I’ve been writing a lot of cover letters lately, and in every one I end up talking about my thesis. I describe my honors project as “the capstone of my collegiate academic experience”or “the culmination of my research, writing, and analytical skills.” Regardless of the number of times I write about it, I still struggle to summarize what exactly my thesis, and the process of creating it, means to me. I do know that completing it gave me an incredible feeling of achievement, accomplishment, and in all honesty, relief. Writing an honors thesis was one of the most difficult but most rewarding experiences I had at Dickinson.
During the school year I often found myself procrastinating from working on my thesis by doing other schoolwork–that’s how consuming an honors project can be. I probably spent more time working on my thesis than for all of my other classes combined. Even before starting my honors endeavor I had to realistically make sure I could handle the workload. In addition to being up to the amount of work, I had to make sure I could stay reasonably motivated and organized without the strict structure of a class. It was helpful knowing I had to being ready for my nearly weekly meetings with my thesis advisor, Professor Pinsker, but I also learned how to give myself realistic goals for the day, weekend, or week so it didn’t feel like I had to conquer my entire thesis every time I sat down to do work. Because I was the only history major writing an honors thesis this year, I also found it helpful to talk to other seniors working on honors projects to share strategies or just to commiserate with one another.
Some things I learned over the course of the year:
- Start research early, it’s really never a bad idea. Some of the non-traditional items (periodicals, microfilm) I ordered via inter-library loan took awhile to arrive, or multiple attempts to get the correct item– I ended up reading microfilm during finals in the fall. Also, keep your research organized so when you’re writing the final draft of your thesis the week before it’s due, you can go back and find the information you found back in October without wasting a lot of time.
- Speaking of research, email libraries, archives, and scholars for related information. The worst that can happen is they don’t email you back, or you can end up corresponding with a helpful librarian at the University of Wyoming who emails you PDF’s of primary sources you never would have seen otherwise.
- Start writing even before you have all of your ideas formulated. There’s always more research to do, so at some point you just have to grit your teeth and start typing. Even if you’ve had all of these great ideas bouncing around in your head, writing them out can really help you formulate them, or realize that they don’t make any sense. Either is helpful.
- Don’t be afraid to completely change what you think is your thesis statement. You’ll probably revise it at least 10 times. My proposal only vaguely resembles my final product. For a while I didn’t even know what my argument was any more. That’s fine, as long as you eventually acknowledge the fact that you’re not just showing off your research skills, but also your ability to analyze the information you’ve found.
- Make friends with the librarians. I spent an a large amount of time in the library, so it only made sense to befriend the people who could actually help me with my research. Did you know that seniors doing independent studies can check out books for the entire semester after filing out this form at circulation? It’s really helpful.
- Remember it’s your honors project. While it’s generally a good idea to listen to what your thesis advisor and reader have to say, you have the final say. But keep in mind, the entire department votes if you get honors.
It’s hard, but it’s worth it.
It’s done. Well, I’ve finished writing the first draft. Reaching a total of 86 pages, my draft reflects the inclusive nature of the India Lobby itself. I know that I will have to make my final paper substantially more concise, but I’m currently operating under the principle of put it all in now and take it out later. I’ve actually not even fit all I wanted to say in this draft: here’s a two-page write-up of the National Committee for India’s Independence that I never seemed to find a spot for in the paper. I think that I’ll want to condense my descriptions of the official events in the U.S.-India relationship (like the Phillips mission) in particular to focus my narrative more around the India Lobby itself. I’ve added in subheadings in my two narrative chapters to provide more organizational structure. I decided to divide the narrative between the Cripps mission and the Quit India movement, the point when I argue, the India Lobby employed the internationalist rhetoric it had developed in strategic action. At this point, I sort of have nonexistent chapter titles, and I think I still need to figure out how to properly cite items from microfilm and manuscript collection, but for a March 1 deadline, I’m satisfied.
I’ve spent the past week writing the narrative paragraphs of my thesis, covering the Atlantic Charter (August 1941) through the Phillips mission (December 1942). I’m planning going up through the Phillips leak (July 1944), though I’m already at 30 pages for the combined 2 chapters. At this stage in my writing, I’m still pretty wordy, but I not planning on editing until just before I turn it in on March 1st.
