A picture of people sitting on the floor cross-legged talking with Gandhi.

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

“If I find the constitution being misused, I shall be the first to burn it” – B. R. Ambedkar

These archives give an insight into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh from a distinctly British perspective, from the late 19th century to the present day. Daniel Payne shares some of the highlights of this collection.

LSE and South Asia

There has been a strong connection between LSE and South Asia, with the co-founders of the School Sidney and Beatrice Webb travelling extensively across Lyallpur, Peshawa and Lahore.

  • B. R. Ambedkar – Considered the chief architect of the Indian constitution, Ambedkar was awarded a PhD at the LSE for his thesis on The problem of the rupee, which includes a handwritten dedication. The archives hold some letters and documents from him, such as "A scheme of political safeguards for the protection of the depressed classes in the future constitution of a self-governing India" (see here, 1930)
  • Ratan Tata foundation - We hold the minutes of this organisation, which helped to establish the Department of Social Science and Administration.
  • The Webbs – Co-founder of the LSE Beatrice Web kept a diary of her travels, which are available online. Also see Sidney Webb addressing Indian students in 1922 on Fabian policy for India.
  • Lord William Beveridge - The director of the LSE was born in Rangpur (then British India, now Bangladesh) and his personal papers include material related to India, such as a 1946 file regarding an abandoned project for an enquiry into the extension of social security in India. The collection includes general correspondence between various figures such as the High Commissioner of Pakistan
  • Anthropology – LSE anthropologist Chris Fuller conducted a research project on the anthropology of globalisation in India.

Download our LSE Connections with the Indian Subcontinent timeline [PDF 5MB]

Ambedkar and one of his publications
B. R. Ambedkar, LSE alumnus and author of the Indian Constitution


The British Left

We hold many collections of British MPs active during the 20th century, offering an interesting insight into the Left's relationship with the Indian subcontinent.

  • George Lansbury – Leader of the Labour party in the 1930's and sometimes referred to as the "English Gandhi", the Lansbury archives includes labour party proposals regarding India, and correspondence with M. K. Gandhi.
  • David Steel - Leader of the Liberal Party, his papers contain example letters from his constituents who are concerned about famine affecting the people of Palamau district in India. There is also correspondence from the Indian embassy regarding a report by Amnesty, and Liberal Party policy summaries on Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India in the 1960's and 1970's
  • Peter Shore – Labour politician whose archives reflect labour policy in the 60’s and 70’s, including files related to Bangladeshi Independence and correspondence with the UK Awami League where Shore "supports the withdrawal of Punjabi troops and the establishment of popular self-government of East Bengal"
  • Independent Labour Party – The party published pamphlets that discuss issues of self-government and others in India in the early 20th century.
  • Fabian Society - a socialist organisation, still in existence, which includes a report from the 1930's regarding the India "problem". There are also papers of some members of the Fabian society e.g. Sir Sydney Olivier, secretary of the West India Royal Commission in 1897, who was sent to Washington in 1898 to assist in reciprocity negotiations on behalf of West Indian colonies.
George Lansbury telegram
Telegram responding to Gandhi's arrest


British Women and South Asia

The collections include a number of documents related to British women who sought to affect policy and raise the status of women in India. These include:

  • Eleanor Rathbone – a campaigner active in India in the 1920s, whose archives include correspondence with key activists in India at the time, such as Begum Jehan Ara Shah Nawaz (first female member of the All-India Muslim League Council) and Muthulakshmi Reddi (first female Indian doctor)
  • Eileen Palmer – a campaigner who worked for the Birth Control International Centre, which included international work in India. Her papers include documents and correspondence critical of M. K. Gandhi’s stance on birth control and correspondence with him, as well as a diary of her travels and work in India
  • Association for Moral and Social Hygiene (AMSH) - later to be called the Josephine Butler Society, the AMSH conducted international work in India and campaigned against state regulation of prostitution and trafficking of women. The collection Includes records of their work across India including Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). View more about our collections in this area on the prostitution and trafficking web page.

Trade, Currency and Economics

  • The Tariff Commission - a body set up in 1903 to examine and report on Chamberlain’s proposals for tariff reform with their effects on British trade and industries. The papers include data and reports regarding free trade and imperialism in the early 20th century.
  • Lord Farrer - Farrer was a barrister who collected documents related to Indian currency and bimetallism during the period 1860s - 1880s.
  • Peter Shore - As well as policy documents for Labour mentioned above, Shore's papers also include pamphlets such as "What will British membership of the common market mean for India's trade?"
Young boys sat against a wall
Photograph from a tour of India and Pakistan, 1952


Partition, Independence and Conflict

  • Political pamphlets – The Library holds a large collection of political pamphlets produced from political parties and special interest groups in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  • Indira Gandhi – As well as a photograph of the Prime Minister of India, we also have the notes of a journalist who met her for dinner in 1969 and asked for her thoughts on current affairs at the time, including Russia, the commonwealth and social revolution in China.
  • M. K. Gandhi - There are telegrams from around the world that respond to Gandhi's arrest, photographs of Gandhi, and correspondence between Gandhi and Longden (Conservative MP, who holds an "India file" on Gandhi)
  • League of Nations Union - Active from 1918 - 1971, the LNU often discussed issues of self-rule in India
  • William Farr -A statistician who research mortality rates and other details about the British army in India in the 19th century.

How do I search?

This is just a snapshot of the material we hold that covers this subject. You can find these items and many more by using the following search tools:

  • Search the LSE Archives catalogue with keywords such as “east india company”, “Bangladesh”, or “mutiny”, “Indian National Congress”.
  • Search within a particular collection e.g. to search for mentions of "Pakistan" within the Abel-Smith archive, head to the advanced search, type "ABEL-SMITH*" in the reference number field, and then your keyword "Pakistan" in the Any text field.

How do I access?

Most of the material highlighted here is part of our special collections, which are open to all but must be consulted in our reading room. Find out how to book your place and order material on our access archives and special collections.

How do I get further help?

If you need  help with any of the collections mentioned here get in touch with our Curator Politics and International Relations, Daniel Payne, or on Twitter.

Find out more