The Making of the National Movement: 1870s-1947

The Making of the National Movement: 1870s-1947 Class 8 History Chapter 9

CBSE Class 8 History Chapter 9 The Making of the National Movement: 1870s-1947 – Detailed explanation of the chapter ‘The Making of the National Movement: 1870s-1947’ along with question answers. Given here is the complete explanation of the lesson, along with all the exercises, Question and Answers given at the back of the lesson

Class 8 History Chapter 9 – The Making of the National Movement: 1870s-1947


In our previous chapters we have studied:

  • The British conquest of Indian territories and takeover of kingdoms.
  • Introduction of new laws.
  • Change in the lives of tribal people also the peasants.
  • Changes in the Education system.
  • Debates regarding the condition of women and challenges of caste system.
  • Social and religious reforms.
  • The revolt of 1857 and its aftermath.
  • The decline of crafts and growth of industries.

As we can infer that Indians were not happy with British rule, lets see how were different groups and classes dissatisfied.

The above-mentioned changes made people to think over a very important question that  for whom were all the changes being done and India belonged to whom.

These questions led to Nationalism

Emergence of Nationalism

The questions, such as mentioned above, made Indians think about the solution. The answer that they came up with was that India was a country of the people of India and people here included everyone irrespective of class, color, caste, creed, language or gender. According to them, the resources and systems were for the Indians. This led to the awareness that the resources which were meant for the people were being used by the Britishers and they were also controlling the lives of Indians.

This awareness resulted in the formation of political associations, formed after 1850, especially those that came up in the 1870s and 1880s. These associations were generally led by English educated professional let’s say lawyers. The more prominent ones were the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, the Indian Association, The Madras Mahajan Sabha, The Bombay presidency association and  of course the Indian National Congress.

As the name suggests, Poona Sarvajanik Sabha was meant for the people. The word ‘sarvajanik’ means of or for all the people. These associations worked in a specific part of the country. However, their goal was stated as the goal of the entire country. They worked with the idea that people are sovereign. Their aim was that Indians should be empowered to take decisions regarding their affairs.

The discontent against the Britishers grew stronger during the 1870s and 1880s. The Arms act was passed in 1878 which disallowed Indians to keep arms and not only this, the vernacular press act was also passed due to which journalists could publish only that news which was not against Britishers or their policies. It also allowed the government to confiscate the assets of newspapers including their printing presses. In 1883, an outcry was seen over the attempt by the government to introduce the Ilbert Bill. The bill allowed the trial of British or European persons by Indians and also sought equality between British and Indian judges in the country. But when the whites opposed this bill, it made Indians angry as this event highlighted the racism against the Indians by the Britishers.

Dadabhai NaorojiSo, we can say that there was a dire need for an all India organization of educated Indians since 1880, but the controversy created by the Ilbert Bill deepened this desire. So, in 1885, 72 delegates from all over the country met at Bombay thus, forming an association known as The Indian National Congress. The early leadership of Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozeshah Mehta, Badruddin Tyabji, W.C Bonnerji, Surendranath Banerji, Romesh Chandra Dutt, S. Subramania Iyer, were largely from Bombay and Calcutta. Naoroji was a businessman and publicist who was settled in London and was also a member of the British Parliament so, he guided the younger nationalists. Retired British officer also played an important role in bringing Indians together.

Such associations brought the feeling of one nation among all the Indians.

A nation in the making

A nation in the making

Congress, in its initial years, was moderate in its objectives. During this period it demanded participation of Indians in the government and in administration. It demanded more powers and more representation in the Legislative Council and also, its introduction in provinces where it did not exist. 

They also demanded Indianisation of various departments as Britishers did not allow Indians to hold important posts. So, this was a way to control the drain of wealth to England which was due to the British officers who were sending salaries back at home in England. Some other demands include separation of the judiciary from the executive, the repeal of arms act and vernacular press act in order to gain freedom of speech and expression.

Congress also raised many economic issues. It declared that British rule had brought poverty into the country. The high amount of land tax was against the zamindars and peasants, export of grain created shortage of food supplies in the country and they also demanded reduction in military expenditure and asked Britishers to use money for irrigation purpose. Not only this, it passed resolutions on salt tax, treatment of Indian labourers abroad and also against the forest laws which had affected tribals.  So, we can say that the congress, being an association of the educated class was not talking only on the behalf of the rich but they were concerned about the poor also.

