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Gandhi Before India [Kindle Edition]

Ramachandra Guha
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $35.00
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Book Description

Here is the first volume of a magisterial biography of Mohandas Gandhi that gives us the most illuminating portrait we have had of the life, the work and the historical context of one of the most abidingly influential—and controversial—men in modern history.
           
Ramachandra Guha—hailed by Time as “Indian democracy’s preeminent chronicler”—takes us from Gandhi’s birth in 1869 through his upbringing in Gujarat, his two years as a student in London and his two decades as a lawyer and community organizer in South Africa. Guha has uncovered myriad previously untapped documents, including private papers of Gandhi’s contemporaries and co-workers; contemporary newspapers and court documents; the writings of Gandhi’s children; and secret files kept by British Empire functionaries. Using this wealth of material in an exuberant, brilliantly nuanced and detailed narrative, Guha describes the social, political and personal worlds inside of which Gandhi began the journey that would earn him the honorific Mahatma: “Great Soul.” And, more clearly than ever before, he elucidates how Gandhi’s work in South Africa—far from being a mere prelude to his accomplishments in India—was profoundly influential in his evolution as a family man, political thinker, social reformer and, ultimately, beloved leader.
           
In 1893, when Gandhi set sail for South Africa, he was a twenty-three-year-old lawyer who had failed to establish himself in India. In this remarkable biography, the author makes clear the fundamental ways in which Gandhi’s ideas were shaped before his return to India in 1915. It was during his years in England and South Africa, Guha shows us, that Gandhi came to understand the nature of imperialism and racism; and in South Africa that he forged the philosophy and techniques that would undermine and eventually overthrow the British Raj.
           
Gandhi Before India gives us equally vivid portraits of the man and the world he lived in: a world of sharp contrasts among the coastal culture of his birthplace, High Victorian London, and colonial South Africa. It explores in abundant detail Gandhi’s experiments with dissident cults such as the Tolstoyans; his friendships with radical Jews, heterodox Christians and devout Muslims; his enmities and rivalries; and his often overlooked failures as a husband and father. It tells the dramatic, profoundly moving story of how Gandhi inspired the devotion of thousands of followers in South Africa as he mobilized a cross-class and inter-religious coalition, pledged to non-violence in their battle against a brutally racist regime.
           
Researched with unequaled depth and breadth, and written with extraordinary grace and clarity, Gandhi Before India is, on every level, fully commensurate with its subject. It will radically alter our understanding and appreciation of twentieth-century India’s greatest man. 


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* For many Westerners, the mention of Gandhi evokes stock images of the frail, scantily dressed Indian spouting tomes about peace and brotherhood while leading a noble, nonviolent struggle for Indian independence. Relatively few realize that Gandhi spent decades living outside of the subcontinent, in Britain and especially in South Africa. Guha, who has taught courses on Gandhi at Stanford and Yale, covers his life from his birth in British India, in 1869, up to his departure from South Africa and return to India in 1915. There is much that is familiar here, including Gandhi’s asceticism, his passion for justice, and his gift for savvy political maneuvering. But Guha’s account is full of surprises. In Britain, as a young barrister, Gandhi moved freely with a liberal and racially diverse crowd and proudly viewed himself as a “citizen of the Empire” while dressing stylishly. In South Africa, the rigid racial divisions shocked him, and it was here that he developed the tactics that he employed so effectively later in India. This is an outstanding opening volume of a planned two-volume biography of one of the most widely revered but often misunderstood figures in world history. --Jay Freeman

Review

Praise for India After Gandhi:
"[Guha's] 2007 blockbuster India After Gandhi has already become the standard text on contemporary India." The Guardian
"A stunning work--an instant classic." San Francisco Chronicle
"There will undoubtedly be other books covering the extraordinary and exhilarating story of post-independence India, but it is hard to imagine a better one." Daily Telegraph
"Essential reading for anybody with an interest in modern India." The Independent


Product Details

  • File Size: 17504 KB
  • Print Length: 689 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 15, 2014)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G8EKYGC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #376,586 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
(65)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Story of the evolution of a Bania into a Mahatma April 15, 2014
Format:Hardcover
I was hesitant to buy this book because I was skeptical as to what more that is new can be written about Mahatma Gandhi. After all, the Govt of India had published 100 volumes of his collected works after nearly 40 years of sustained effort in assembling them. Still, the title kindled my interest because I realized that I know little about Gandhi's first 45 years of life, which were spent substantially outside India. In fact, for most of us in India, the window into Gandhi's life before he came back to India, was provided only by Richard Attenborough's film 'Gandhi'. As I finished reading this book, I am amazed that Dr.Guha is able to show us so much about Gandhi's life that I have been completely unaware of. The book shows how Gandhi was born a Gujarathi bania, grew up in Gujarat with all the prejudices and quirks of his caste and gradually transformed himself into a hero in the eyes of the larger world through his tireless struggles in politics, spirituality and practice of non-violent, passive resistance to racial injustice in South Africa. Many of us in India have the image of Gandhi as one who was born a Mahatma, lived as a Mahatma and died as THE Mahatma. This book shows that Gandhi was actually a work in progress and how South Africa shaped him into becoming the man that he was to become later in the eyes of the world.

