Gandhi: Myth of the Mahatma, 1893-1948 - HIST6112

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


This module will address the dynamic interactions between the British Empire and arguably its most significant colony India by examining the political life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as the Mahatma (the great soul).

The focus on Gandhi, often considered as the person who successfully commanded the nationalist movement against the British Raj will allow an exploration the history of the politics of anti-colonial movement in the British Empire, especially around issues of colonial control; role of violence; citizenship; subject hood and sovereignty. More specifically, as M.K. Gandhi spent a significant amount of time in London – the metropole as well as in South Africa – a white settler colony; an investigation of his political life will provide productive ways to engage with the British Empire beyond South Asia. A comparative framework including the metropole and different kinds of colonies also has the vantage of underlining the ways in which imperial/anti-imperial politics was shaped by forces (intellectual, socio-cultural) more complex and nuanced than perhaps hitherto assumed.

In the first term the module will introduce students to British Imperial history, with a focus on colonisation of South Asia and Southern Africa. Themes discussed in the seminars will include, but not limited to: East India Companies and settlement of India and Southern Africa; imperial networks (people; commodities, ideas. administrators) between India, Southern Africa and Britain; M.K. Gandhi in London and his life and experiences in South Africa; Boer Wars and the beginnings of anti-colonial movement in India.

In the second term, the module will look at how M.K. Gandhi developed his political strategies, especially ideas of non-violent civil disobedience and Satyagraha; major Gandhi lead anti-colonial mass movements in India; Gandhi's engagement with imperial politics in terms of Round Table Conferences and visits to UK and India's independence and partition. These themes will also explore the ways in which the politics of M.K. Gandhi was imbricated with his personality and its consequent dissonances which continue to reverberate even today.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 60
Private study hours: 540
Total study hours: 600

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Essay 1 (3,000-words) 15%
Essay 2 (3,000 words) 15%
Presentation 1 (15-minutes) 5%
Presentation 2 (15-minutes) 5%
Examination 1 (2-hours) 30%
Examination 2 (2-hours) 30%

Reassessment methods:
Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

M.K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule (Ahmedabad, 1909)
M.K. Gandhi, The Story of my experiments with truth (Ahmedabad, 1927)
M.K. Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi [Relevant Volumes] (New Delhi, 1960)
M.K. Gandhi, Satyagraha in South Africa (Ahmedabad, 1928)
R. Guha, Gandhi, 1914-1948: The Years that Changed the World (New York, 2018)
R. Guha, Gandhi Before India (New York, 2014)
J. Brown, Gandhi: Prisoner of Hope (Yale, 1990)
N. R. Godse, Why I assassinated Gandhi (Delhi, 2016)
Desai and G. Vahed (Ed), The South African Gandhi: Stretcher Bearer of Empire (Stanford, 2015)
F. Devji, The Impossible Indian: Gandhi and the Temptation of Violence (Harvard, 2012)
J. Lelyveld, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India (London, 2012)
A, Nandy, At the Edge of Psychology: Essays in Politics and Culture (Oxford; New Delhi, 1991)
D. Arnold, Gandhi: Profiles in Power (London, 2001).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of British Imperial History and a detailed knowledge of political, economic social and cultural milieu in colonial South Asia and Southern Africa.
2 Accurately deploy a variety of methodological techniques in the analysis of a range of written documents and visual evidence from 19th and 20th centuries, but also appreciate the limitations and ambiguity of this evidence and issues pertaining to 'colonial archive'.
3 Demonstrate a critical awareness of the problems and possibilities of studying imperial history, particularly in comparative spatial framework.
4 Critically evaluate historiographical notions of Colonialism, Imperialism, Nationalism, Sovereignty and describe how these contribute to an overall assessment of imperial history in 19th and 20th century.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Formulate detailed arguments based on critical evaluation of scholarly reviews and primary sources, and then communicate effectively to a variety of audiences and/or using a variety of methods.
2 Manage their own learning and exercise both initiative and personal responsibility by identifying the most relevant research materials and carrying out substantial independent research.
3 Identify a range of solutions involving different types of evidence and abstract concepts in order to make decisions about complex problems in a variety of contexts.
4 Analyse and assimilate large quantities of data at a high level which enables them to undertake appropriate further training of a professional or equivalent nature.
5 Demonstrate an awareness of the importance of communicating historical research and understanding to non-specialist audiences and the wider public.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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