cover image Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914–1948

Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914–1948

Ramachandra Guha. Knopf, $40 (1,104p) ISBN 978-0-385-53231-0

In the second half of his two-part biography of Gandhi, Guha (Gandhi Before India) mines newly discovered archival material to produce a portrait of the Indian leader that is both panoramic in scope and surprisingly intimate, both admiring of Gandhi and cognizant of his flaws. On his return from South Africa in 1915, Gandhi was a much-admired but little-known figure outside of his own Gujarati community and India’s urban elite. In the next three decades, he mobilized national support for Indian self-rule, traveling the length and breadth of the subcontinent preaching his philosophy of satyagraha, or nonviolent resistance. Along the way, as Guha details through exhaustively pieced-together correspondence, Gandhi’s beliefs evolved: his intellectual sparring with B.R. Ambedkar, the leader of India’s “untouchables,” led him to soften his more conservative stance on caste, and his relationship with his long-suffering wife, Kasturba, grew to resemble an equal partnership in its later years. Guha contextualizes Gandhi’s anticolonialism as merely one strand in a rich skein of political and moral beliefs, arguing that Gandhi’s campaigns for Hindu-Muslim unity, the abolition of untouchability, and the promotion of moral self-discipline (or swaraj) were inseparable from his goal of ending British rule in India. Incisively written, this is a landmark account of Gandhi’s engagement with the world he would transform forever. [em](Oct.) [/em]