October 25, 2011

This past week I’ve focused on two aspects of my December 1 paper: compiling a background in foreign lobby history and writing a draft of my narrative opening.  On a side note, I’ve begun going through FRUS, and I’ve also hunted down Pearson’s memoir published in the Saturday Evening Post, which gives his point of view of the leak.

I’ve added a subcategory to “Secondary Sources,” where I’ve begun posting brief synopses of the flashpoint foreign lobbies in U.S. history. At some point in the future I may end up making a separate historiography drop-down category. This week, I’ve concentrated on the lobbies that preceded the India Lobby: the French, Latin American, and European revolutionaries.  I’ve been consulting George Herring’s survey, From Colony to Superpower, to refamiliarize myself with the material.  My blog posts so far contain a brief summary of the event/individual/lobby in question, some additional sources I plan on exploring, as well as some of my initial reactions to the lobbies. Some general observations so far:

  • Individuals or small groups characterize these early lobbies (Citizen Genet, Diego de Saavedra and Juan Pedro de Aguirre, Louis Kossuth). Though they all represented a larger community or state, much of their success as a persuasive diplomat seemed to rest in how Americans and U.S. policy members received them as an individual.
  • American presidents seemed to gauge their response to the lobby on how realistic they believed the lobbyist’s goals were. For example, American presidents/secretaries of state gave the Latin American delegates and Louis Kossuth no more than a verbal sign of their support for their independence movements. Edmond Genet, however, was representing an established nation, and John Adams practically declared war with France.
  • The American public’s response to the various causes was directly related to the presence of the lobby in America: the lobbyists brought their causes to the American conscious for the first time (reflection of the availability of world news in the era?).

In the upcoming weeks, I plan on expanding my research on the existing lobbies I’ve examined in a more historiographic approach as well as beginning to cover the mid-twentieth-century foreign lobbies: Israel, China, and Cuba.


Here is my first draft of my narrative opening for my December 1 presentation paper. Currently, I feel like the narrative opening I’ve written isn’t really a narrative at all, but more of a summary of the scene. I want this introduction to captivate the reader and convey a sense of excitement which I think the Pearson leak should generate. I’m thinking of maybe starting again with a version of page 3 as the opening paragraph, but I haven’t quite worked out how to do that yet. This is the first time I’ve written a paper with the conscious plan to incorporate it in a larger paper, which may be throwing me off a bit because I feel like I don’t want to fully elaborate this section because it will only be the introduction of my final thesis.   

October 14, 2011: Project organization

In 1941, the India League of America held 22 meetings for its 26 members (7 of which were on the Executive Board). By July 1944, the League’s National Advisory Board alone consisted of 28 prominent Indians and Americans including Representative Emanuel Celler, Albert Einstein, Henry R. Luce, Mrs. Gifford Pinchot and Walter White.  On August 9, 1944, the India League generated an appeal to urge the British Government of India to release Jawaharlal Nehru from prison that displayed 127 distinguished American signatures.

At the end of 1943, Dr. Anup Singh, the editor of the League’s publication India Today, left New York to help found the National Commission for India’s Independence in Washington, DC. The two lobbying organizations both attempted to raise American support for Indian independence, though they differed in tactics–the National Commission limited its board to Indian-American members.  Over the course of the first three years of U.S. involvement in World War II, the network of advocates for Indian independence in the United States had evolved to a point where its differing tactics expressed a larger issue immigrant communities and their lobbies faced: assimilation or separatism. The complexity of the Indian lobbying network is illustrated in the confusion surrounding the sensational leak of William Phillips‘ report to President Roosevelt. On July 25, 1944Washington Post columnist Drew Pearson published excerpts from the Phillips Report which were critical of British policy towards the India situation. Multiple members of the India Lobby claimed to be the source of the leak, obscuring the path of the Report from the desk of a junior official in the State Department into the hands of one the nation’s most prominent political journalists.

Though it would be fantastic to be able to accurately document the path the Report took, the multi-step process alone demonstrates the developed nature of the India Lobby by 1944. Supporters of Indian independence not only attempted to raise American awareness for their issue as one small but monolithic entity, but they argued amongst themselves about who and how to present their message. Lobby members understood that they needed connections to different levels of the American public: the press, State Department, as well as the members of the multiple lobbying organizations.  This episode creates a snapshot of the India Lobby as a multi-faceted, dynamic body of public opinion that transformed alongside the changing political and social environment in the United States.  In my December 1st presentation, I hope to relay a narrative of how the India Lobby, by utilizing an opportunity presented by a leaked official document of the U.S. government, had developed into a innovative foreign lobby that while promoting its cause also had to confront larger issues of wartime policies, assimilation, and race.

I’m hoping to use the paper that I present on Dec. 1 as the introduction to the rest of my project, using the narrative of the leak to grab the reader’s attention before going into a more historiographic outline of the India Lobby within the development of foreign lobbies in the United States. After the introduction, I plan on proceeding chronologically, using the articles and editorial columns from India Today to help demonstrate the shift the Lobby underwent from 1941 to 1945. I will begin with the Atlantic Charter, the British application of the Charter, and the U.S. entrance into the war, which also coincides with the period when J.J. Singh becomes president of the India League. Some of the other flash-point events I plan on addressing are: Louis Johnson’s 1942 mission to India, the Cripps mission and the subsequent Quit India movement, William Phillip’s mission to India. At this point I will revisit the Pearson leak and its consequences, which will also give me the opportunity to explore the conflicting secondary source analysis of the event.

