf of the Raj during the war. This is done in the context of his attachment to the Empire.

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