A Political Life

Judith M. Brown

View Inside Price: $40.00

October 11, 2003
440 pages, 6.125 x 9.25
22 b/w illus. + 3 maps
ISBN: 9780300092790

Out of Print

A full and intimate portrait of the man who led India through its first years of independence

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. This compelling biography depicts the phases of Nehru’s life and shows how each phase reflected new developments in Indian politics. Drawing on new sources including Nehru’s post-1947 papers which have not been accessible before, Judith M. Brown offers the most complete and penetrating account of Nehru yet written. Casting new 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.

Judith M. Brown is Beit Professor of Commonwealth History, University of Oxford, and professorial fellow of Balliol College, Oxford.

“A superb book. Judith Brown catches the spirit of Nehru’s times as well as his own tribulations and achievements.”—Wm. Roger Louis, University of Texas at Austin

“Brown’s text serves as an excellent overview of the political history of late colonial and early independent India . . . and [is an] excellent guide. . . . Brown’s is a broadly sympathetic biography in which Nehru emerges as an idealistic, though indisputably elitist leader.”—Maria Misra, BBC History Magazine 

“Brown . . . is a fine historian and renowned author of several highly acclaimed academic works on Ghandi. . . . The volume to read for an account of Nehru’s life.”—R. D. Long, Choice

“This is a ‘life and times’ biography on the grand scale of a man who ‘was central to the making of modern India’. It is, in effect, the history of a country as well as the biography of a man.”—Contemporary Review (London)

“[A] sympathetic and rounded account.”—Economist

“A serious, dispassionate work, written from a detached distance but admiring of Nehru’s policies.”—Salil Tripathi, Far Eastern Economic Review

“Brown . . . skillfully depicts the upper-class world in which Nehru grew up, his early experience in politics under Gandhi’s guidance, and his role in shaping Indian nationalism.”—Lucian W. Pye, Foreign Affairs

“Scrupulous and fair-minded. . . . A persuasive and thorough account of the work of an important figure of 20th-century history whose achievements may be questioned but whose idealism and political virtue are absolutely beyond doubt.”—Enda O’Doherty, Irish Times

“Judith Brown tellingly illustrates the gap between Nehru’s aspirations and his achievements. . . . It is largely thanks to [Nehru] that for most people hope and admiration predominate. Judith Brown shows why.”—Philip Zeigler, Literary Review

“Careful and comprehensive. . . . [This book] offers a measuring stick not only for Nehru but also for India’s unfolding experiment.”—James Traub, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“The great virtue of Judith Brown’s new study is its careful account of how Nehru tried to graft the best of British institutions and values on to a country largely resistant to them. . . . Brown’s ‘political life’ is an absorbing, scrupulously researched and convincing assessment of one of the most important political figures of the 20th century.”—Katherine Frank, New Statesman

“Mrs Brown . . . has written an extensively researched and unequivocally specialist work. Her description of Nehru’s period as prime minister will be particularly valuable for scholars, as it draws on family papers never before consulted by historians.”—Maya Jasanoff, New York Sun

“The fullest one-volume life of Nehru available, and a primer of 20th-century Indian politics.”—Publishers Weekly

“Brown’s political biography, drawing on access to new papers from Nehru’s years as prime minister, offers a nourishing and balanced life, largely sympathetic but willing to acknowledge Nehru’s errors. . . . Brown writes with confidence and authority.”—Steve Coll, Trenton Times, New Jersey

“Brown’s political biography, drawing on access to new papers from Nehru’s years as prime minister, offers a nourishing and balanced life. . . . Brown writes with confidence and authority.”—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

"Professor Brown's magisterial recounting . . . warrants pride of place. . . . Told with much authority and grace. . . . It is none too easy a task to do justice to so towering a figure, but Judith Brown has done this in a quite masterly fashion."—D.A. Low, EHR

Selected as an outstanding book by University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries
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