The moderate leaders wanted to create awareness among the public. For this, they started writing articles, published newspapers to show how British rule had led to the decline of our economy. They started sending representatives to various parts of the country to create awareness among the public in order to express their demand in front of the Britishers.

Freedom is our Birthright

Bipin Chandra PalBy the 1890s, Indians began to criticize the methods of Congress. Bipin Chandra Pal in Bengal, Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Maharashtra and Lala Lajpat Rai in Punjab were more radical in their methods and were against the politics of prayers of the Congress. They argued that we must realize our own strengths and should fight for swaraj. We are not supposed to rely on the good intentions of the government. Tilak raised a slogan, “Freedom is my birthright and I shall have it”.

In 1905, the partition of Bengal took place under the viceroyalty of Lord Curzon. They gave the reason of political convenience but in reality, Bengal was partitioned in a way to curb down the influence of Bengali leaders as Bihar and parts of Orissa were separated from Bengal. Even east Bengal was merged with Assam leading to the formation of Non Bengali areas. The partition of Bengal was criticized all over India. Both moderate and radical sections of the Congress opposed it. Demonstrations were carried out against the partition. The struggle came to be known as the swadeshi movement.

The swadeshi movement not only opposed the British rule but also encouraged the ideas of swadeshi enterprise, national education and use of Indian languages. To make it more influential, the radicals began to suggest a boycott of British institutions and revolutionary violence to overthrow British rule.

In the beginning of twentieth century, Muslim landlords and Nawabs formed the All India Muslim League at Dacca in 1906. The league was in favor of partition of Bengal. They demanded separate electorates for Muslims, a demand that was conceded by the government in 1909. Some seats in the councils were now reserved for Muslims who would be elected by Muslim voters.

Some changes were seen in Congress also as it split in the year 1907. The moderates were not in the favor of boycott as it involved the use of force. Later on it reunited in 1915. In 1916, Lucknow pact was signed between Muslim League and Congress and a decision was taken to work together for a representative government in the country.

After this, the struggle started growing stronger which made it a mass movement. So, let’s discuss about this now.

The Growth of Mass Nationalism

After 1919, the struggle against the British rule started becoming a mass movement which involved peasants, tribes, students, and women as well. Some business groups also began to support the congress in the 1920s.British

During the First World War, India faced large deficits due to military expenses. This means that the expenditure was very huge and to bear that, government started extracting huge amount of tax from the local people. The rise in the prices of commodities was creating difficulty for the common people. On the other hand, as we read in chapter 7, business houses were gaining a lot from the war. The war created a huge demand for industrial goods such as jute bags, cloth, rails, etc. and caused a decline in imports. Indian industries expanded to a great extent during the war.

The war also resulted in the expansion of the British Army. Many villagers were sent abroad to serve as British soldiers. Many returned after the war with an understanding that how these imperarislist powers had colonized Asia and Africa for their own benefits and how these powers were exploiting the people of both continents. This led to the development of a desire to oppose British rule in India.

In 1917, a revolution took place in Russia in which peasants and workers struggled for their rights. This inspired the Indian Nationalists as the idea of socialism circulated widely.

Now that we know about the situation during and after the first world war, we will now discuss about Mahatma Gandhi.

The advent of Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma GandhiIn 1915, Gandhi came to India from South Africa at the age of 46. Till now he had earned a name as a leader on an international level. This was so because he had led many campaigns in South Africa against racism. This brought him in contact with many types of Indians such as Hindus, Muslims, Parsis and Christians; Gujaratis, Tamils, North Indians and upper caste merchants, lawyers and workers.

In his first year, Mahatma Gandhi travelled through whole of India to understand the overall need and situation of the people. Initially, he led some local movements in Champaran, Kheda and Ahmedabad where he came in contact with Vallabhbhai Patel and Rajendra Prasad. In 1918, he led a successful millworker’s strike in Ahmedabad.

