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Ambedkar Research Scholars
The sac encourages research scholars to engage with dr b r ambedkar's history, from his time at the lse and beyound..
Dr B R Ambedkar is one of the most important alumnus of LSE, from where he was awarded his MA and PhD. His doctoral thesis on ‘The Indian Rupee’, written in 1922-23, was later published as The Problem of the Rupee: Its Origin and Its Solution (London: P S King & Son, Ltd, 1923). Ambedkar was a Social Reformer, Economist, Parliamentarian, Jurist, and the Principal Architect of the Constitution of India.
A short biography can be found on the LSE History blog, along with a description of his time at the LSE.
2015 Scholars Visits
As part of the 125th Birth Anniversary Celebrations of Dr B R Ambedkar, the SAC hosted two delegations of research scholars and government officials for week-long visits on 24-31 October 2015 and 21-28 November 2015, in collaboration with the High Commission of India in London and the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India.
With two tours of 25 students & three officers each, the objectives of these trips were i) to show how HE institutions function in the UK, ii) the academic and educational facilities available that are relevant to theirresearch interests at LSE, iii) the rare archival collections relevant to India in museums and collections in London, iv) the multiculturallie in London and v) to introduce students to issues of social inequality, injustice and empowerment affecting contemporary Britain.
Whilst here, two students were interviewed by Rozelle Laha from the Hindustan Times , culminating in an article published in the Delhi edition (in page 19) on Wednesday, 2 December 2015.
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Why publication of b.r. ambedkar’s thesis a century later will be significant, a contemporary relevance of the thesis, written as part of ambedkar’s msc degree at the london school of economics, is that it argues for massive expenditure on heads like defence to be diverted to the social sector.
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Now, over a century after it was written, Ambedkar’s hitherto unpublished thesis on the provincial decentralisation of imperial finance in colonial times will finally see the light of the day. The Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Source Material Publication Committee of the Maharashtra government plans to publish the thesis that was written by Ambedkar as part of his MSc degree from the London School of Economics (LSE). The thesis, ‘Provincial Decentralisation of Imperial Finance in British India’, will be part of the 23rd volume of Ambedkar’s works to be published by the committee and will give a glimpse into the works of Ambedkar, the economist. Notably, the dissertation argues for expenditure on heads like defence to be diverted for social goods like education and public health.
The source material committee, which was set up in 1978, has published 22 volumes on Ambedkar’s writings since April 1979. “This volume will have two parts. One will contain the MSc thesis and the other will have communication and documents related to his MA, MSc, PhD and bar-at-law degrees,” confirmed Pradeep Aglave, member secretary of the committee. He added that the MSc thesis had been submitted to the LSE in 1921. Veteran Ambedkarite and founder of the Dalit Panthers, J.V. Pawar, who is a member of the committee, said it was significant that the thesis was being published over a century after it was written. Pawar played a pivotal role in ensuring that the committee was set up.
“This work deals with taxation and expenditure. The contemporary relevance of this thesis is that it seeks a progressive taxation based on income levels. Ambedkar argued that expenditure on heads like defence was huge and this needed to be diverted to social needs like education, public health, and water supply,” said Sukhadeo Thorat, economist and former chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC). Thorat was among those instrumental in the source material committee getting a copy of the thesis from London.
“The sixth volume (1989), published by the source material committee, contains Ambedkar’s writings on economics. This includes his works like ‘Administration and Finance of the East India Company’ (1915) and the ‘Problem of the Rupee: Its Origin and Its Solution’ (1923). However, this MSc thesis on provincial finance could not be included in it because it was not available then,” said Thorat.
J. Krishnamurty, a Geneva-based labour economist located the MSc thesis in the Senate House Library in London and approached Thorat who, in turn, communicated with Gautam Chakravarti of the Ambedkar International Mission in London. Santosh Das, another Ambedkarite from London, paid the fees for permission to reproduce the work in copyright. The soft copy of the thesis was sent to the source material committee on November 18, 2021.
In addition to the MSc thesis, the communication and letters related to his academics, such as the MA, PhD, MSc and DSc and bar-at-law including LLD (an honorary degree that was awarded to Ambedkar by the Columbia University in 1952after he finished drafting the Constitution of India, which remains one of his most significant contributions to modern India), were also arranged and compiled by Krishnamurty, Thorat and Aglave. This also includes the courses done by Ambedkar for his MA and pre-PHD at the Columbia University. These details are being published for the first time.
Ambedkar’s biographer Changdev Bhavanrao Khairmode, writes how Ambedkar worked untiringly in London for his MSc. Ambedkar secured admission for his MSc in the LSE on September 30, 1920 by paying a fee of 11 pounds and 11 shillings. He was given a student pass with the number 11038.
Ambedkar had prepared for his MSc in Mumbai, yet he began studying books and reports from four libraries in London, namely the London University’s general library, Goldsmiths' Library of Economic Literature and the libraries in the British Museum and India Office. In London, Ambedkar would wake up at 6 am, have the breakfast served by his landlady and rush to the library for his studies. Around 1 pm, he would take a short break for a meagre lunch or have just a cup of tea and then return to the library to study till it closed for the day.
“He would sleep for a few hours. He would stand at the doors of the library before it opened and before others came there,” says Khairmode in the first volume of his magisterial work on Ambedkar (Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Volume I) that was first published in 1952. The library staff in the British Museum would tell Ambedkar that they had not seen a student like him who was immersed in his books and they also doubted if they would get to see one like him in the future!
The volume also contains a letter written by Ambedkar in German on February 25, 1921 to the University of Bonn seeking admission. Ambedkar wanted to study Sanskrit language and German philosophy in the varsity’s department of Indology. In school, Ambedkar was discriminated against on grounds of caste and not allowed to learn Sanskrit. He had to learn Persian instead. Ambedkar secured admission to Bonn University but had to return to London three months later to revise and complete his DSc thesis.
Ambedkar completed his DSc in 1923 under the guidance of Professor Edwin Cannan of the LSE on the problem of the rupee, which is described as a “remarkable piece of research on Indian currency, and probably the first detailed empirical account of the currency and monetary policy during the period”.
Ambedkar was among the first from India to pursue doctoral studies in economics abroad. He specialised in finance and currency. His ‘The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India: A Study in the Provincial Decentralisation of Imperial Finance (1925)’, carried a foreword by Edwin R.A. Seligman, Professor of Economics, Columbia University, New York. Ambedkar also played a pivotal role in the conceptualisation and establishment of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in 1935.
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Dr. ambedkar and columbia university: a legacy to celebrate.
For those of you who may not know, Dr. Ambedkar is a Dalit, an Indian jurist, economist, politician, activist and social reformer, who systematically campaigned against social discrimination towards women, workers, but most notably, towards the Dalits, and forcefully argued against the caste system in Hindu society. Dr. Ambedkar was the main architect of the Constitution of India, and served as the first law and justice minister of the Republic of India, and is considered by many one of the foremost global critical thinkers of the 20 th c., and a founder of the Dalit Buddhist movement. Ambedkar’s fight for social justice for Dalits, as well as women, and workers consumed his life’s activities: in 1950 he resigned from his position as the country’s first minister of law when Nehru’s cabinet refused to pass the Women’s Rights Bill. His feud with Mahatma Gandhi over Dalit political representation and suffrage in the newly independent State of India is by now famous, or I should say notorious, and it is Dr. Ambedkar who comes out on the right side of history.
The bronze bust, sculpted by Vinay Brahmesh Wagh of Bombay, was presented by the Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organizations, UK to the Southern Asian Institute of Columbia University on October 24, 1991, and then the wooden pedestal on which the statue now rests was donated by the Society of the Ambedkarites of New York and New Jersey, and placed in Lehman Library in 1995. The bust is the only site in the city where Dr. Ambedkar is honored, and is one of the most popular sites in enclosed spaces on campus that I have seen (you have to walk past the library entrance to get to it).
Every year, on April 14 th, Ambedkar’s birthday, Ambedkar Jayanti or Bhim Jayanti, is celebrated in India (as an official holiday since 2015), at the UN (since 2016), and around the world. On this day, many visitors flock to Lehman Library, to pay tribute to Baba Saheb and place garlands on the bust. The sight of the visitors– many of whom come to Columbia just to see the bust and pay homage to the man who changed Indian society, brings home the significance of recognizing our critical thinkers, across cultures, eras, languages, divisions and types of social injustice, in the public fora of libraries. It is a powerful reminder that it is through scholarship and indeed through libraries and learning that human differences and injustices can be better understood, addressed and perhaps overcome.
