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from the British Library, London

Part 1: Bengal, 1874-1903

Part 2: Bengal, 1904-1916

Part 3: Punjab, Agra, Oudh, Rajputana and Central Provinces, c1868-1896

Part 4: United Provinces, 1897-1937
Part 5: Madras, 1876-1921
Part 6: Bombay, 1874-1898

Publisher's Note - Part 4


From 1858 until independence in 1947 the British Government ruled India with two administrative systems, the British Provinces, comprising around 60% of the country and totally under British control, and the Indian (“princely”) states which recognised British rule in return for local autonomy, comprising around 40% of the country.

The material in Part 4 of this microfilm project covers reports for the United Provinces, 1897-1937.  In 1833 the Bengal Presidency had been divided into two parts. The north-western part became the Presidency of Agra, which in 1836 was re-named the North-Western Provinces and placed under a Lieutenant-Governor. The kingdom of Oudh was annexed in 1856 and placed under a Chief Commissioner. In 1877 the North-Western Provinces and Oudh were joined together under a single administration. Their name was changed to the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh in 1902 and shortened to the United Provinces in 1912 with the city of Lucknow at their centre. In 1947 the United Provinces became a province of the new independent India and its name was changed to Uttar Pradesh. It should be noted that the reports for the period up until 1902 are described as being from the Native Newspapers published in the North-Western Provinces and Oudh.

Lord Ripon’s repeal of Lytton’s Vernacular Press Act in 1881 coincided with the abolition of the Press Commissionership. The relaxation in the attempted exercise of political control by the British over the press in India opened the way for vigorous debate on the future of India. The writings of the Indian intelligentsia found their way into an increasing number of new newspapers, Anglo-Indian and Vernacular. The increasingly active independence movement later formed into two separate camps in 1907. There was the Garam Dal (the extremists or “hot faction”) of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who founded the Marathi daily Kesari (The Lion), and the Naram Dal of Gopal Krishna Gokhale (the moderates or “soft faction”). The development of the independence movement can be followed in the newspapers of the early part of the twentieth century.

The Indian National Congress, also known as the Congress Party, formed in 1885, was comprised chiefly of members of the western-educated professional elite. Public opinion had started to turn against the British government of India and it sought to represent the views of the populace from both urban and rural areas. There was an undercurrent of feeling that British rule was unfair and this is reflected in the newspaper reports contained in this collection. Agitation and disturbances in the streets were common and the media played a huge role in re-enforcing feelings of real and imagined grievances. After the First World War the Congress Party was taken over by socialists like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose who had more extreme views. Later it became associated with Mahatma Gandhi, who, although never a member of the Party, became its spiritual leader. Under Gandhi’s influence the Party became the true representative of the people by working against caste differences, untouchability, poverty and religious and ethnic boundaries. In the 1930’s there was a series of conferences in London where the making of a new constitution in India was discussed, finally taking the form of the 1935 Government of India Act. All these subjects are discussed in the reports.

The press in cities such as Agra, Lucknow, Cawnpore, Oudh, Allahabad and Benares played a significant role in the growth of nationalism after the Indian National Congress was formed in 1885. Improvements in education fostered the exchange of ideas and aspirations for liberty from foreign rule.

The Congress Party was an umbrella organisation, consisting of socialists, traditionalists and even Hindu and Muslim conservatives but it was fundamentally a Hindu-dominated organisation. The majority of the Muslims did not trust the Hindu majority and in 1900 when the British Government made Hindi the official language of the United Provinces there was consternation among the Muslims that the Hindu majority would suppress Muslim culture and religion. In 1906 thirty five leading members of the Muslim community gathered in Simla and presented their demands to the Viceroy Lord Minto. The All-India Muslim League comprising 56 members was created as a result of this meeting. Although initially the League’s intention was to remain loyal to the British Government it changed its views to a desire for independence in 1913 when the British decided to create a united state of Bengal. The headquarters of the League was in Lucknow and the Aga Khan was elected as its first president. Its goal at this stage was not to establish an independent state but to promote understanding between the Muslim community and other Indians. In 1930 however the leader of the League, Sir Muhummad Iqbal, first put forward the demand for a separate Muslim state in India to be known as Pakistan and after many years of discussions and conferences the state of Pakistan became a reality in 1947.