When I was writing I didn’t create a break between the two chapters because I wanted to see how my research fit into the narrative. Right now I’ve made a tentative chapter break after the Cripps Mission (April 1942) as the point where India Lobby activity begins to really pick up, but if I can condense the first section a bit, I might move this later. So far the narrative has naturally lent itself to alternating between Lobby testimony (India Today, NAACP Papers) and a more official account (FRUS) of the events. Most of my writing is centered around primary source evidence, and I’m not sure if I should be incorporating more secondary source arguments in these two chapters, or not as much because I will have a chapter devoted to historiography.
Here’s the chronology that I’ve made from my primary sources that I’ve been using while writing my narrative chapters. This version goes through 1943, though I’m working on expanding it through 1945. Because I made indexes for the NAACP Papers and Emanuel Celler Papers previously, I haven’t completely combined all of the sources into this one document, but it’s pretty complete.
As far as research goes, I haven’t done too much this past week since I’ve being doing a lot of writing. I have continued reading Nico Slate’s, Colored Cosmopolitanism, now that I have the physical book, and I’ve started to look into sources on the American Zionist Emergency Council using the book that Prof. Commins lent me: Edward Tivnan, The Lobby: Jewish Political Power and American Foreign Policy (1987).
At this point I’ve written about 8 pages that focus on the period from the Atlantic Conference (August 1941) through Pearl Harbor. Because I’m framing the Atlantic Charter within the context of FDR’s state of the union, “Four Freedoms,” speech and earlier Wilsonian internationalism, I’ve begun to introduce what I mean by “liberal internationalism,” and who J.J. Singh and the India Lobby attempted to affiliate themselves, and Indian independence, with.
Using sources like Warren Kuchl’s article on internationalism in Alexander DeConde’s Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy: Studies of the Principle Movements and Ideas (1978) and G. John Ikenberry’s, The Crisis of American Foreign Policy: Wilsonianism in the Twenty-first Century (2009), I’m trying to get an idea of the historical transformation of internationalism without delving into the political science meaning of “liberal internationalism.” In Bruce Cummings’ study, The Origins of the Korean War (1990), for example, Cummings describes two camps of internationalism at the end of WWII: the left-liberal-internationalism that would be embodied by Henry Wallace and his 1948 presidential campaign that emphasized an “open door” and principles of universalism and democratization vs. the Republican internationalists, who in the Cold War would advocate containment to combat the spread of communism (27-29).
In a more practical application, I’ve been able to find connections between the ACLU and the India League of America. Roger Baldwin and John Haynes Holmes, who were cofounders of the ACLU, and were members of the League’s Advisory Board by March 1942. The League elected Baldwin as its treasurer in December 1942. Holmes wrote to Walter White on January 18, 1943 (not in his capacity as a member of the League), before White joined the League. I’ve flipped through a history of the ACLU, Judy Kutulas’ The American Civil Liberties Union and the Making of Modern Liberalism, 1930-1960 (2006), which describes the institutionalization of the ACLU from a radical organization to one that “deliberately cultivated liberal respectability,” which seems in line with the evolution of the India Lobby to a certain extent (Kutulas, 2). Kutulas’ book also introduced me to the “People’s Front,” which she describes as promoting “the fusion of civil liberties and liberalism by shifting the national conversation toward shared values” (Kutulas, 6). Because this coalition was intertwined with undercurrents connected to the American Communist Party, I’m not sure if this is the type of liberal group I want to explore further as an example of the India Lobby’s tactics.
Based on my recent discovery of the Baldwin connection between the India Lobby and the established American liberal coalition, it seems like I can draw the lines between the India Lobby and liberal internationalists (like Pearl Buck for example), but my evidence for these characters is based on letter heads and not necessarily firsthand testimony. Because I do have more substantial evidence for both White and Celler, perhaps I can use them as tactical case-studies to demonstrate Singh and the Lobby’s larger strategy vision–placing Indian independence in the greater coalition of liberal internationalists.