Years later, Dr. Ambedkar writes: ‘The best friends I have had in life were some of my classmates at Columbia and my great professors, John Dewey , James Shotwell, Edwin Seligman , and James Harvey Robinson.'” (Source: “‘Untouchables’ Represented by Ambedkar, ’15AM, ’28PhD,” Columbia Alumni News, Dec. 19, 1930, page 12.)
Ambedkar majored in Economics, and took many courses in sociology, history, philosophy, as well as anthropology.
In 1915, he submitted an M. A. thesis entitled: The Administration and Finance of the East India Company . (He is believed to have begun an M. A. thesis entitled Ancient Indian Commerce earlier. That thesis is unavailable at the RBML but it is reprinted in volume 12 of Ambedkar’s collected writings). By the time he left Columbia in 1916 Ambedkar had begun research for his doctoral thesis entitled: “National Dividend of India–A Historic and Analytical Study. About this thesis, Ambedkar writes to his mentor Prof. Seligman, with whom he forged a long and friendly correspondence, even after he left Columbia: “My dear Prof. Seligman, Having lost my manuscript of the original thesis when the steamer was torpedoed on my way back to India in 1917 I have written out a new thesis… [ …from the letter of Feb. 16, 1922, Seligman papers, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University ” cited in Dr. Frances Pritchard’s excellent online website about Ambedkar ]. In 1920, Ambedkar writes: “My dear Prof. Seligman, You will probably be surprised to see me back in London. I am on my way to New York but I am halting in London for about two years to finish a piece or two of research work which I have undertaken. Of course I long to be with you again for it was when I was thrown into academic life by reason of my being a professor at the Sydenham College of Commerce & Economics in Bombay, that I realized the huge debt of gratitude I owe to the Political Science Faculty of the Columbia University in general and to you in particular.” B. R. Ambedkar, London, 3/8/20” , (Source: letter of August 3, 1920, Seligman papers, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University, cited in Pritchard’s website ). Ambedkar would join the London School of Economics for a few years and submit a thesis there, but then, he would eventually come back to Columbia, to submit a Ph.D. thesis in Economics , in 1925 under the mentorship of his dear friend Prof. Seligman, entitled: The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India: A Study in the Provincial Decentralization of Imperial Finance . (It should be noted here that the thesis was first published in 1923 and again in 1925, this time with a Foreword by Edwin Seligman, by the publishers P. S. King and Son).
If it is Seligman he stayed in touch with and corresponded throughout, the person who most influenced his thought and shaped his political, philosophical and ethical outlook, was Dewey. For many thinkers, the links between Dewey and Ambedkar’s ethical and philosophical thinking are obvious. Ambedkar deeply admired Dewey and repeatedly acknowledged his debt to Dewey, calling him “his teacher”. Ambedkar’s thought was deeply etched by John Dewey’s ideas of education as linked to experience, as practical and contextual, and the ideas of freedom and equality as essentially tied with the ideals of justice and of fraternity, a concept he would go on to apply to the Indian context, and to his pointed criticism of the caste system. Echoing many ideas propagated by Dewey, Ambedkar writes in the Annhilation of Caste : “Reason and morality are the two most powerful weapons in the armoury of a reformer. To deprive him of the use of these weapons is to disable him for action. How are you going to break up Caste, if people are not free to consider whether it accords with reason? How are you going to break up Caste, if people are not free to consider whether it accords with morality?”
Having sat in several classes given by Dewey, and as early as 1916, Ambedkar would go on to address, at a Columbia University Seminar taught by the anthropologist Prof. Alexander Goldenweiser (1880-1940), his colleagues and friends with many of the ideas he later developed in his famous book: the Annihilation of Caste. The paper “ Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis, and Development ” contains many similarities to the Annihilation of Caste, and some of the books’ essential tenets., as acknowledged by Ambedkar himself ( Preface to the 3rd edition, Annihilation of Caste ).
The Columbia University Archives and the Columbia University Libraries hold many resources related to Dr. Ambedkar and to the Dalit movement and Dalit literature. For any inquiries regarding relevant resources, please do not hesitate to contact us: Gary Hausman : South and Southeast Asian Librarian , Global Studies; Rare Book and Manuscript Library: RBML Archivists
Happy Baba Saheb Ambedkar Juyanti!
Kaoukab Chebaro , Global Studies, Head
Today, for the first time studying for Civil Services I got to know about this great man. I think that in the galaxy of freedom fighters which India have produced he was the one we can truly say as the ‘Pole Star’. A true leader who walked the talk, he fought not only for country but also for the rights of the minority who were being annihilated for centuries. We should take cue from this man and try to go for equality, and that equality should be of thoughts, feelings and desires. It’s not at all wrong to aspire for greatness in life but to stifle a man’s path with the chains of societal norms is a sin in my sense. I hope to imbibe some of his qualities in my life. Let long live his legacy.
Thus my goodDr.BR. Ambedkar
Indeed Great emancipator of millions marginalised people, architect of Indian constitution, philosopher, economist, social reformer, jurist, astute politician no lastly father of modern India !! Jaibhim !!
What a great man. Wonderful article.
If it wasn’t for Dr.Ambedkar I wouldn’t be here in this country and have a life that I do now. I will forever be indebted to this Great Man’s courage in the face of adversity. Words cannot describe the gratitude I have for this man Thank you
Excellent effort to make this blog more wonderful and attractive.
Dr. Ambedkar was a great man.
Wonderful Article and an excellent blog. Greetings. Llorenç
Baba Saheb Dr. B R Ambedkar is alive in his works for humanity. Study Social Science or Law, or Education, or about farmers, or Dams and irrigation, or planning commission and budget or journalism, or human rights ……. on most of the subjects and disciplines, his live seen in his works and writtings. By reading him; his life, and his works, he inspires others by his works for the betterment of the society and a world, as a whole.
- Pingback: Ambedkar and the Study of Religion at Columbia University
Every breathe I take today is because of your struggle to give us an equal and fair society. It could not be possible to imagine even a single day without understanding your life and struggles. Each and every aspect of my existence is because of you Babasaheb. However, the current state of Dalit society pains me.
Such a great personality, tried hard to improvise the system in the country but had to face too much opposition and hatred. Salute to his strength and beliefs that he continued his fight for social justice despite such circumstances.
He was a great man, I considered India’s progress because of his work for the emancipation of millions of marginalized people in India
Is Columbia University conducting a Post Graduate course or PHD on Dr. Ambedkar thought?
Baba sahab Was great human Baba sahab is great human Baba sahab will great human .
Baba sahab god gifted and human for students, politicians, poor humans and all leaders ❤❤
I am thankful to Babasaheb Ambedkar for the beautiful living given to me by his at most efforts to eradicate the caste system through out India and to uplift the standard of living of the downtrodden of this country. He was a great man who fought for the rights and upliftment of the downtrodden and the dignity of women of this nation. A true Indian and a great patriot of the nation. I salute him for his work and knowledge.
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An excerpt from ‘indians in london: from the birth of the east indian company to independent india’, by arup k chatterjee..
About two decades ago, when [Subhash Chandra] Bose was still at Cambridge, a letter dated September 23, 1920 arrived at Professor Herbert Foxwell’s office at the London School of Economics. It was written by Edwin R Seligman, an economist from Columbia University, introducing an exceedingly talented scholar – Mr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. Two months later, Foxwell wrote to the secretary of the School that there was no more intellect that the Columbia graduate could conquer in London.
The first Dalit to study at Bombay’s Elphinstone College, Ambedkar, was awarded a Baroda State Scholarship that took him to Columbia University in 1913. Three years later, he found his way to London, desirous of becoming a barrister as well as finishing a doctoral dissertation on the history of the rupee. Ambedkar enrolled at Gray’s Inn, and attended courses on geography, political ideas, social evolution and social theory at London School of Economics, at a course fee of £10.10s.
