GS Mains History Q&A: 6

Q.6 World War – I had far reaching consequences for the Indian National Movement. Comment.


World War – I was the war fought between Great Britain, France, Russia and Japan on one side (Later joined by Italy & USA) and Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey on the other. In India the years of war marked the maturing of nationalism. The moderate sections of nationalists supported the empire in war as a matter of duty. The extremists also supported the war effort in the mistaken belief that Britain would repay India’s loyalty with gratitude in the form of self-government. However the leaders felt cheated after the end of war when government came up with Rowlatt Act. This feeling of betrayal further intensified the nationalistic movement.

The revolutionaries utilized the war as an opportunity to wage a war on British rule and liberate the country. Revolutionaries outside India launched several attacks on British Imperialism through movements like Ghadar Movement, Silk Letter Movement and Singapore Mutiny.

In India also the revolutionary activity in Punjab and Bengal reached to a high point during the war. Indians had to face heavy burden of taxation and inflation during the world war. This fuelled anger against British among the common masses, which later participated in the mass movements led by Mahatma Gandhi.

World War – I was not only a European war. Indirectly almost every continent participated in this. Indians soldiers also participated in it as recruits of British. Around 1.3 million Indians fought in Africa, Western Asia and Western Europe. Most of those troops came from poor, rural areas and weren’t literate. Main motivation for these soldiers was economic, to get an assured salary. However this also had following implications for the Indian National Movement:

  1. The Indian soldiers could see and understand the west, its systems, its culture, its people. And they brought that understanding, that enlightenment back home. This penetrated the ideas of liberty and freedom in the rural areas of India.
  2. They could understand the difference between the free West and colonial India. They realized that they can lead a good life only in a free India.
  3. They could understand the hypocrisy of the European powers in fighting for preservation of their own freedom even as they subjugated and ruled over vast masses of land and people elsewhere.
  4. Indian soldiers returned as more confident men after having beaten the white man in his own land. This ended the military superiority of British from their minds. From here on many returnees participated in India’s Freedom struggle with more energy and confidence.

3 thoughts on “GS Mains History Q&A: 6”

  1. I felt u missed crucial aspects of significance of world war I in post war period (U have covered during the war aspects well).
    1. Indian Politicians unanimously supported Britain. But the govt replied back with repressive laws like Rowlatt act which led to the emergence of Gandhi & eventually NCM.
    2. Post war price rise & unemployment coupled by Bolshevik revolutions triggered labor movements & rise of left wing.
    3. The treaty of sevres meant to humiliate caliphate gave birth to Khilaphat movement & brough Hindu-Muslim unity.

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