On a side note, a passage in Christina Klein’s Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945-1961 (2003), seems to confirm Professor Pinsker’s suspicions that American missionaries in Asia weren’t connected to the liberal establishment:
The Protestant missionary movement, although not allied exclusively with the Republican party, provided right internationalism with a number of outspoken advocates and a steady stream of intellectual energy. Grounded in the universalist values of Christianity, missionaries had been powerful promoters of internationalist thinking since the nineteenth century. In general, they encouraged a U.S.-centered internationalism based on spreading American values and institutions and transforming other nations along American lines (Klein, 29-30).
As a counterexample, however, Pearl Buck’s parents were Christian missionaries in China, and Buck aligned herself with not only the China Lobby, but the India Lobby, and black civil rights activities in the U.S.
I have written a brief profile of J.J. Singh, using the new resources I found either at the Library of Congress or in the NAACP Papers. Because I’m so excited by my research, I’ve been a bit overenthusiastic in including it in this profile, so the piece will need some further refining. The citations aren’t all completed yet either. My basic argument in the profile is that although the media portrayed Singh as a sort of individual crusader, a single voice advocating for India, in actuality, Singh’s greatest strength was his ability to build lasting relationships (especially with leading Americans), which helped advance the goals of the India Lobby. The members of the India League, therefore, reflect Singh’s consciousness of the growing liberal trend of internationalism, and his efforts to place India’s fight for independence in the midst of this emerging coalition. I’m not really sure where I will incorporate this profile into my actual thesis chapters, since it’s not a chronological description of Singh, but I found it beneficial just to write and get some ideas down of paper. Perhaps I will end up breaking it into pieces.
I’ve been spending some time developing a better understanding of the historiography of scholarship that connects the black civil rights movement and Indian nationalism in America during the 1940s. In addition to Plummer’s, A Rising Wind, and the Nico Slate book (which was published this month), Professor Sweeney tipped me off to Gerald Horne’s book, The End of Empires: African Americans and India (2008), which contains helpful endnotes. For example, Horne cites a poll reported in the Pittsburgh Courier: “in a October 1942 survey of 10,000 black Americans 87.8 percent ‘responded with a loud ‘yes’ to the question ‘do you believe that India should continue to contend for her rights and her liberty now?'” which would be interesting to compare to Hess’ opinion polls (171). All of these texts treat the connection between African American activism and Indian nationalism in a much broader historical context than what I will be addressing, but I think it is significant that this is the only body of scholarship that I have found which draws distinct attention to the efforts of the India Lobby in the United States.
I’ve also begun to tackle my chronological narrative chapters starting, using the Atlantic Charter as my most significant starting point. I’m still trying to figure out how much background I need to include before I get into my focused time period (1941-1945). For example, Professor Borges drew attention to the Indian immigrants on the West Coast, who in the 1910s began the first organizations (most significantly, the Ghadar Party) with an Indian nationalist agenda in the United States. While I continue to work on that issue, I’ve been spending some time in FRUS, and other primary sources from policy officials that address the Atlantic Charter. By starting with the Atlantic Charter and ending with the U.N. Conference, I’m framing my chronology between two distinct expressions of internationalism. Both reflect the kind of idealism previously expressed in Wilson’s 14 Points and Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, but the principles of the Atlantic Charter quickly gave way to the “realities” of world war and immediate military national interests, as demonstrated by Churchill’s redefinition of article 3 and official American interest in India following Pearl Harbor. In contrast, the U.N. Conference shows the beginning of concrete commitment or a realization of the principles of internationalism. I’ve also done quick full-text search of FRUS to see how often the Atlantic Charter was referred to during this period.
To answer a few questions brought up in last week’s meeting, Singh’s sons’ names are Man Mohan and Man Jit Singh, who were 14 and 11 years old in 1967. The biographical sketch included in Singh’s 70th birthday celebratory magazine claims that: “it was because of the birth of these two boys that J.J. Singh decided to leave New York and come back to India. He wanted his sons to be brought up purely as Indian citizens and not have dual loyalties” (3). This last sentence seems out of character for Singh.
Going back to a question raised in my December 1 presentation, there was an organization called the “India League of London,” which was not organizationally connected to the India League of America. Singh was in correspondence with its general-secretary V.K. Krishna Menon, who in 1946, Singh described as Nehru’s “personal representative” (quoted in Horne, 181).
