Gandhi

Prisoner of Hope

Judith M. Brown

View Inside Price: $44.00


October 23, 1991
456 pages, 6 x 9
24 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300051254
Paper

The definitive biography of one of this century’s most important—and controversial—figures. Drawing on sources only recently made available, Judith M. Brown sketches a fresh and surprising portrait of Gandhi within the context of his time, in which the Indian leader emerges as neither a plaster saint nor a wily politician, but as a complex man whose actions followed honorably from his convictions.
"This is the best biography of Gandhi so far and deserves to be read by everyone interested in him and in modern India."—Bhikhu Parekh, New Statesman and Society
"Judith Brown has written the most systematic, balanced, and clear biography of Gandhi I have yet seen."—Howard Spodek, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
"In fascinating detail, Brown chronicles the fate of nonviolent tactics in South Africa and, after 1915, in India, where Gandhi—now clad in loincloth and sandals—quickly became a patriotic hero."—Jim Miller, Newsweek
"It is a superb book, elegantly written, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about Gandhi as well as the social context which helped to mould him as a man and a politician."—Tariq Ali, Guardian
"This is as fine an exposition of Gandhi’s religious beliefs as we are likely to get. … [Brown] has clearly established herself as [Gandhi’s] leading interpreter to her generation."—Antony Copley, History Today
Judith M. Brown is Beit Professor of the History of the British Commonwealth at Oxford University.

"Superb. . . . An exhilarating work, temperate, broad-ranging, and newly inspiring."—Kirkus Reviews

"Brown’s carefully researched account of Gandhi as a ’prisoner of hope’ will confront its readers with the question of whether the new life he taught and lived was achievable or beyond their reach. Her stunning and authoritative compilation is sure to be an indispensable reference for all Gandhi scholars. At the same time, it will generate controversy. While capturing Gandhi’s remarkable relevance for a world grappling with how to life in peace and plenty, Brown’s assessment argues that his ideas and practice have been largely ignored in modern India."—Lloyd I. Rudolph and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, authors of Gandhi: The Traditional Roots of Charisma

"This sumptuous offering . . . is a welcome addition to the growing literature on the life and times of one of the most elusive figures of the twentieth century. . . . A splendid biography that can be wholeheartedly recommended to the general reader and the specialist."—Subatra Kumar Mitra, Journal of Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 

"Judith Brown’s marvelously shrewd, inclusive, and fair-minded account of a life slow to burgeon but flowering, eventually, to overwhelming effect, is the most just and balanced that I have yet encountered. Her minute, chronological examination of his career embraces all its many moral grandeurs and spiritual glories. His hesitations and inconsistencies, his obstinacies and rages, his errors of judgement and failures of nerve and insight are also faithfully chronicled, but in such a beautifully proportionate way that they detract but little from the overpoweringly positive effect of his life when viewed as a whole. . . . This is a book worthy of the greatness it celebrates."—Martin Fagg, Church Times

"Brown has written commandingly and refreshingly of a man whom dozens of writers . . . have gone at."—Colman McCarthy, Washington Post Book Review

"[This book] seeks to disentangle myth from reality."—British Book News

"Brown’s political analysis is as acute as her interpretation of Gandhi’s philosophy. . . . This is a valuable book. . . . [For] those who wish to know about the original (and very different from the legendary) Gandhi."—Karan Thapar, Times of London

"Judith Brown’s study refreshingly looks at the practical Gandhi as well as the living symbol. . . . She is sufficiently sympathetic and intuitive to give us a fullyrounded picture. Westerners could not hope for a better and more integrated biography."—Howard Clark, Sanity

"Judith Brown is excellent. . . . [This book] is restrained, balanced and scholarly; it is both sensitive and sensible. . . . There are few pages in this book which do not provoke admiration or disagreement, and some degree of affection or mockery for the human spirit."—Philip Mason, Tablet

"[Judith Brown] is in a position, as no other writer has been so far, both to comprehend his life as a whole and to place it in a broader contact."—Dr. Francis Robinson, Features and Arts, World Service in English Book Talks