The 1930’s were an important period in India’s history. The population had been growing since the early 1920’s and pressure was put on India’s natural resources. The number of towns grew considerably but the majority of the Indian populace were still villagers. The new Indian entrepreneurs were men from communities with business experience. All these factors affected political decisions and led to the growth in nationalist feelings. All of the topics are well covered in the newspaper reports.

Indian Newspaper Reports

The Indian Newspaper Reports from the Asia, Pacific and Africa Department at the British Library, constitute an important series to be found in the Record Department Papers of the Oriental and India Office Collections. The reports consist of abstracts taken from Anglo-Indian and Vernacular newspapers for the various different regions of India.

The reports were completed weekly and consist of typewritten abstracts of the contents of Indian newspapers with some extracts, translated by an official translator whose name is given at the end of the week’s report. Each weekly report gives a list of both the Indian language newspapers and the English language newspapers owned by Indians examined, with their place of publication, whether issued weekly or monthly, the number of subscribers, the names of the publisher, the circulation and the date of the issues examined. An extremely wide variety of newspapers was looked at weekly, later reports covering around 200 newspapers and periodicals while the average was more like 120, ensuring that a wide spectrum of ideas, views and politics was addressed. The reports list the languages of the newspapers, for example Bengali, English and Bengali, English and Urdu, Bengali and Hindi, Hindi and Persian. Later reports give additional information such as the annual subscription charge, the names of the publisher and the printer and general remarks on the newspaper for instance: “The ‘Zul Qarain’ deals with educational and social matters of the Muslin community and political matters also…..”

Part 4: United Provinces, 1897-1937

The newspaper reports included in Part 4 cover the years 1897-1937. The abstracts and extracts contained in the reports will provide scholars with an invaluable insight into Indian social and political events, the conditions of the Indian and British population, criticisms of the British government and the rapid development of nationalist feelings.

Examples of newspapers examined are:

  • Central Hindu College Magazine, Benares, circulation of 5,500 copies monthly
  • Advocate, Lucknow, tri-weekly
  • Ranga Iyer, Madras, circulation of 1,100 copies
  • Student World, Lucknow, circulation of 450 copies monthly
  • Indian Daily Telegraph, Lucknow, circulation of 500 daily
  • Leader, Allahabad, circulation of 2,500 daily
  • Aligarth, Aligarth, circulation of 840 monthly
  • Ifada, Agra, circulation of 250 monthly
  • Zamara, Cawnpore, circulation of 1,700 monthly
  • Indu, Benares, circulation of 600 monthly
  • Trishul Benares, circulation of 1,000 monthly

The abstracts contained in the reports are generally divided into the following sections:

  • I Politics – foreign and home
  • II Afghanistan &Trans-Frontier
  • III Native States
  • IV Administration
  • V Legislation
  • VI Railway
  • VII Post Office
  • VIII Native Societies & Religious & Social Matters
  • IX Miscellaneous

The reports contain a wealth of information on topics as diverse as:  

  • the Defence of India Act
  • the work of the Indian National Congress
  • land taxation
  • the industrialisation of India
  • the United Provinces Municipalities Act
  • the activities of the Muslim League and of the Liberal Federation
  • news on the Indian States
  • political reforms
  • the Labour Government
  • Hindu-Muslim relations
  • unemployment and poverty
  • activities of the nationalist movement and its leaders
  • social legislation
  • the death of Queen Victoria, 1901 
  • the Labour Commission
  • civil disobedience
  • the Legislative Assembly
  • the Partition of Bengal
  • the sale of opium in Ceylon
  • the workings of the Press Act and the imprisonment of newspaper editors
  • the death of Edward VII and the coronation of George V
  • raids on the North-West Frontier
  • the non co-operation movement and the repressive policy of the Government
  • the Trades Union Congress
  • the Bengal Youth League
  • the activities of Nehru and Gandhi
  • Shia-Sunni riots