In 1917, Ambedkar was invited to join as Military Secretary in Baroda, earning at the same time a leave of absence of up to four years from the London School of Economics. Back in India, he taught for a while as a professor in Sydenham College in Bombay, while also being one of the key intelligencers on the condition of “untouchables” in India for the government, during the drafting of the Government of India Act of 1919.
In late 1920, Ambedkar was to return to London, determined more than ever before, not to spare a farthing beyond his breathing means on the city’s allurements. Each day, the aspiring barrister woke up at the stroke of six. After a morning’s morsel, he moseyed into the crowd of London to find his way into the British Museum.
At dusk, he would leave his seat reluctantly – after being made to scurry out by the librarian and the guards – his pockets sagging under the notes that would finally become his thesis, The Problem of the Rupee , some of whose guineas would eventually find their home in the Constitution of India that he was going to author about three decades later. Back at his lodging at King Henry’s Road in Primrose Hill, mostly on foot, Ambedkar would live on sparsely whitened tea and poppadum late into the night.
It was here that the daughter of Ambedkar’s landlady, Fanny Fitzgerald, a war widow, found her affections strangely swayed by the Indian scholar. Fitzgerald was a typist at the House of Commons. She lent him money in difficult circumstances and volunteered to introduce him to people in governance, with whom he could discuss the Dalit question that was raging in India.
An apocryphal story goes that Miss Fitzgerald once gave Ambedkar a copy of the Bible. On receiving it, the future Father of the Indian Constitution promised to dedicate a bible to her of his own authoring. True to his commitment, he would fondly dedicate his book What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to the Untouchables (1945) to “F”. The incident, when that promise was exchanged, occurred after Ambedkar was called to the Bar in 1923.
In March that year, his doctoral thesis ran into trouble possibly because of its radical approach to the history of Indian economy under the British administration. He might have taken the subtle hint that passages in his work needed tempering – a notion that a man of his vision was likely to have quietly pocketed more as a compliment than an insult.
Ambedkar would have been happy to chisel the nose from his David for the show, like Michelangelo had four centuries ago in order to appease the connoisseur-like pretense of Piero Soderini, who had quipped, “Isn’t the nose a little too thick?” That done, Ambedkar resubmitted his thesis in August. It was approved two months later and published almost immediately thereafter. He expressed gratitude to his professor, Edwin Cannan, who, in turn, wrote the preface to his thesis, before Ambedkar travelled to Bonn for further studies.
Babasaheb, as he was now beginning to be called, was to return to London for each of the three Round Table Conferences held between 1930 and 1932. Two months before the Third Round Table Conference – in which both Labour and the Congress were absentees – Ambedkar and Gandhi reached a historic settlement in the Poona Pact. In September 1932, from the Yerwada prison near Bombay, Gandhi began a fast unto death protesting against the Ramsay MacDonald administration that was determined to divide India into provincial electorates on the basis of caste and social stratification.
In the pact signed with Madan Mohan Malviya, Ambedkar settled for 147 seats for the depressed classes. But the pact to which he was forsworn – tacitly made in London with Fanny Fitzgerald – that of writing the bible of modern India, was brewing like a storm that would take the form of an open battle between him and Gandhi, in the years of the Second World War.
Despite the strong network of Indians at the London School of Economics, Ambedkar chose not to hobnob with India League members. What might have been a sort of marriage-made-in-heaven between him and [VK Krishna] Menon was forestalled. If Menon was Nehru’s alter ego, he would also be instrumental in shaping the early career of the man to become an alter ego – principal secretary –to Indira Gandhi.
In the winter of 1935, a twenty-something Parmeshwar Narain Haksar arrived in London, enrolled as a student at the University College. The following year, he made an unsuccessful attempt for the civil services. In 1937, Haksar became a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, a distinction conferred on him with support from noted anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski.
Although Haksar also studied at the London School of Economics, it probably never became public knowledge if he had acquired formal degrees from either university. Whether or not he did, as a scholar he commanded great attention from British intellectuals, especially in his arguments on the crisis of education in India, which he reckoned had been tailored to perpetuate British imperial interests and low levels of literacy in the colony.
Haksar was to be called to Bar at the Lincoln’s Inn, but, at the beckoning of Nehru, he would join the Indian Foreign Service in 1948. His red days in London were to yield him lifelong companions. In the 1930s, the Comintern came up with the policy of hatching popular fronts all across Europe with which to counter the growing threat of Nazism and Fascism. It was a phase in European ideologies that strongly affected British politics, and popular movements led by Labour leaders and student communists in London – a cosmopolitan and unswervingly left-leaning outlook that shaped much of the administration and policies of independent India until the years of the Emergency.
A socialist himself, Haksar held an influential position in the Federation of Indian Societies in UK and Ireland besides becoming the editor of its magazine, The Indian Student . His links with the Communist Party of Great Britain, Rajani Palme Dutt and the Soviet undercover agent at Cambridge, James Klugman – indeed with almost anyone of some consequence who supported the cause of Indian liberation – was more than enough for Scotland Yard to keep him closely watched in London.
In September 1941, when the India League organised a commemoration at the Conway Hall in Red Lion Square for the late Rabindranath Tagore a few months after his demise, Scotland Yard obliged by adding a leaf to their surveillance files. Inaugurated by M Maisky, a Russian ambassador, it was just one in a sea of events concerning India that the Yard and other intelligencers of His Majesty’s Government would tolerate during the interwar years. Almost all such gatherings featured subversive pamphlets and books published by the League and similar organisations that were openly lauded by Soviets and Soviet sympathisers.
It was just as well that Nehru also had to tolerate that under the shield of Haksar’s own watch a new romantic plot thickened around Primrose Hill, that of his daughter Indira and future son-in-law, Feroze. Feroze had his flat at Abbey Road and Haksar lived half a mile away, at Abercorn Place. Haksar was befriended by the Gandhis – Indira and Feroze – who introduced him to Sasadhar Sinha of the Bibliophile Bookshop. That, besides the India League and Allahabad connection, not to mention Haksar’s enviable culinary skills, ensured that he was soldered to the future of the Gandhis.
The future of the man who had leant the family his coveted surname would also take a blow on the burning issue of caste. Gandhi was not to be remembered as the sole nemesis of the British Empire. In an interview given to the BBC in 1955, Babasaheb indicated that one of the biggest reasons behind Clement Attlee handing over the reins of the Indian administration so suddenly was the persistent fear of a massive armed uprising in the colony.
He implied that the road to independence had already been paved by the Azad Hind Fauj brigadiered by Netaji. Bose had departed from London during Ambedkar’s days in the London School of Economics. But, he would return in Haksar’s time.
Centenary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar's enrolment as an advocate
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Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar
Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956) was born on 14 April 1891 in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh. He completed his primary schooling in Satara, Maharashtra and completed his secondary education from Elphinstone High School in Bombay. His education was achieved in the face of significant discrimination, for he belonged to the Scheduled Caste (then considered as ‘untouchables’). In his autobiographical note ‘Waiting for a Visa’, he recalled how he was not allowed to drink water from the common water tap at his school, writing, "no peon, no water".
Dr Ambedkar graduated from Bombay University in 1912 with a B.A. in Economics and Political Science. On account of his excellent performance at college, in 1913 he was awarded a scholarship by Sayajirao Gaikwad, then Maharaja (King) of Baroda state to pursue his M.A. and Ph.D. at Columbia University in New York, USA. His Master's thesis in 1916 was titled “The Administration and Finance of the East India Company”. He submitted his Ph.D. thesis on “The Evolution of Provincial Finance in India: A Study in the Provincial Decentralization of Imperial Finance”.
After Columbia, Dr. Ambedkar moved to London, where he registered at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) to study economics, and enrolled in Grey’s Inn to study law. However, due to lack of funds, he had to return to India in 1917. In 1918, he became a Professor of Political Economy at Sydenham College, Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay). During this time, he submitted a statement to the Southborough Committee demanding universal adult franchise.
In 1920, with the financial assistance from Chatrapati Shahuji Maharaj of Kolhapur, a personal loan from a friend and his savings from his time in India, Dr. Ambedkar returned to London to complete his education. In 1922, he was called to the bar and became a barrister-at-law. He also completed his M.S.c. and D.S.c. from the LSE. His doctoral thesis was later published as “The Problem of the Rupee”.