"[Gandhi] is almost certainly the best explanation of this enigmatic man. . . . Brown . . . recognises his greatness and humanity."—Louis Heren, Ham and High

"Judith Brown’s excellent biography . . . sees him in the realpolitik of the Congress Party he was leading in India’s freedom struggle against the British."—Rahul Bedi, Sunday Telegraph

"Gandhi: Prisoner of Hope . . . [is] surely a definitive biography."—Maggie James, Academic File, London

"Judith Brown’s excellent new biography . . . is four-dimensional. She discusses the inner life of Gandhi, including his deepest fears, hopes anxieties, struggles, complexes, ways of thinking and holding himself together. . . . The result is a fairly comprehensive book that does justice to the complexity of Gandhi’s life and thought. Brown has dug deep into the archives and unearthed some new material. . . . This is the best biography of Gandhi so far and deserves to be read by everyone interested in him and in modern India."—Bhikhu Parekh, New Statesman and Society

"Prisoner of Hope is certainly first rate, with a lively yet literate style and a scrupulously objective point of view."—William Novick, Datebook

"Placing Gandhi’s long life—he lived to be nearly 80—in historical context, Brown penetrates beneath the plastersaint image of Gandhi at prayer or at his spinning wheel to reveal the origins of his ideas about how to attain ’swaraj’ (self-rule) for India through ’satyagraha’ (truth force) and ’ahimsa’ (non-violence). . . . Brown’s biography is an exhaustively researched and meticulously detailed work of scholarship."—Sue Standing, Boston Herald

"In fascinating detail, Brown chronicles the fate of nonviolent tactics in South Africa and, after 1915, in India, where Gandhi—now clad in loincloth and sandals—quickly became a patriotic hero."—Jim Miller, Newsweek

"This is perhaps one of the most comprehensive books written on Gandhi, yet simple enough for a reader without intensive background to follow, and well enough referenced to permit follow through for more scholarly work."—Thomas Timburg, India

"Judith Brown is at her best when she reconstructs the last few years of this ’frail old man’. . . . To encompass the Gandhi phenomenon in a single volume is a virtually impossible task, but Judith Brown has almost accomplished it. This is not the definitive biography (if ever one can be written) but it is easily the best so far."—Gowher Rizvi, Times Higher Education Supplement

"It is a superb book, elegantly written, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about Gandhi as well as the social context which helped to mould him as a man and a politician."—Tariq Ali, Guardian

"It is surprising that there has been no major biography of Gandhi for a long time; Judith Brown’s is likely to become the standard work. She does not try to paint a picture of a ’plaster saint,’ but discusses his failures and failings fully. Her epilogue is a brilliant summingup of Gandhi and his place in modern India. She is exacting in her judgments, both of Gandhi and of the politicians who today run modern India."—Kevin Rafferty, Financial Times

"Mahatma Gandhi is to Indians what St. George was to the English. In a culture as susceptible to sainthood as India's, criticisms of Gandhi are still taken as acts of high moral treason. Judith Brown has found a way to tell the truth without offending. Calling him a 'prisoner of hope' for his unshakable belief in the triumph of truth, she adopts a serious, affectionate tone that de-fangs the facts she lays out."—Firdaus Kanga, Sunday Times

"Brown deals forthrightly with the paradoxes and aspects of Gandhi's thought that are difficult for the late twentieth-century to understand."—Margaret McMillan,  Toronto Star

"A magisterial biography of the ethical giant who led his people in their fight for independence from British rule. . . . Judith M. Brown, an Indian-born historian, does a remarkable job showing how Gandhi's religious upbringing as a Hindu, his three years of study in London, and his 20 years of work as a lawyer in South Africa prepared him for his leadership role in India when the time was right. . . . Brown's substantive and sensitive survey of his life is highly recommended."—Frederic A. Brussat, Living Room Learning

"One of the great merits of Judith Brown's biography of Gandhi is that she does see religion as so important, and surely this is as fine an exposition of Gandhi's religious beliefs as we are likely to get. In a brilliant start, evoking Gandhi's shrine in New Delhi, there is promise that the author will cross that difficult divide between the academic and general or literary biography. . . . She has clearly established herself as [Gandhi's] leading interpreter to her generation. . . . She achieves new depths in detail."—Antony Copley, History Today

