Accepted paper:

Imperial surveillance and the "German question": the policing of Indian anti-colonialist networks in Europe, 1905-1945


Daniel Brueckenhaus (Beloit College)

Paper short abstract:

Focusing on the early twentieth century, this paper analyzes the effects of coalitions that Indian anti-colonialists formed with both German right-wing authorities and German communists, on British notions of political policing, as well as on the broader European political and ideological landscape.

Paper long abstract:

During the first half of the twentieth century, the British imperial authorities saw themselves faced with a novel threat. Confronted with a heightened level of police surveillance in the colonies and in Britain, political activists from India and other British territories were moving to continental Europe. There, they formed new alliances with both German right-wing authorities, and German communists. This paper argues that such German-anti-colonialist alliances caused the British police authorities to develop a new, transnational and trans-imperial concept of surveillance. In addition, Western European reactions to these coalitions "across the color line" also formed an important part of a more wide-ranging transformation of Europe's political and ideological landscape. The cooperation between anti-colonialists and German anti-democratic forces was perceived, in Britain and France, as an attack on a Western European model of governance that combined liberal politics at home with autocratic rule in the colonies. As the paper argues, the authorities of France and Britain in reaction moved closer together ideologically and politically, while setting themselves apart from Germany. At the same time, the new level of cooperation between French and British political police officers increasingly undermined the very liberal foundations that many Western Europeans saw as a central, distinguishing characteristic of their own political culture.

panel P22
Conspiracy, terrorism and counterterrorism in late colonial India (c.1900-1947)