George Padmore, Jawaharlal Nehru, and metropolitan perceptions of Nazism/Fascism and colonialism/imperialism in the 1930s-40s




Huijsmans, Matthew Max Anthony

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The degree to which Nazi Germany and the other Axis powers can be understood within the framework of the European nineteenth century colonial/imperial projects has, in recent years, been a controversial topic in historiography. In this thesis, I coin the term “connections literature” to describe this emergent body of academic work. While scholars such as Jurgen Zimmerer have argued for a direct causal link, others, such as Roberta Pergher and Mark Roseman, have focused on a broader conceptualization of the Nazis as Empire builders. Although this thesis agrees more with the latter than the former, it takes a rather different approach to this question of “connections.” In this thesis I trace the writings of two colonized intellectuals who addressed this question during the 1930s: Jawaharlal Nehru and George Padmore. For them, it was not that Nazism/fascism and Western colonialism/imperialism were exactly the same; rather, what they felt needed to be highlighted was the fact that the general Western public did not perceive the general similarities between the two. That is, Western pundits condemned Nazi/fascist attacks on civil liberties and democracy while ignoring similar activities within their own empires. For Padmore and Nehru, the main reason for the inability of the British public to perceive the general similarities between the two was their “ignorance of the realities of empire.” In this thesis, I trace the origins of the “connections” debate. I reveal the fact that this debate had its origins in a discourse focused on demonstrating the fact that very basic moral similarities between Nazism/colonialism were/are not recognized amongst the general British/Western public because of a lack of knowledge of the “realities of empire.” Modern historiographical debates on this topic are heirs to this earlier discourse and should be aware of its origins.



connections literature, historiography, Empire builder