Finally, I would like to conclude my in-depth analysis by examining Madame Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit’s visit and lobbying efforts across the United States. I hope to present Pandit’s visit as the culmination of the Lobby’s development: she was a well educated, internationally-recognized figure who commanded attention outside of the India Lobby’s network.  Her presence at the U.N. Conference in San Francisco demonstrates how far the India Lobby had come, as Pandit made a memorable presence on a world stage. I’m then planning to use Pandit to segue into a conclusion which expands back to a broader context of the meaning and effects of the India Lobby within the larger scale of foreign lobbies in the United States. I may also integrate a second wider context at this point. Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP and India League board member, was also a delegate present at the San Francisco conference.  White was acquainted with both Pandit and J.J. Singh, and could represent the link between the Civil Rights movement in the United States and the movement for Indian independence as a statements against the oppression of racism and imperialism. Once I have access to the White-Singh correspondance, I will have a better idea on how to incorporate the connection between these two movements and the issue of race into my project.

October 11, 2011

This past week I’ve focused in on doing some closer analysis of India Today. I’ve created posts for issues that I believe are significant because of an article’s topic, author, or the unique nature of the information included in a piece. When appropriate, I have uploaded a corresponding scanned image from the journal. I have paid special attention to India Today‘s editorial column, “As We See It,” which ran in every issue (except one) from January 1941 to September 1944. So far, I have created a table that includes the basic subject of each column as well as the column’s closing sentence, which quite often are very short and pointed. I’m hoping to quantify my analysis, but I’m still figuring out how to go about that process.

I’ve spent some time going further in depth on the leak of Phillips’ report to Drew Pearson. Almost every source I’ve looked at has a variant on who the leakers actually were, and so I’ve created a second timeline post about the affair. I’m planning to do more research on the multiple characters that are identified in the different testimonials, and how the Indian Lobby may have been connected. At this point, I’m thinking of focusing in on the leak for my paper and presentation this semester.  My research has exposed a fair amount of disagreement on the impact of this episode among historians, and I think it would be more engaging for my Common Hour audience to outline a snapshot of the India Lobby in action. Along this point, I’m thinking of outlining my table of contents by year because there is about one major event that I would like to explore from 1941-1945:

  • 1941: Introduction: Atlantic Charter and U.S. entry into the war
  • 1942: Cripps and Johnson missions; Quit India
  • 1942-1943: Phillips mission
  • 1944: Pearson leak
  • 1945: Conclusion: Mme. Pandit and U.N. San Francisco Conference

This outline would give me chapters roughly 10 pages in length (which may or may not be an appropriate length?). Also, I like the idea of starting my paper with the Atlantic Charter and the ideological background to the Indian issue and U.S. involvement, while concluding with an examination of the “ultimate” Indian ambassador to the U.S. at this time–Mme. Pandit.

At this point, I’m still mulling over the central questions that I hope my project will address. Because I’ve been mostly working on a micro-scale of what the Lobby was actually doing during this time period, I’m not yet comfortable with what the broader, macro-meaning of their actions would be.

Although I was anticipating working with the NAACP microfilm that I had ordered from the Library of Congress this week, when I went to pick it up in the library, the item turned out to be the guide to the microfilm, which I already have access to. I’ve talked with the women in charge of inter-library loan, so hopefully this confusion is resolved and I will be able to look at the microfilm itself in the near future.

I’ve also done some basic reformatting of the blog.

September 28, 2011

This past week I’ve focused on reorganizing the blog to reflect a possible chronology and the key actors for my project.

Currently my timeline posts range in date from August 14, 1941 and the signing of the Atlantic Charter to August 15, 1947 and Indian independence. Some of these dates are purely contextual, while on other posts I have begun brief historigraphies by including key scholars interpretations of these events. I’m currently working on incorporating Gary Hess’ analyses and I’m also planning to add the work of the Indian scholars M.S. Venkataramani and B.K. Shrivastava to broaden the historiography. Right now I think 1941 will be a good starting point of my project, but I’m still unsure of when I want to end my analysis–currently I’m leaning towards the end of Mme. Pandit’s U.S. visit in 1945 which would also coincide with the end of WWII.

I’ve changed one my “biography” sub-categories from “diplomats” to “foreign actors” because I was looking for a way to incorporate British actors as well as Indians, like Gandhi, who never went to the United States.

I’m currently struggling at finding journalists and lobbyists with enough primary source evidence to make them feasible to profile. For example, I’m currently looking into the journalist Louis Fischer, who gets mentioned in most of my secondary reading, but doesn’t seem to have left a collection of papers. Because of accessibility, my “state” category is becoming a bit top heavy as many of these actors have published accounts.

My big news this week is that I’m currently in possession of the 1940-1954 issues of India Today. I’ve looked through the issues published during the war period and have become familiar with the monthly periodical’s basic format. India Today is essentially a newsletter, distributed by the India League of America, that seeks to inform Americans on major India issues by publishing pieces written by prominent Indians, Indian experts, or supports of India. In addition, it includes a “suggested reading” section, an “as we see it” editorial, as well as a documentation of the League’s recent activities. Many of my potential key actors are either discussed in India Today or write pieces for the publication. To be honest I’m not sure what to do with this wealth of evidence.