Let’s now have a look at the movements organized between the years 1919-1922.

The Rowlatt Satyagraha

In 1919, the Rowlatt act was passed by the government which put restrictions on the fundamental rights of freedom of expression. It also strengthened the police powers. Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and others felt that the government had taken away the basic right of the people. Hence, Gandhiji asked people to observe 6 April 1919 as a day of non violent opposition to this Act. Satyagraha Sabhas were set up to launch the movement, hartals were done against the act. As Rowlatt satyagraha turned out to be an all India struggle, Britishers then took brutal steps to curb this down.One such was the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre which took place on 13th April 1919 (Baisakhi Day)  when General Dyer ordered mass killing of the people who had gathered in the bagh to protest peacefully.

The Rowlatt SatyagrahaRabindranath Tagore renounced his knighhood to express his pain and anger on what had happened at Jallianwala Bagh.

During the Rowlatt Satyagraha, Gandhiji put efforts to unite Hindus and Muslims to struggle against the British rule as he was of the viewpoint that India was the land of various religions.

There were some more movements which were led during the period of 1919- 1922. Some of them are as follows-

Khilafat agitation and Non- Cooperation

Khilafat agitation

In 1920, the British imposed a harsh treaty on the Turkish Sultan also known as Khalifa. People become angry at this.The Muslim community of India wanted Khalifa to be allowed to retain control over Muslim sacred places in the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, the leaders of the Khilafat Movement, Mohammad Ali and Shaukhat Ali initiated a full fledged non-cooperation movement. Gandhiji also supported them and urged the Congress to campaign against the Jallianwala massacre, the Khilafat wrong and demanded swaraj.

The Non-cooperation movement gained strength during 1921-22. Thousands of students left government schools and colleges, many lawyers such as Motilal Nehru, C.R Das, C. Rajagopalachari and Asaf Ali left their practice. Indians gave up their British titles and boycotted the legislature. Bonfires of foreign clothes were lit. This resulted in the decline of import of foreign cloth between the years 1920-1922.

Not only the leaders but common people also made attempts to struggle against the British rule in India. What were these initiatives let’s now read about that

People’s initiatives

In many cases, people protested peacefully but in some, they retaliated in their own way which were not in accordance with Gandhiji. 

For example, in Kheda, Gujarat, Patidar peasants organized nonviolent campaigns against the huge land tax. In coastal Andhra and interior Tamil Nadu people protested outside the liquor shops by preventing people from entering. In the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh tribals violated the forest law by grazing their cattle in the forests. People believed that Gandhiji will protect them from the forest laws and huge amount of taxes. They also believed that Gandhi raj would soon be established.

In Sind (Pakistan), Muslim traders were supportive towards the Khilafat movement. Similarly, in Bengal the non cooperation and Khilafat alliance gave strength to communal unity. In Punjab Akalis tried to remove corrupt mahantas from the Gurdwaras who were supported by the Britishers. Peasants in Assam demanded increase in their wages and left tea plantations as they wanted to support Gandhiji. 

As Gandhiji was gaining popularity day by day, he was now known as the Mahatma.

The people’s Mahatma

People started believing that Gandhiji was a Mahatma or Messiah, who would help them overcome their poverty and misery. Some thought he would fight against Zamindars. Some believed he would provide them land. They started crediting him with their own achievements. For example people who fought against the illegal eviction of tenant from land in United Province felt that it was Gandhiji who had won. Though Gandhiji favored class unity, yet at some places, tribals and peasants took steps which were against Gandhi’s principles.

The happenings of 1922-29

Chitta Ranjan DasAs discussed earlier that Gandhiji believed in non violence, so he abruptly called for the non cooperation movement because a crowd in Chauri Chaura set a police station on fire. This incident took place in February 1922. Twenty two Policemen were killed on that day. The reason behind this incident was the firing done by the police on the peaceful demonstration by the peasants.

After the non-cooperation movement was called off, the leaders such as Chitta Ranjan Das and Motilal Nehru suggested that the party should fight elections to the council and enter them to modify the government policies. Even some social work was carried out in the villages which led to the extension of support base for the gandhian movement. This proved to be beneficial in launching the Civil Disobedience movement in 1930.