After his return to India, Dr Ambedkar founded Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha (Society for Welfare of the Ostracized) and led social movements such as Mahad Satyagraha in 1927 to demand justice and equal access to public resources for the historically oppressed castes of the Indian society. In the same year, he entered the Bombay Legislative Council as a nominated member.
Subsequently, Dr. Ambedkar made his submissions before the Indian Statutory Commission also known as the ‘Simon Commission’ on constitutional reforms in 1928. The reports of the Simon Commission resulted in the three roundtable conferences between 1930-32, where Dr. Ambedkar was invited to make his submissions.
In 1935, Dr. Ambedkar was appointed as the Principal of Government Law College, Mumbai, where he was teaching as a Professor since 1928. Thereafter, he was appointed as the Labour Member (1942-46) in the Viceroy’s Executive Council.
In 1946, he was elected to the Constituent Assembly of India. On 15 August 1947, he took oath as the first Law Minister of independent India. Subsequently, he was elected Chairperson of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly, and steered the process of drafting of India’s Constitution. Mahavir Tyagi, a member of the Constituent Assembly, described Dr. Ambedkar as “the main artist” who “laid aside his brush and unveiled the picture for the public to see and comment upon”. Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who presided over the Constituent Assembly and later became the first President of the Indian Republic, said: “Sitting in the Chair and watching the proceedings from day to day, I have realised as nobody else could have, with what zeal and devotion the members of the Drafting Committee and especially its Chairman, Dr. Ambedkar in spite of his indifferent health, have worked. We could never make a decision which was or could be ever so right as when we put him on the Drafting Committee and made him its Chairman. He has not only justified his selection but has added luster to the work which he has done.”
After the first General Election in 1952, he became a member of the Rajya Sabha. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Columbia University in the same year. In 1953, he was also awarded another honorary doctorate from Osmania University, Hyderabad.
Dr. Ambedkar's health worsened in 1955 due to prolonged illness. He passed away in his sleep on 6 December 1956 in Delhi.
- Vasant Moon (eds.), Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings And Speeches, (Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Govt. of India, 2019) (Re-print)
- Dhananjay Keer, Dr. Ambedkar Life and Mission, (Popular Prakashan, 2019 Re-print)
- Ashok Gopal, A Part Apart: Life and Thought of B.R. Ambedkar, (Navayana Publishing Pvt. Ltd., 2023)
- Narendra Jadhav, Ambedkar: Awakening India's Social Conscience, (Konark Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 2014).
- William Gould, Santosh Dass and Christophe Jaffrelot (eds.), Ambedkar In London, (C. Hurst and Co. Publishers Ltd., 2022).
- Sukhadeo Thorat and Narender Kumar, B.R. Ambedkar: Perspectives on Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policies (Oxford University Press, 2009).
- Constituent Assembly Debates
1920 - 1930
How to organize the downtrodden.
Dr. Ambedkar completed his academic work, and began in earnest his lifelong struggle for political rights and social justice for the downtrodden, and especially for the untouchables; his activities started to bring him into conflict with the views and plans of the Congress Party.
1920: Dr. Ambedkar started a weekly paper, "Mooknayak" ("Leader of the Voiceless"), in Marathi, with the help of the reform-minded Shahu I (1884-1922) [ site ], Maharaja of Kolhapur [ Imperial Gazetteer ] [ Imperial Gazetteer map ]. In the first issue he called India a "home of inequality," and described Hindu society as "a tower which had several storeys without a ladder or an entrance. One was to die in the storey in which one was born." The Depressed Classes must be saved "from perpetual slavery, poverty, and ignorance"; herculean efforts must be made "to awaken them to their disabilities." (--Dhananjay Keer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission , Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1971 , p.41; Dr. Ambedkar contributed extensively to this biography.)
1920: In March, he spoke at a Depressed Classes conference in Mangaon in Kolhapur State; it was attended by the Maharaja of Kolhapur, who publicly praised him as a future national leader. At the end of the conference the Maharaja and his courtiers shock the tradition-minded by actually dining with Ambedkar and his caste members. (Dhananjay Keer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission , Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1971 , p. 42; Dr. Ambedkar contributed extensively to this biography.)
1920: In May, the Maharajah of Kolhapur convened another such conference, in Nagpur [ Imperial Gazetteer ] [ Imperial Gazetteer map ], a town later to acquire a major symbolic significance in Dr. Ambedkar's life.
"At the conclusion of the conference, Ambedkar made an attempt in the direction of consolidating the forces of the Depressed Classes. In the Central Provinces the Mahar community had eighteen sub-castes. He called the leaders of the community together and gave a dinner in which they all participated. It should be noted that with great persuasion Ambedkar could get all the sub-castes of the Mahar community, and not all the Untouchable communities, to dine together. It was not possible yet to make all the communities belonging to the Untouchables participate in an intercaste dinner!" (--slightly edited from the translation in Dhananjay Keer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission , Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1971 , p.43; Dr. Ambedkar contributed extensively to this biography.)
1920: Having resigned from his teaching position, in July he returned to London, relying on his own savings, supplemented by loans from the Maharaja of Kolhapur and his friend Naval Bhathena. He returned to the London School of Economics, and to Gray's Inn to read for the Bar. He lived in poverty, and studied constantly in the British Museum [ site ]. (Dhananjay Keer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission , Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1971 , pp. 44-46; Dr. Ambedkar contributed extensively to this biography.)
1922: Through unremitting hard work, Ambedkar once again overfulfilled all expectations: he completed a thesis for a M.Sc. (Econonics) degree at London School of Economics, and was called to the bar, and submitted a Ph.D. thesis in economics to the University of London. (Dhananjay Keer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission , Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1971 , pp. 48-49; Dr. Ambedkar contributed extensively to this biography.)
1922: He planned to do further research in economics at the University of Bonn (and also toyed with the idea of studying Sanskrit there). He sent to the university a handwritten letter and CV in German , but the whole project didn't work out [ source ]. He soon had to return to London to deal with challenges to his thesis.
1923: His Ph.D. thesis at the University of London, " The Problem of the Rupee ," was challenged on political grounds (for its allegedly subversive, anti-British implications), but was resubmitted and finally accepted; it was at once published in London (by P.S. King and Son, Ltd.), and is "dedicated to the memory of my father and mother, as a token of my abiding gratitude for the sacrifices they made and the enlightenment they showed in the matter of my education." (Dhananjay Keer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission , Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1971 , pp. 49-50; Dr. Ambedkar contributed extensively to this biography.)
1924: Back in India, Dr. Ambedkar began to practice as a barrister in Bombay, and also began to lecture part-time at Batliboi's Accountancy Training Institute. He founded the "Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha" (Group for the Wellbeing of the Excluded), to help the Depressed Classes mobilize. Its motto was "Educate, Agitate, Organise." (K.N. Kadam, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Significance of his Movement: A Chronology , Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1991, pp. 80-81.)
1925: He published his London School of Economics M.A. thesis as " The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India "; it was dedicated to the Gaikwar of Baroda ("for his help in the matter of my education"), and had an introduction by Prof. Seligman. He also gave testimony before the Royal Commission on Indian Currency and Finance . (K.N. Kadam, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Significance of his Movement: A Chronology , Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1991, p. 81.)
1926: The Governor of Bombay nominated him as a member of the Bombay Legislative Council; he took his duties seriously, and often delivered speeches on economic matters. Here are some of his important speeches, 1927-28 .
1926: He led the satyagraha at Mahad to exercise the right of Untouchables to draw water from the Chavdar Tank. He ceremonially took a drink of water from the tank, after which local caste Hindus rioted, and Brahmins took elaborate measure for the ritual purification of the tank. (K. N. Kadam, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Significance of his Movement: A Chronology , Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1991, p. 83.)
1927: On January 1st, he held a meeting at the Koregaon Victory Memorial, 17 miles from Poona, which commemorates the defeat of the Peshwa's forces and the inauguration of British rule. The names of Mahar soldiers who fought with the British are inscribed there on a marble tablet. Such meetings still take place annually there on that day. (K.N. Kadam, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Significance of his Movement: A Chronology , Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1991, pp. 82-83; Eleanor Zelliot, personal communication, Feb. 2005)
1927: On June 8, he was formally awarded the Ph.D. degree from Columbia University. His Ph.D. thesis was " The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India ." (Note: different dates are given in different sources for this event, but this is the one given on his own official transcript, preserved in the Registrar's Office, Columbia University.)