I spent Friday, January 6 and Saturday, January 7 doing research at the Library of Congress. I began Friday in the Madison building where I was able to access the finding aid for the Emanuel Celler Papers, which is a very extensive collection. 4 boxes either mentioned J.J. Singh or India, and so on Saturday I went back to view these items. Though there was significantly less correspondence between Celler and J.J. Singh during the war years, their correspondence as a whole was quite lengthly, and I was able to either copy or take notes on the documents I found the most significant. Their letters touched on topics including the U.N. Conference at San Francisco and the state of the India League of America, as well as really cementing their close relationship and J.J.’s status as an expert on India in the United States. I particularly enjoyed seeing J.J’s own handwriting (including his decisive signature), his business card (which only had the words “J.J. Singh” and “New York” on it), and a memorial magazine created for his 70th birthday. I’m very pleased with the amount of new material I obtained from the Celler Papers.
On Friday I also submitted a request through the Recorded Sound Reference Center to digitize a NBC radio address given by Anup Singh entitled “China & India Speak to America, India Speaks.” Because of the length of the digitizing queue I won’t be able to access this recording until January 23, and I would need to return to the Library to listen to the program because of copyright laws. I decided to submit the request anyway, though I may decide it is not worth the time to follow through on this single item.
The other major item I viewed at the Library of Congress was the monthly periodical published by the National Committee for India’s Freedom, The Voice of India. The Library owned copies of the journal from its first issue published in September 1944 vol. 3 no. 6/7 (April/May 1947). I decided to copy the title page and table of contents for all of the issues published during my timeline, so through December 1945, as well as any articles I found significant. I think it will be interesting to contrast this publication with India Today, and discover if the two periodicals not only differed in presentation but if they also reported on the same events differently.
At the end of my two days at the Library of Congress I felt like I could spend another two months doing research there, but overall, very satisfied with the amount of work I accomplished in my limited time there.
I have also heard back from Professor Clymer, who responded in a very nice email that unfortunately he can’t help me because he is working at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington and doesn’t have access to his documents. I have get to get responses to any of the other emails I’ve sent out.
I’ve begun looking at the NAACP Papers I have on microfilm, and I had forgotten just how much material can fit on one reel of film. I’ve been through one complete reel and am planning to go through the remaining 3 reels before the end of the semester. I’m making PDF files from the film and I’ll go through them over break to identify the most useful resources. This will save me a trip to the Library of Congress, though I’m still planning to visit Yale while at home to look at their collection of the monthly periodical Voice of India. I feel like the bulk of my remaining research is in primary sources: FRUS, newspapers, potential newsreel and radio, as well as the testimony from the different characters in my story I have yet to profile (including Churchill and FDR). I do also want to do a bit more work in ethnic lobby scholarship as well as look at secondary sources dealing with the Anglo-American wartime relationship, such as Christopher Thorne’s Allies of a Kind
Looking towards the future of the of my project: I’m planning to adopt some version of the the paper I presented on Thursday as my introductory chapter to my thesis, though I may consider splitting it in two, and making the historiography a second chapter of its own. Regardless of this decision, this first one (or two) chapter is 20 pages long, leaving me about 30 for the rest of my thesis. With this is mind, here is my tentative table of contents:
Ch. 1: Introduction/Historiography: The Forgotten Lobby
Ch. 2: Pre-1942 (Atlantic Charter, Pearl Harbor): Building the Framework- The Early Development of the both India Lobby and U.S.-India relationship
Ch. 3: 1942-1943 (Johnson, Cripps, Quit India, Phillips Missions): Active Engagement- Lobby activity during the height of American awareness of India
Ch. 4: 1944-1945 (Leak and U.N. Conference): A Sophisticated Coalition- The Lobby in its maturity–connections to the NAACP, mass media, and a voice on an international stage
Ch. 5: Conclusion: Internationalism and Ethnic Lobbies
After spending the first 2 weeks of next semester compiling the research I’ve done over break with other loose ends, and doing any reorganization of my Dec. 1 paper, here is my proposed writing schedule for the spring:
Feb. 10- Ch. 2
Feb. 17- Ch. 3
Feb. 24- Ch. 4
March 1- Ch. 5/rough draft due
I may need to alter this timeline once I have an idea of my course load for my other classes, but as I see it right now, I will need to do all of my writing in February.