Two important developments were seen in the 1920s, for example, the formation of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu organization and the Communist Party of India. These parties had a different view point about the country India should be. The decade ended with the resolution of Congress to fight for Purna swaraj in 1929 under the presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru. Consequently, “Independence Day” was observed on 26 January 1930 all over India.

The March to Dandi

GandhijiGandhiji said that we have to fight for the achievement of Purna swaraj. It would not come on its own. So, in 1930 Gandhiji declared that he would break the salt law. According to this law the government had a monopoly on the manufacture and sale of salt. This meant that no one else could manufacture salt. Gandhiji declared it as a sinful tax because it was not right to impose such a law on an essential food item.

Gandhiji and his followers marched over 240 miles from Sabarmati to Dandi, where they broke the salt law by producing it from the sea water.

Peasants, tribals and women participated in this satyagarha in large numbers. A business federation also published the salt issue. People started protesting peacefully against the salt law. The British government tried to stop this by taking harsh action against the satyagrahis which involved imprisonment and killings.

The struggle also brought some benefits like the Government of India Act of 1935. This act prescribed provincial autonomy and the government announced elections to the provincial legislatures in 1937. The Congress formed governments in 7 out of the 11 provinces.

In September 1939, the Second World War broke. As the Congress leaders were against Hitler, they wanted to support British war effort but in return wanted independence. When British refused to do so, The Congress ministers resigned in protest.

Quit India and Later

Mahatma Gandhi started a new movement in the middle of the Second World War. He wanted Britishers to quit India. For this, he asked the Indians to start a movement with non – violence. His slogan was “do or die”. People joined the mass struggle by giving up their studies also. Communications and symbols of state authority were attacked. Many leaders were put into jails. The Government tried to suppress it which resulted in over 90 thousand arrests and over 1000 killings in police firing by the end of the year 1943. In many areas orders were given of firing from airplanes. However, the struggle brought the British raj to its knees.

  Such struggles led to the independence of India which also faced Partition of the country later on.

Towards Independence and Partition

In 1940, the Muslim League moved a resolution demanding an independent state for Muslims in the north western and eastern areas of the country. The resolution had not mentioned partition or a separate contry called Pakistan. From the late 1930s, the league began viewing a separate nation for Muslims. This might be due to the instances of tension between Hindu and Muslims in the 1920s and 1930s.

Indian FlagEven the provincial elections of 1937 had convinced the league that Muslims were a minority and they would always be treated secondary in the democracy. The Congress’s rejection of forming a joint Congress-League government in the United Province in 1937 also annoyed the League.

As Congress failed to mobilize the Muslim masses in the 1930s it allowed the league to widen its social support. So, during the imprisonment of many Congress leaders in early 1940s the league started enlarging its support. At the end of the war in 1945 the British negotiated with the Congress and the League for the independence of India. The talk failed as the league saw itself as the only spokesperson of India’s Muslims. 

When election to the provinces were again held in 1946, the performance of Congress was very good in the ‘General’ constituencies. But the League gained an amazing success in the seats reserved for Muslims. It started demanding a separate nation or ‘Pakistan’. In March 1946, the British cabinet sent a three member mission to Delhi to suggest the political framework for a free India. They suggested that India should constitute itself as a loose confederacy with some autonomy for the Muslim majority areas. But both Congress and Muslim League did not agree to this.

Muslim majority areas

After the failure of cabinet mission, Muslim league announced 16 August 1946 as “Direct Action Day”. On this day, riots broke out, resulting in the death of thousands of people. By March 1947, violence spread to various parts of northern India. Thousands were killed and numerous women had to face untold brutalities during the partition. People were forced to leave their homes and they were now known as refugees in unknown lands. After Partition, a new country was formed known as Pakistan. India was changed even many of the cities were changed.

So, we can say that the joy which independence of our country brought to us was combined with the sorrow of partition of our country.

Question and Answers

Q1- Why were people dissatisfied with British rule in the 1870s and 1880s?