1927: On December 24th, he addressed a second Depressed Classes Conference in Mahad; he attacked the Laws of Manu [ site ] [ site ], and then a copy of this ancient text was publicly burned, to the shock and horror of many caste Hindus. (K. N. Kadam, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Significance of his Movement: A Chronology , Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1991, p.87.)
1928: Dr. Ambedkar was appointed Professor at the Government Law College, Bombay; his term of appointment ended in 1929. (K.N. Kadam, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Significance of his Movement: A Chronology , Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1991, p.89.)
1928: Dr. Ambedkar was selected as a member of the Bombay Presidency Committee to work with the Simon Commission, drafting guidelines for political change in India. Congress decided to boycott the Simon Commission because it has no Indians on it. Discussion: Syed Amjad Ali ; Banglapedia . Dissenting from the views of many of his colleagues, Dr. Ambedkar prepared a detailed report setting out his own recommendations.
1929: Dr. Ambedkar closed his second journal, "Bahiskrit Bharat" ("Excluded India"), which he had started in 1927, and replaced it with the "Janata" ("The People"), which was published until 1956, when it took on the name "Prabuddha Bharata" (after his conversion). (K. N. Kadam, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Significance of his Movement: A Chronology , Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1991, p. 93; Eleanor Zelliot, private communication, Jan. 2005)
1929: On Oct. 23, during a visit to Chalisgaon, he had a bad accident, and was confined to bed until the last week of December.
All About Ambedkar
Issn 2582-9785, a journal on theory and praxis, on ambedkar's master's thesis: revisiting "administration and finance of the east india company".
Most of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s works discuss the subject of caste and social reforms. However, he also wrote about the key concerns of polity, economy, and administration. One such work is his short book entitled Administration and Finance of the East India Company written in 1915 when he was still a student at the University of Columbia. The text highlights the various administrative rules of the East India Company and analyses its economic structure, particularly various systems of taxation designed by the Company. The copy of this text was secured from Columbia University by Dr. Frank F. Conlon and was presented to Mr. Vasant Moon of Dr. Ambedkar Research Institute, Nagpur, in 1979. The text is included in the Volume of Writings and Speeches of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar published by the Government of Maharashtra in 1979.
In 1773 the Regulating Act passed by the British Parliament brought India officially under the rule of the East India Company and established the framework for the central administration in India. It additionally assigned the governing leader of Bengal as the Governor-General of Bengal. It founded the Supreme Court in Calcutta. It built up an official body to help the Governor-General and the Court of Directors as the overseeing body of the Company. The Court of Directors played out its administrative work by framing different boards of committees, generally significant of which were the Secret Committee, the Select Committee, and the Committee of Correspondence. The Secret Committee managed political issues, the Select Committee managed general regulatory issues, and the Correspondence Committee helped in drafting letters to the Governor-General in Council. Likewise, the different boards of committees are Treasury Committee, Gov. Troops and store Committee, Legal procedures Committee, Military Proceedings Committee, Accounts Committee, Buying Committee, Warehouse Committee, India House Committee, Shipping Committee, Private Trade Committee, Civil College and Military College. The Civil and Military Services were selected from the alumni of the two schools, which were only a burden on the incomes of the Company. Those Court of Directors was chosen by the investors of the Company on an annual premise. The entire body of these investors was known as The Court of Proprietors. In 1784 ‘Pitt's India Act’ arranged a Board of Control by which the crown guaranteed the joint legislature of British India by the Company and the Crown. It was categorized into six different subdivisions to answer its capacities: Accounts, Revenue, Judicial, Military, Secret and Politic, Foreign and Public. A six-part Board of Controllers were set up for political exercises, as Ambedkar writes: "(1) The superintendence and control over all the British territorial possessions in the East Indies, and over the affairs of the United Company of merchants trading thereto. (2) To superintend, direct and control all acts, operations, and concerns, which in any wise relate to the civil or military government or revenues of the British territorial possessions in the East Indies, in the manner hereinafter directed" (Ambedkar 3-4).
Sutherland also states in his “The East India Company in Eighteenth-Century Politics” : Indeed, circumstances made Pitt’s East India Act of 1784 almost the first of his Ministry's preoccupations, and it is hardly an exaggeration to say that the activities of the official Board of Control set up under that act formed the spearhead of the movement towards the more positive view of the functions of government which was to characterize the nineteenth century (15–26).
Ambedkar described the general structure of the administration system of the company rule in the eastern part of India and then focused on the financial systems, especially many kinds of revenue systems. Zamindari settlement by Lord Cornwallis separated East India Company's administration into three branches, Judicial, Revenue, and Commercial. Incomes were gathered by the local landowners who were known as Zamindar. The Zamindars were made innate proprietors of the land under their ownership. They and their replacements practiced all-out authority over the lands. Zamindars could sell and buy lands. The state had no immediate contact with the peasants. The Company’s percentage of income was fixed. with the Zamindars. Zamindars were answerable for collecting revenues from Peasants and paying the Company. Mahalwari Settlement was first presented in 1822 by Francis Hastings. This framework comprised of Zamindars representing the whole Mahal or gathering of villages. Alongside the village authorities, the Zamindars were also responsible to pay the taxes to the Company: "The administration of the village is handed over to a headman elected by the villagers and is subject to their removal... It is difficult to state the proportion of the produce of the village paid to the Government: the authorities know little of the precise property of any of the proprietors; it is not the interest or the wish of the village that the Government should scrutinize and know their possessions, therefore if anyone of the brotherhood fails to pay his proportion, that is a matter for the villagers at large to settle, and they will often come forward to pay it for him, but these are all private arrangements kept to themselves (Ambedkar 9)."
Another well-known Ryotwar System was introduced by Sir Thomas Munro, Governor of Madras during that period: "The Ryotwar Settlement is applicable in every state of things: where there are proprietors it may be concluded with farmers or cultivators: it may be equally made for the largest or for the smallest quantity of land, for millions of acres or only a few. The owner of a single field may make his terms directly with the Government, and turn to his cultivation, knowing that he cannot be called on to pay more than a certain sum (Ambedkar 9)."
The revenue on Salt had been in India for many years, yet this duty was significantly expanded when The East India Company set up its reign over the states in India. Rann of Kuchh on the west shoreline of India has been the producer of salt for thousands of years. This salt is gathered by workers called Malangas on the east coast. There has consistently been an interest for Orissa salt in Bengal When the British assumed control over the organization of Bengal, they also felt its need and went for salt trading. In 1772, Company took total control of salt productions in India. In Madras, salt was produced for the total benefit of the Government. In Bombay, the salt production was given over to the people under the particular systematic arrangement. Company Handled the salt mine of Punjab on their own. Dr. Ambedkar also talked about The Stamp Duties formed in 1797, The Mint Revenue, The Marine Revenue, and various subsidies formed by the Company. Describing the Public Works of The East India Company, Dr. Ambedkar mentioned Mr. John Bright’s statement on the Company’s works. He writes: "With regard to public works, if I were speaking for the natives of India, I would state this fact, that in a single English country there are more travelable roads than are to be found in the whole of India; and I would say also, that the single city of Manchester, in the supply of its inhabitants in the single article of water, has spent a larger sum of money than the East India Company has spent in the fourteen years from 1834 to 1848 in public works of every kind throughout the whole of its dominions. I would say that the real activity of the Indian Government has been an activity of conquest and annexation" (Ambedkar 9).
This means that the East India Company was not that much of a responsible government to the people of India and it is much of a truth that their activities have always been of ‘conquest and annexation’. A significant part of the organization was directed in different manners in the Presidencies. There was, ‘The public work office under the leading body of revenue, The Superintendent of Roads and The Military Board. The work mainly included The Canals, The Truck Roads, The Railways, and The Electric Telegraph System. The Ganges Canal, Yamuna Canal, and the Punjab canal were built. Truck roads connecting Calcutta-Peshwar, Calcutta-Bombay, Bombay-Agra, Bangalore-Madras were made up. One of the most recognized works of the East India Company was the formation of the Railway system. Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay Railways were started. Although East India Company kept up to get India far from English governmental issues, they often endured extraordinary mortification at the British Parliament. Anyway, the British Parliament was completely resolved to nullify The East India Company rule in India and quickly take the Indian government under the Crown. They substituted direct government for twofold government. In this context Belmekki says: "Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that the happenings of 1857 were not the only reason for bringing an end to the English East India Company. In fact, according to some scholars, there had been growing popular outrage in Britain itself against the Company’s misrule as well as the malpractices of its agents in India prior to the uprising. This made the British Government try to find a way to take such a ‘big empire’ from the hands of a ‘trading company’. Thus, the Revolt of 1857 came as a godsend to the authorities in London to take the right action against the East India Company (111–124)."