I’ve now been working on the first chapter of my project for the past several weeks, and it’s evolved quite significantly. What began as a short narrative opening, creating a snapshot of the Phillips leak, has developed into a nearly-20 page paper that incorporates narrative, analysis, and historiography. While I still have to do my final round of editing and revising, it’s very encouraging to see a tangible product of what I’ve been working on for the past several months.
Working on this introductory chapter has also highlighted areas of scholarship that I want to become more comfortable in as I continue to work on my thesis. Though I’ve been able to do some initial research in the body of work that addressing the development of ethnic lobbies in the United States (primarily utilizing the work of Alexander DeConde and Melvin Small), I can see how a more thorough background in the subject area can enhance my analysis of the India Lobby. I also plan to become more versed in the history of specific lobbies I might draw comparisons to, especially the China Lobby and Israel Lobby.
After I finish polishing my first chapter, my most immediate concern is the December 1 presentation in front of the department. Other future plans include research trips to the Library of Congress for Walter White’s correspondence with J.J. Singh (the library currently claims that these films were shipped to me on 11/9, but I have get to see any proof of this), as well as Yale University, which owns the National Committee for India’s Independence’s monthly publication, Voice of India, which I hope to compare to India Today.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been spending most of my time working on the draft of the paper I will present on December 1. Here is the latest version of that paper. Once again, I feel like I’m making progress with the narrative opening, though it still needs tweaking. I’ve added an organizing paragraph in between the narrative and the section which gives the background on the Lobby. In this paragraph I’ve raised the questions I plan on addressing in the course of my project, but right now my thesis seems more like a proposal than a thesis statement to me. The part of my paper that I’m the happiest with right now is the section that defines India Lobby and its members. I’ve also expanded this section significantly since my last draft. Right now I have a tentative start to a concluding section, but I’m not sure I like the direction I’m headed in. I have finally tracked down the FDR quote about public opinion in FRUS and have included a large portion of it in this paragraph. (Should I make the quote an appendix because it’s so long?) I then started to go into my foreign-lobby research, which is where I’m currently stuck.
My other focus these past 2 weeks has been my foreign lobby research. I currently have extensive notes going, though I have yet to format them into blog posts. Most of my recent research has been more in the realm of political science and sociology rather than history, and so I’m getting more of a theoretical layout of the topic. Some of my key sources so far include:
Thomas Ambrosio, ed., Ethnic Identity Groups and U.S. Foreign Policy, (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2002)
Mohammed E. Ahari, ed., Ethnic Groups and U.S. Foreign Policy (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987).
Alexander DeConde, Ethnicity, Race, and American Foreign Policy (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1992).
Sanjeev Khagram, Manish Desai, Jason Varughese, “Seen, Rich, but Unheard? The Politics of Asian Indians in the United States,” in Asian American and Politics: Perspectives, Experiences, and Prospects, Gordon Chang, ed., (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2000): 258-284.
Joseph P. O’Grady, The Immigrants’ Influence on Wilson’s Peace Politics (Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1967).
Gaddis Smith, American Diplomacy during the Second World War, 1941-1945 2nd ed. (New York: Random House Inc., 1985)
Tony Smith, Foreign Attachments: The Power of Ethnic Groups in the Making of American Foreign Policy (Cambridge, MA: 2000).
John Snetsinger, “Race and Ethnicity” in Encylopedia of American Foreign Policy 2nd edition, ed. Alexander DeConde, vol. 3: 289-311.
One interesting question that my research has raised is the potential comparison between Wilson’s 14 Points, WWI ethnic lobbies, and the idea of self-determination and the Atlantic Charter, WWII lobbies, and decolonization. I haven’t had a chance to ponder this further.
In other news, I’ve added indexes to the categories on my blog, though I’m not sure if I’ve truly made the posts “sticky.” The latest on the NAACP microfilm is: the Library of Congress apparently denied my request to borrow their film though they didn’t give a reason. My friend in inter-library loan and I think we’ve found up to possibly 4 other libraries in the U.S. that claim to have the same film, so that’s what I’m trying to acquire currently.