I was broadly conversant with Gandhi's struggles in the period 1893-1914 for the civil and political rights of Indians in South africa and his approach to working within the British empire and that of his belief in gradual rather than revolutionary change. But what I learnt new from this book was that in this African endeavour, there was deep and passionate participation from Tamils, Parsees, Muslims, Christians, European Jews, and the Chinese.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very interesting April 21, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
By his own account, for Gandhi Before India Ramachandra Guha was able to consult quite a bit of Gandhi's correspondence that had not been included in the compendium of "all" his correspondence. I have no reason to doubt that. His research appears impeccable.

Guha sees Gandhi as a person with flaws as well as virtues. He presents to us a real person in the process of growth. This is also a big plus for this book.

Given that it presents a lot with which I am not familiar both about one of India's subcultures and about Gandhi, himself, the book is surprisingly quite readable.

Overall, I can only say that this book is an impressive achievement which makes me interested to read more by this author!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
With tomes of dissertations and books written on Gandhi, it is always difficult to come up with a new lens to rediscover the personality that shaped much of the strategies in modern world's political movements. Most authors adopt an approach to explain how Gandhi influenced India (the world, in general). and focus less on how the world shaped Gandhi. Guha does a masterful job in a blended approach of employing Gandhi both as a protagonist and a mere witness to prevalent social-economic-political-religious circumstances. In that nuanced approach, Guha is able to discover the unique roles non-Indians have played in the early shaping of Gandhi's philosophies, moral compass, and the urge to fight injustice within the system.

Some narratives (especially the ones I read growing up in India) tend to portray Westerners as mostly of the same ilk as the infamous General Dyre. But the narrative around Gandhi in England for studies portray an entirely different picture; almost to the extent that one could argue England really didn't know what the English were doing once they were out of England - the general tolerance and often camaraderie (as in vegetarian society, for example) that Gandhi experienced in his college days is in stark contrast to how the English raj was perceived. That contrast is educational, a reader also is able to witness the gradual degeneration of the "benevolence" of the English rulers in all colonies. The social tensions within these colonies, the debate on immigrants (and Indians' role in shaping that discourse via non-violent ways), and the general apathy that was shown towards immigrants and other races in South Africa is a story that is often unsaid in the context of Gandhi. Those sections alone are worth this book.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could be made interesting October 30, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
The subject of biography of Mahatma in Africa is very interesting and at many events is exciting - when you think of the Tranval world; cases Gandhi was arguing; the background to and execution of, satyagraha. The life has all material - better than Boswell's Johnson.

Unfortunately, Mr Guha presents a dry history book chronologically listing events one after the other. After reading the book, one is left with a feeling of jumble of events and dates - there is no feeling of participation mentally of the events unfolding in Natal & Transval. Mr. Guha collected lot of material, put in lot of effort but could not present it in an interesting and involving fashion.

A book of this nature should transport the reader to the relevant time; make him feel mentally that he is part of events unfolding in Natal & Transval. That is where Mr. Guha fails. I think, he should have joined hands with a good story teller - that could have made the book very interesting, involving and most read. Some thing like "Man Before Mahatma". Mr Guha should seriously consider rewriting this book. This can be a wonderful book - the subject has all material that can put a reader on edge with interest. If written right, it will be a book every Indian and every Western will read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This is Bible on Gandhi.
Published 1 month ago by Narendra
5.0 out of 5 stars Fills in the Picture of the Great Man
I've read many books by and about Gandhi, so I didn't think there was much left for me to learn about the man or his work, but, this great, comprehensive work filled in an... Read more
Published 3 months ago by MontyFan
5.0 out of 5 stars Ghandi's Equality Struggle is a Model for Today
Given what has happened during the last few weeks in Ferguson, Missouri and Long Island, New York plus the refusal of The U.S. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Nan Healy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Shows man behind the myth
Published 6 months ago by Daniel O'Grady
5.0 out of 5 stars Majority (and foundation) of Gandhi's life that we knew nothing about
As a long time fan of the writer and having picked up this book in Berkeley, I was pleased to read that the book was born in Ram Guha's mind when teaching a course on Gandhi at... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Righthalf
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Interesting at points but in general long and repetitive.
Published 7 months ago by Lekw
1.0 out of 5 stars Needs a strong editor
Long-winded and tediously detailed. We were reading this for our book group and only one of 12 finished it. The rest of us groaned and gritted our teeth and finally just gave up. Read more
Published 8 months ago by LK
5.0 out of 5 stars This book has an amazing amount of detail
This book has an amazing amount of detail. The author obviously did a lot of very extensive research. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Donnyboy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent !
Published 9 months ago by Chuck
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnum Opus Part 1 A run at the Definitive Biography title
Ramachandra Guha has uncovered a myriad of previously untapped documents, including: private papers of Gandhi's contemporaries and co-workers; contemporary newspapers and court... Read more
Published 9 months ago by bbb000
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