English Parliament passed the ‘Government of India Act’ on the second of August 1858 to end the Company Rule. It was given that India from this time forward was to be administered by, and for the sake of, Her Majesty. It changed the Governor-General of India to the Viceroy of India. He was the immediate delegate of the British Crown in India. Charles Canning in this way turned into the first Viceroy of India.
Ambedkar made a remarkable commitment as an Economist, Sociologist, Anthropologist, Educationist, Journalist, as an expert on relative religion, as a policy producer, as an overseer, and as a parliamentarian. He was an eminent Jurist. ‘This book was submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of his degree of Master of Arts’ in the University of Columbia, though it is a prominent source of pure highlights of the administration system, financial arrangements of the British East India Company and the post revolt situation of India.
Ambedkar, Bhimrao Ramji. Administration and Finance of the East India Company . Samyak Prakashan, 2016.
Belmekki, Belkacem. “A Wind of Change: The New British Colonial Policy in Post-Revolt India.” Atlantis , vol. 30, no. 2, 2008, pp. 111–124. JSTOR , www.jstor.org/stable/41055330.
Sutherland, L. S. “The East India Company in Eighteenth-Century Politics.” The Economic History Review , vol. 17, no. 1, 1947, pp. 15–26. JSTOR , www.jstor.org/stable/2590689.
Nadimul Islam studies English Literature at Presidency University, Kolkata. He is interested in studies concerning Islam and Christianity, as well as a comparative study between the Quran and the Holy Bible.
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DR. B.R AMBEDKAR
It takes courage to break free from the shackles of social inequality. It takes enormous amounts of courage to believe that things can change. It takes a leader to fight these inequalities and establish a new social order.
It takes courage to break free from the shackles of social inequality. It takes enormous amounts of courage to believe that things can change. It takes a leader to fight these inequalities and establish a new social order.Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was a scholar, a social reformer and a leader who dedicated his life to eradicating social inequality in India.
He established an India of equals, a country which provided greater opportunities for people who were historically disadvantaged.Babasaheb’s family was from the Mahar community and came from the Ambavade town of Mandangad taluka in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. However, he was born in the military cantonment town of Mhow, now in Madhya Pradesh on 14 April 1891 as his father was then a Subedar Major with the Mahar Regiment of the Indian Army.
He went to a government school where children from lower castes, regarded as untouchables, were segregated and given little attention or assistance by the teachers and not allowed to sit inside the classroom. Students from the community had to go without water if the peon did not report for duty. In 1894, Babasaheb's family moved to Satara in Maharashtra, and his mother passed away shortly after their family moved to Satara.His teacher Mahadev Ambedkar, a Brahmin, was fond of him and changed his surname from 'Ambavadekar' to his own surname 'Ambedkar' in school records. In 1897, Babasaheb’s family moved to Bombay.
He married Ramabai in 1906 when he was 15 and Ramabai nine years old. This however, did not deter him in his academic pursuits as he passed the matriculation examination in 1907 and entered the Elphinstone College the following year, becoming the first person from an untouchable community to do so.By 1912, he obtained his degree in Economics and Political Science from Bombay University and took up employment with the government of the princely state of Baroda. This opened up new avenues for Babasaheb as he got an opportunity to pursue his post-graduation at the Columbia University in the United States in 1913 through a Baroda State Scholarship instituted by the Gaekwads of Baroda awarding £11.50 (Sterling) per month for three years.He passed his MA exam in June 1915 majoring in Economics, with Sociology, History, Philosophy and Anthropology as other subjects of study; he presented a thesis ‘Ancient Indian Commerce’.
In 1916 he offered another MA thesis, ‘National Dividend of India - A Historic and Analytical Study’.On 9 May, he read his paper ‘Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development’ before a seminar conducted by the anthropologist Alexander Goldenweiser. In October 1916 he studied for the Bar examination at Gray's Inn, and enrolled at the London School of Economics where he started work on a doctoral thesis.In June 1917 he was obliged to go back to India as the term of his scholarship from Baroda ended, however he was given permission to return and submit his thesis within four years. He was appointed as Military Secretary to the Gaekwads of Baroda but had to quit within a short time, pushing him into financial hardship.
In 1918 he became Professor of Political Economy in the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Bombay and though he was very popular with his students, he had to face discrimination from his colleagues.It was during this period that Babasaheb started taking greater interest in politics as he was invited to testify before the Southborough Committee, which was preparing the Government of India Act 1919. During this hearing he argued for creating separate electorates and reservations for untouchables and other religious communities.In 1920, he began publication of the weekly Mooknayak in Mumbai with the help of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, Maharaja of Kolhapur.
A social reformer, the Maharaja played a pioneering role in opening up education and employment to people of all castes. Babasaheb continued to fight for justice for the untouchables in the years that followed, as a practicing lawyer and as a social reformer.By 1927, he decided to launch active movements against untouchability and espousing access to public drinking water resources and the right to enter Hindu temples. He led a satyagraha in Mahad to fight for the right of the untouchable community to draw water from the main water tank of the town.He was appointed to the Bombay Presidency Committee to work with the Simon Commission in 1925.
While the Commission had faced protests across India and its report was largely ignored, Babasaheb himself wrote a separate set of constitutional recommendations for the future.Babasaheb was invited to attend the Second Round Table Conference in London in 1932 but Mahatma Gandhi was opposed to a separate electorate for untouchables as this would split the nation.In 1932, the British announced a Communal Award of a separate electorate, Gandhi ji protested by fasting while imprisoned in the Yerwada Central Jail of Poona. This resulted in an agreement widely known as the Poona Pact in which Gandhi ji ended his fast and Babasaheb dropped his demand for a separate electorate. Instead, a certain number of seats were reserved specifically for the ‘Depressed Class’.In 1935, Babasaheb was appointed principal of the Government Law College in Mumbai and continued in that position for two years. He lost his wife Ramabai during this period and this marked the beginning of an important chapter in Babasaheb’s life.
On 13 October that year, he announced his intention to convert to a different religion and exhorted his followers to leave Hinduism while speaking at the Yeola Conversion Conference in Nasik and repeated his message all through the country.In 1936, Babasaheb Ambedkar founded the Independent Labour Party, which contested the 1937 Bombay election to the Central Legislative Assembly for the 13 reserved and 4 general seats, securing 11 and 3 seats respectively. He served on the Defence Advisory Committee and the Viceroy's Executive Council as minister for Labour during this period.This is also the period when Babasaheb wrote extensively on the condition of Dalits and the caste system in Hindu society. During this period, Babasaheb renamed his party as the Scheduled Castes Federation which later evolved into the Republican Party of India.He was initially elected to the Constituent Assembly from Bengal but his seat went to Pakistan following the Partition of India. He was subsequently elected from the Bombay Presidency in place of a senior jurist Jaykar, ahead of Shri GV Mavalankar.
India became an Independent nation on 15 August, 1947 and Babasaheb Ambedkar was appointed as the Union Law Minister and Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, which was given the responsibility to write India's new Constitution.Babasaheb Ambedkar’s text provided constitutional guarantees and protections for a wide range of civil liberties for individual citizens, including freedom of religion, the abolition of untouchability and the outlawing of all forms of discrimination. Granville Austin described the Indian Constitution as 'first and foremost a social document'.He argued for equality and also won wide support for introducing a system of reservations of jobs for members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the civil services, schools and colleges. This was aimed at providing a voice to people who had suffered grave injustices through centuries.The Constituent Assembly formally approved the draft Constitution on 26 November 1949 and Babasaheb’s greatest work, the Indian Constitution, became our way of life on 26 January 1950.Struggle was a part of Babasaheb’s life as he had to work hard for everything he achieved. While he is remembered for his relentless crusade for a new social order, the Indian nation shall always remain indebted to him for giving us a Constitution that defines our core values as a nation.He was the man who made us a nation of equals.