A1- People were dissatisfied with British rule in the 1870s and 1880s due to the following reasons:

  1. The Arms act of 1878: This act disallowed Indians to possess arms.
  2. The Vernacular Press Act of 1878: This act allows the government to confiscate the assets of newspapers if they published anything that was found objectionable.
  3. The Ilbert Bill of 1883: The bill provided for the trial of Britishers and Europeans by the Indian judges and sought equality between British and Indian judges in the country. But due to the opposition by whites, the bill was withdrawn. This enraged the Indians as this showed racial discrimination by them.

Q2- Who did the Indian National Congress wish to speak for?

A2- The Indian National Congress wished to speak for the people of India irrespective of caste, creed, colour, rich, poor, etc. It believed that India and its resources were meant for all the Indians.

Q3- What economic impact did the First World War have on India?

A3- The First World War caused a huge deficit on our economy. The government was spending a huge amount on defence. To bear these expenses, it levied huge taxes on lands. Even the prices of various commodities increased, creating difficulties for the common people. On the other hand, business houses were gaining huge profits due to the increased demand of industrial goods such as jute bags, cloth and rails. As a result, Indian industries expanded during the war.

Q4- What did the Muslim League resolution of 1940 ask for?

A4-In 1940, the Muslim league made a resolution that asked for independent states for Muslims in the North Western and Eastern areas of the country.

Q5- Who were the Moderates? How did they propose to struggle against British rule?

A5-Initially the Congress was moderate in its objectives and methods. It struggled against the Britishers in a peaceful manner. It wanted to develop public awareness against the oppressive rule of Britishers. The people wrote speeches against Britishers and sent their representatives to different parts of the country to mobilize public opinion. They felt that the British had respect for the ideals of freedom and justice, and so would accept the just demands of Indians.

Q6- How was the politics of the Radicals within the Congress different from that of the Moderates?

A6- The radicals were against the methods of the moderates. They opposed the politics of prayers followed by the moderates within the Congress. Their methods were radical. They argued that people must rely on their own strength, not on the good intentions of the government. They believed that people must fight for swaraj.

Q7- Discuss the various forms that the Non-Cooperation Movement took in different parts of India. How did people understand Gandhiji?

A7- During 1921-1922, the Non- Cooperation movement gained momentum. Many students left government colleges and schools, many lawyers gave up their practices, British titles were surrendered, people lit bonfires of foreign made cloth.

Non cooperation movements were carried on in various parts of the country. Some of them are as follows:

  • Patidar peasants of Kheda, Gujarat organized campaigns against the huge land revenue.
  • In coastal Andhra and interior Tamil Nadu, liquor shops were picketed.
  • In the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, tribals and poor peasants protested against the forest laws by grazing their cattle in forests.
  • In Punjab, Akali agitation of the Sikhs sought to remove corrupt mahants.
  • In Assam, tea garden laborers demanded a big increase in their wages. When the demands were not met, they left the British owned plantations.
  • People start thinking that Gandhiji was a messiah; he was the one who could help them overcome their misery and poverty.

Q8- Why did Gandhiji choose to break the salt law?

A8- The British government had a monopoly on the manufacture and sale of salt. Gandhiji believed that it was sinful to tax salt as it was an essential part of food. He chose to break the salt law and led a march to Dandi, where he broke the salt law by producing salt from the sea water.

Q9- Discuss those developments of the 1937-47 period that led to the creation of Pakistan? 

A9- The provincial elections of 1937 convinced Muslim league that Muslims were a minority and they would always have to play second fiddle in any democratic structure. In 1940, the Muslim league passed a resolution demanding independent states for Muslims in the north western and eastern areas of the country.

At the end of the Second World War in 1945, the British opened talks with the Congress and the League for the independence of India. The talks failed because the league saw itself as the sole spokesperson of India’s Muslims. 

In 1946 elections, the Muslim league succeeded in the areas where seats were reserved for Muslims. In March 1946, the British cabinet sent a three member mission to Delhi to examine the best suited political framework for a free India. It suggested that India should constitute itself as a loose confederacy with some autonomy for the Muslim majority areas. But both Congress and Muslim League did not agree to this.

On 16 August 1946 the League announced it as “Direct Action Day”. Riots broke out in which thousands of people were turned homeless or were killed. Women had to face atrocities. The country of Pakistan was born.