The literate population in India was still very small in percentage terms, even by 1900, but it was undeniable that from 1870 onwards, the number of Indian newspapers and journals proliferated. Most were in native languages and had small print runs and a local circulation. By 1885, Lawrence James suggests that there were some 319 different vernacular titles plus 96 English language newspapers. Most native newspapers were cheap weeklies. Personal abuse of officials was commonplace; one of the Punjabi newspapers attacked the province’s Lieutenant Governor, Sir George Campbell, as “the baboon Campbell with a hairy body…His eyes flash forth in anger and his tail is all in flames”. Many of the English language press, with a predominantly European readership, were equally quick to launch attacks on the pronouncements of the Indian National Congress. Kipling’s old newspaper, the Allahabad Pioneer (circulation 5,000) and the Lahore Civil and Military Gazette (circulation 4,000) were both virulent mouthpieces of British government propaganda. During the First World War positive publicity was crucial and the exploits of Indian soldiers were reported in glowing terms.

The following extracts taken from the reports show the development of nationalism;

The following are from the reports for 1901:

“The ‘Indian Appeal’ (Benares) of the 10th May says:- Many of us will agree with the Viceroy when he told the Muhammedans, that the twentieth century was certain, whatever else it might bring forth, to be a century of great intellectual activity, of far reaching scientific discovery, and of probable unparalleled invention. That is all very grand. But what part are the Indians going to play in this intellectual arena….?”

“The ‘Roznamcha-i-Qaisari’ (Allahabad), of the 15th September, complains that it would seem that a European gentleman has kicked a native to death near the Allahabad Railway Station. It is a pity that the life of a native is considered to be of no more value than that of a pariah dog. In what a helpless condition the natives are! May God have mercy on them!....”

The following are from the reports for 1910:

“…the editor of the ‘Karmayagi’ (Allahabad) writes: There are many obstacles in the way of Indian nationalists…. Indians, should however never lose courage for no nation was created to occupy for ever a subordinate position in this universe. Even those that are ruled over by foreigners today have a right to govern and manage their own affairs themselves…. The editor reminds his readers that numerous hardships and sufferings will have to be borne and manifold virtues cultivated before India can rise higher in the state of nations….”

The following is from the reports for 1916:

“The ‘Prem’ (Brindaban, Muttra) of the 26th July 1916 publishes a poem by Judh Singh Varma deploring the degraded condition of Indians as represented by their object poverty. Starvation, sectarian strifes and mutual animosities, is the decay of their trade and industry, in the prevalence of famine and disease and in their social degeneration. They have already been reduced to helplessness by the imposition of taxes. He exorts them to shake off indolence, to spread education in the country, to be united for mutual service, to give up evil social customs to cultivate physical culture and to be self-respecting and self-confident. They should take to trade and industry. They should not hanker after service, but seek independence…”

The extracts below are from the reports for January 1928 regarding the Muslim League and the Liberal Federation:

“Very few papers have so far commented on the proceedings of the Muslim League…. ‘The Leader’ writes:- The split in the Muslim League will be regretted by those who attach greater importance to communal than national unity…. ‘The Indian Daily Telegraph’ writes:- In spite of the great shortcomings which were the outcome of the mischievous anti-national activities of the Shaffian clique the Calcutta session of the All-Indian Muslim League was a great success….”

“The ‘Leader’ writes:- The address delivered by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru as President of the National Liberal Federation of India at Bombay is a master-piece. The whole of the address will be read by our countrymen not only with satisfaction but with pride. It ought to be read by Englishmen with a sense of deep humiliation. But a people in whom there is no humility cannot easily be shamed into a confession of wrong-doing….”

The following is from the reports for 1936:

“…. Muslim papers condemn the socialistic & revolutionary programme advocated by Mr Nehru and regard it as being calculated to lead to anarchy and a bloody civil war…. Some Muslim papers deplore the paucity of Muslims in the Congress and advise them to join it provided it abandons its anti-Muslim attitude and socialistic policy…. The ‘Daily Pratap’ regards Pandit J Nehru’s address as a reflection of his career and says that every word of it bears the stamp of sincerity and honesty….”




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