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Chronicling BR Ambedkar’s life in London
The time he spent in london earning his law and second doctorate degrees was among the most important part of the polymath’s life. the interrupted stint shaped his worldview and philosophy, introduced him to new and exacting teachers, and sharpened his legal skills.
When BR Ambedkar stepped off the boat in London in the summer of 1916, he was already an accomplished man. The 25-year-old had a PhD degree in economics from Columbia University and his dissertation Castes in India: Their mechanism, genesis and development was making waves for its theoretical underpinnings of endogamy.
But he was worried. He was dependent on an endowment from the Gaekwads of Baroda and was likely to be called back soon; World War I had thrown the western world into uncertainty — a ship carrying Ambedkar’s luggage was sunk by Axis torpedoes in the Mediterranean a few months on; his finances were dwindling and friends were back in New York.
Despite the challenges, the time he spent in London earning his law and second doctorate degrees was among the most important part of the polymath’s life. The interrupted stint – he was in London between 1916 and 1917, and again between 1920 and 1923 – shaped his worldview and philosophy, introduced him to new and exacting teachers, and sharpened his legal skills.
Most pivotally, it threw in sharp relief the young Ambedkar’s caste-blighted life in India with his student years abroad. “My five years of staying in Europe and America had completely wiped out of my mind any consciousness that I was an untouchable, and that an untouchable wherever he went in India was a problem to himself and to others,” he later wrote in Waiting for a Visa, narrating how no one would rent him a hotel room when he returned because he was considered untouchable.
A new online exhibition at the London School of Economics (LSE) aims to explore these formative years for Ambedkar through physical papers and records available at the institution.
“Our archives consist of the personal papers of individuals or of organisations. We don’t have the archives of Ambedkar …However, we do have a collection of student files, which record the interactions students have with the LSE during their period of study here. And there is a student file of Ambedkar, which is composed of thing such as his application forms and letters to the secretary. This is what the exhibition is based on,” said Daniel Payne, Curator for Politics and International Relations at the LSE library.
The bulk of the exhibition is an annotated history of Ambedkar’s life and works, with additions on prominent LSE teachers at the time and Indian alumni. The exhibition doesn’t have much on his time at LSE except somewhat charming pieces of university bureaucracy – a misfiled form, handfilled applications for degrees and a partially filled attendance sheet. All of these can be downloaded by the user and hold importance, given that Ambedkar filled most of them himself.
“The principal motivation behind curating this online exhibition is that the several radical (in his time and ours) thoughts and ideas Dr B R Ambedkar — who is by any measure the most famous Indian alumnus of LSE — have remained remarkably unknown to the international academic community,” said Nilanjan Sarkar, deputy director of the LSE South Asia Centre. “Through our limited archival collection in LSE Library, we have tried to highlight this potential for the international community — in short, to globalise the energy and force of Dr Ambedkar’s thought, and to underline its continuing relevance for our times.”
Ambedkar, the economist
Ambedkar’s evolution as an economist occupies a central place in the exhibition.
During his time at LSE, Ambedkar submitted two thesis – one called The evolution of provincial finance in British India : A study in the provincial decentralization of imperial finance for his master’s degree in 1921 and the other, more famous, The Problem of the Rupee, that later influenced the setting up of the Reserve Bank of India, in 1922.
LSE records say that his thesis was not accepted at first, and later notes add that the colonial examiners found his work too “revolutionary”. Ambedkar later revised the work, and successfully obtained a doctorate.
Another important piece of work by him was the 1918 paper Small Holdings In India And Their Remedies where he explored India’s fragmented holdings and called for industrialisation of agriculture to absorb the surplus labour.
Niranjan Rajadhyaksha noted in a 2015 Mint column that Ambedkar’s thesis came at a time when there was a clash between the colonial administration and Indian business interests on the value of the rupee. In his work, Ambedkar argued in favour of a gold standard as opposed to the suggestion by John Maynard Keynes that India should embrace a gold exchange standard.
From the late 1920s, Ambedkar largely moved away from economics as he devoted his energies to social and legal reform, but his later stint as the labour minister in the Viceroy’s executive council between 1942-46 was deeply impactful.
“He worked on a diverse set of topics - water policy, electric power planning, labor laws, maternity rights for female factory workers…Babasaheb set up the first employees’ state insurance, a social security and health insurance scheme for workers, in South Asia,” said Aditi Priya, a research associate at Krea University and founder of Bahujan Economics.
In a 1998 publication, Ambedkar’s Role In Economic Planning, Water And Power Policy, Sukhadeo Thorat traces the impact of Ambedkar’s ideas around state planning on post-independence concepts like the adoption of river valley authorities and hydropower development.
“The importance of maternity entitlements has been discussed in both econ and policy circles in improving the welfare of pregnant and lactating women and improving the labor force participation. Babasaheb was the first advocate of the maternity bill. He passed a range of laws protecting female workers including the Women and Child Labour Protection Act, the Maternity Benefits Act, the Mines Maternity Benefits Act, and created the Women Labour Welfare Fund, which was used to safeguard health and safety of working women,” Priya added.
Ambedkar scholars agree that his primary thrust in later life was on social welfare and benefits to marginalised groups – without being an outright socialist.
“For him the idea was that the welfare of the people should primarily be the job of the government. He was a strong advocate of the role of the state in inclusive economic growth and development and at the same time he was also in the favor of industrialization and urbanization. But he was also aware of the ills of capitalism,” said Priya.
Ambedkar, the student
There are two things the exhibition does very well.
One is underlining Ambedkar’s relations with his teachers and the impression he had on them. Plenty has been written on the influence of Edwin Seligman at Columbia University and the writings of John Stuart Mill.
The LSE exhibition shows Ambedkar enrolled in Geography with Halford Mackinder, Political Ideas with G Lowes Dickinson, and Social Evolution and Social Theory with LT Hobhouse. At the time, the fees were £10 10s which increased to £11 11s when he returned in 1920. His attendance records indicate he was not too interested in the political ideas class, which he skipped on all but two occasions during a term.
The exhibition also spotlights Ambedkar’s relationship with Edwin Cannan, the liberal economist whose lectures are said to have laid the foundation of the LSE Economics course and Herbert Foxwell, who taught at LSE since it started in 1895, and famously said about Ambedkar in London, “There are no more worlds for him to conquer.”
Cannaan guided Ambedkar through the tense submission and re-submission of his doctoral thesis and the young scholar dedicated the work to his professor. The papers have little on their interaction but it appears that the two kept in touch, especially when Ambedkar came back to London for the Round Table Conferences in the early 1930s.
Ambedkar’s student file also contains a letter from Cannan to William Beveridge (then director of the LSE) to encourage him to entertain Ambedkar. “I always said he was by far the ablest Indian we ever had in my time,” Cannan says of Ambedkar.
The letter also references the bitter tussle between Ambedkar and Gandhi over the issue of separate electorates – Gandhi wanted to keep Dalits within the Hindu fold and refused to allow them separate franchise, while Ambedkar believed that caste Hindus would thwart Dalit representatives in a joint electorate.
“When I read in the papers that the Brahmins were hoping to persuade, or that Gandhi was…Dr Ambedkar to modify his demands, I chuckled, remembering the obstinacy with which he used to hold out even when quite wrong,” Cannan noted.
Ambedkar, the political thinker
The second is highlighting the evolution of political thought in Ambedkar – from his days at LSE to when he returned to London for the Round Table Conferences.
To my mind, the most important documents in the entire exhibition are two sets of papers that have nothing to do with LSE.
One is a missive by Ambedkar to George Lansbury, the then leader of the Labour Party, in 1935. At the time, a British joint parliamentary select committee, chaired by Lord Linlithgow, had tabled its recommendations – which would eventually lead to the Government of India Act, 1935.
Ambedkar expressed dissatisfaction in his letter to Lansbury, especially objecting to the proposal for setting up upper houses in provincial assemblies over fears that upper-castes will dominate these chambers and wield influence in governance.
The second is the submission by Ambedkar and Tamil politician Rettamalai Srinivasan – the two depressed class delegates – to the First Round Table Conference, laying out a political and electoral roadmap for Dalit representation in power-sharing.
