The Constitutional Commemoration of an Interwar Decade: Debating the 1919 Government of India Act at the Round Table Conference of 1930-32

Authors: Stephen Legg*, University of Nottingham
Topics: Historical Geography, Political Geography, Asia
Keywords: India; London; Constitution; 1919; federalism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Embassy Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Partly in response to India’s contribution to the First World War, in 1919 the British passed the Government of India Act. This constitutional reform instituted “dyarchy”, a phased introduction of democracy into colonial India via devolution and increased franchise. The Act specified that there should be a decadal review of the reforms’ functioning, which was published in 1930, and discussed at the Round Table Conference (RTC) in London (over three sessions between 1930-32). Dyarchy is mostly regarded as a failed project, being superseded by plans for federation at the conference. Drawing upon broader debates about federalism as a technique of decolonisation, this paper argues that the RTC provides a window in to an interwar assessment of dyarchy’s attempted geographical squaring of colonial autocracy and Indian democracy via regional devolution.

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