"By far the best to date."—Geoffrey Ostergaard, Solidarity Journal

"Judith Brown has written the most systematic, balanced, and clear biography of Gandhi I have yet seen."—Howard Spodek, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

"A must for those who want to understand what motivated and drove the Mahatma."—Taya Zinkin, Asian Affairs

"Brown's contribution is . . . in providing historical evidence in support of what was generally taken on its face value. The Notes section at the end of the book attests to her thorough research on the subject."—Kul B. Rai, Perspectives on Political Science

"Brown offers a number of perceptive insights into Gandhi's mind and thinking and brings out the quintessential man behind the hagiology surrounding him."—Choice

"The best life yet of the Mahatma. The spectacular strength of this study lies in its scholarship. . . . This book excels [Brown's] own previous writing on Gandhi as well as other biographies in the way she gathers and presents evidence. Complex issues and thorny points are consistently set forth with full documentation and admirable clarity. . . . A rich array of quotations."—Dennis Dalton, Political Science Quarterly

"Is there anything new remaining to be said about Gandhi?  Reading Judith Brown's masterly biography of the great saint-politician, the answer is a categorical 'yes.'  What is distinct about her work is that it is not merely a narration of the main events of the well-known life of the 'father of the Indian nation,' but also a portrait of Gandhi, the man and the person:  it is a portrait of not only the 'Mahatma' but also of the 'Bapu': and it is a picture of not only the politician but also of the son, the father, and the husband."—Pavan K. Varma, India Today

"A lucidly written analysis and summary of Gandhi's political and social reform activities."—Radhakrishnan Nayar, Times Literary Supplement

"This book represents [Brown's] mature judgement of [Gandhi's] entire career. Her research base is impeccable. . . . This is the authoritative study of Gandhi."—T. G. Fraser, International Affairs

"The most comprehensive biography of Gandhi that we have."—Eugene F. Irschick, Journal of Asian Studies

"Judith M. Brown has written an eloquent and faithful account of Mahatma Gandhi's struggle to forge a unified, self-respecting nation out of the heterogeneous and intimidated populace of British India. . . . The result is perhaps the most successful attempt thus far to integrate the inner, religious man with the outer, political man. . . . A book of universal interest, capable of touching the heart and mind of any reader regardless of field."—Blair B. King, American Historical Review

"Dr. Brown has produced an analysis of Gandhi's life which goes a long way towards `disentangling' the myth from the reality for both specialist and non-specialist reader alike."—Susan Ansari, History: Reviews of New Books

"[A] masterful biography of the complex man who, as the leader of a national nonviolent movement for Indian independence, became known as the Mahatma, or 'Great Soul.' Drawing on a wealth of new material only recently made available to historians, the Indian-born author adeptly distinguishes between the man as myth and the man himself. . . . Brown concedes that Gandhi was a saint, but a human one: She never underestimates his complexity nor overestimates his political influence or his lasting legacy in the still violent country he helped to liberate shortly before his assassination in 1948. This is a definitive biography."—Sara Mosle, Newsday

"This is a major biography of Gandhi, drawing on many archives available for the first time. It is the product of over 20 years of personal engagement with India and Gandhi. The author seeks to present every side of this extraordinarily complex man, who, as she says, still inspires, aggravates and annoys today, over 40 years after his death. . . . Highly recommended."—Andrew Wingate, Modern Churchman

"A broad and richly documented study of an extraordinary individual whose public confrontation with the British Raj was only one aspect of a life of struggle with nationalist colleagues, with the vast following he mobilized, and, perhaps most significantly for him, with the personal shortcomings which he believed prevented the fulfillment of his life long search for `Truth,' for an awareness of God. . . . The most compelling and original aspect of the biography is Brown's description of the ordinary human frailty which burdened this extraordinary man. . . . This book is a major contribution to the scholarly literature concerning Indian nationalism. Its fine writing and sensitive and professional use of a vast array of sources make it the new standard biography of Gandhi's life and career."—Milton Israel, Canadian Journal of History