A Scheme of Political Safeguards for the Protection of the Depressed Classes in the Future Constitution of a self-governing India puts forth a series of conditions for Dalits to agree to majority rule in India – each of which acts as a precursor for rights and provisions that eventually found their way into the Constitution.
Ambedkar and Srinivasan said Dalits needed equal citizenship, fundamental rights, free enjoyment of equal rights, protection from social boycott and other discrimination, adequate representation in services, departments and the Cabinet. The kernel of the landmark abolition of untouchability, affirmative action and fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution are evident in this short 13-page submission. Also evident is the tension between historical inequality and the democratic project – key to understanding the country celebrating 75 years of freedom.
In the words of Ambedkar, “The depressed classes cannot consent to subject themselves to majority rule in their present state of hereditary bondsmen. Before majority rule is established, their emancipation from the system of untouchability must be an accomplished fact. It must not be left to the will of the majority.”
And what we don’t know
Yet, there is so much that’s missing from the exhibition on Ambedkar’s life at London or LSE. We don’t know what sort of a student he was, how his time at London was spent or how a young Dalit scholar enjoyed the first years of freedom from the sub-continental shackles of caste.
Other than the passing references in Ambedkar’s biography by Dhananjay Keer, we don’t know anything about his roommate Asnodkar, his friend Naval who’d send him money or his stern landlady who’d make him subsist on toast.
We don’t know how he navigated the metropolis, who his British friends were and the stories of the Indian acquaintances who supplied him with papad to eat at night.
Did Asnodkar and Ambedkar talk during the latter’s frequent all-nighters? Did Ambedkar make any friends during his hours-long visits to the British Library? Who took care of him when he fell ill in 1922? We don’t know.
Coming in the 75th year of India’s independence, this is both unfortunate and predictable.
The domination of upper-castes in history, historical research and archiving meant that even otherwise commonplace tasks like publishing Ambedkar’s complete works happened decades after his death, after struggle by anti-caste groups. Dalit writers and intellectuals continue to be marginalised and typecast.
Even in the UK, Ambedkarites have worked for years to establish Ambedkar as a leading figure. “When we started working in 1985, not many knew of Ambedkar; during his birth centenary celebrations (in 1991), we organised events across Europe to highlight his contribution to democracy and human rights,” said Arun Kumar, general secretary of the Federation of Ambedkarite & Buddhist Organisations. Busts donated by the body stand today at LSE and Columbia University.
The exhibition’s organisers are aware of the challenges.
“Even though there is quite a bit in the student file, not much is revealed about Ambedkar’s experiences at LSE,” said Payne.
Sarkar said that the principal motivation behind the exhibition was that the several radical thoughts and ideas of Ambedkar remained remarkably unknown to the international academic community.
“Even though Dr. Ambedkar is one of the most significant alumnus of LSE, and Dr Ambedkar’s scholarship and campaigns are of paramount importance to understand India and beyond, despite the presence of large number of Indian students as well as some faculty research on India, it is almost invisible in this institution,” said Jayaraj Sunderasan, one of the organisers of the event.
Following Babasaheb’s footsteps
A marked void in the exhibition is the absence of any other Dalit names – students, leaders, LSE alumni – or anti-caste work emerging from the institution. I suspect this is the reflection of a broader pattern that excludes marginalised students from pursuing education abroad, struggling for finances, recommendations and survival outside traditional caste networks.
Satish Athawale is one of them. The 24-year-old student is hoping to go the UK this year to secure a master’s degree in engineering after surviving three harrowing years. His parents, Ashok and Rama Athawale, were among the victims of the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence. Rioters torched their shop and home and beat Ashok to an inch of his life – jolting the young Athawale to the realities of caste-based hatred.
The family escaped to Pune where they have been trying to make ends meet since. Athawale hopes to pull the family out of poverty and secure a job after his education, if only he can secure the resources to make good on his admission offers. “Despite the hardships of our family, I want to go abroad and study to secure a better future for us. I hope to follow in the path of Ambedkar.”
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Dhrubo works as an edit resource and writes at the intersection of caste, gender, sexuality and politics. Formerly trained in Physics, abandoned a study of the stars for the glitter of journalism. Fish out of digital water. ...view detail
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LSE History Blog
October 25th, 2023, the life and thought of dr b r ambedkar in london.
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The editors and authors of the recently published book, Ambedkar in London, spoke at a book launch in front of an audience in LSE’s Sheikh Zayed Theatre. LSE alumnus Dr Bhimrao R Ambedkar (1891-1956) was one of India’s greatest intellectuals and social reformers; his political ideas continue to inspire and mobilise some of the world’s poorest and most socially disadvantaged, in India and the global Indian diaspora. Ambedkar’s thought on labour, legal rights, women’s rights, education, caste, political representation and the economy are international in importance.
Ambedkar in London explores his lesser-known period of London-based study and publication during the early 1920s, presenting that experience as a lens for thinking about B R Ambedkar’s global intellectual significance . Some of his later canon on caste, and Dalit rights and representation, was rooted in and shaped by his earlier work around the economy, governance, labour and representation during his time as a law student and as a doctoral candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
Ambedkar at LSE
Speaking specifically about Ambedkar’s time as a student at LSE , former LSE archivist Sue Donnelly began with an introduction to the world Ambedkar inhabited when he was here. What we now know as the Old Building was still new. LSE was small, specialist, young, and – for the time – it had a strong and unique focus on research.
Indian students at LSE in the 1920s found a supporter in academic Vera Anstey who had returned to LSE after a spell in India with husband Percy, Principal at Sydenham College , Mumbai. LSE itself was a very international environment to be in. Between 1845 and 1932 there were 130 students from the Indian subcontinent and there were 44 other Indian students while Ambedkar was at LSE. In 1912 the Students’ Union had its first Indian Chair and in 1920, student Mithan Tata was chosen to take part in the ceremony for the foundation stone of the Old Building .
Ambedkar arrived at LSE in 1916 from New York. He attended four taught courses but according to his student files didn’t always turn up. He was keenest on the lesson taught by L T Hobhouse and possibly wanted to develop his broader thinking on sociology and anthropology. He returned in 1920 and was awarded his MSc in 1921, beginning work on his DSc thesis. This was conferred in November 1923. It was initially rejected – we only have the records from his student file, and the correspondence within doesn’t confirm or deny whether this was because of his anti-imperial stance.
Why choose LSE? It had a focus on economics and research and was open to Indian students. Postgraduate students undertaking research was a very recent concept. PhDs had only been introduced in 1919 and DScs in the 1860s. Ambedkar finished his thesis within two years which, coupled with the fact that he is not featured in any surviving student photographs or in the student magazine, suggests he focused on his research. His supervisor was Professor Edwin Cannan , known for his part in choosing LSE’s coat of arms , and also the University of London’s first Professor of Political Economy. Cannan noted that Ambedkar was an exceptional student.
This public event was co-hosted by LSE Library, Department of Anthropology and International Inequalities Institute. It was held in the Sheikh Zayed Theatre, Cheng Kin Ku Building, on Wednesday 11 October 2023. The introduction and first 10 minutes of the programme are cut out due to technical issues.
The event was chaired by Tarun Khaitan, Professor (Chair) of Public Law at LSE Law School and Honorary Professorial Fellow at Melbourne Law School. The speakers were: Santosh Dass, Chair of the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance, and President of the Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations UK; Sue Donnelly, former LSE archivist with responsibility for the development of LSE’s institutional archive and raising awareness of the School’s unique and fascinating history; William Gould, Professor of Indian History at the University of Leeds; Christophe Jaffrelot, Avantha Chair and Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at the King’s India Institute.
Visit our collection of blogs on B R Ambedkar and LSE .
To view Ambedkar’s student file and other related material, head to the LSE Library’s Traces of South Asia webpage.
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"No More Worlds Here for Him to Conquer" – Dr B R Ambedkar at LSE January 29th, 2016
Book Review: Ambedkar in London by William Gould, Santosh Dass and Christophe Jaffrelot
April 13th, 2023.
Educate, Agitate, Organise – a short biography of Dr B R Ambedkar
April 26th, 2016.
A scholar, a lawyer and an educator – portraits of Dr B R Ambedkar at LSE
November 27th, 2017.
A visit from Gandhi
November 10th, 2017, subscribe via email.
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