Class 8 History

National Movement

THE MAKING OF THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT: 1870s-1947

The Emergence of Nationalism

Within about a hundred years, the British took control of almost every aspect of life in India. Many Indians began to feel that the British control had to end to make India the country for Indians.

Early Political Associations: After 1850, many political associations were formed. Most of them were formed in the 1870s and 1880s. Most of these associations were led by English-educated professionals. Some of the important ones were; the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, the Indian Association, the Madras Mahajan Sabha, the Bombay Presidency Association. The Indian National Congress was also formed during this period. The naming conventions of these political associations suggest that they wanted to take issues which affected all the people of India; although many of these associations functioned in specific parts of the country.


Some of the reasons for dissatisfaction with British rule in the 1870s and 1880s are as follows:

  • The Arms Act was passed in 1878. This Act disallowed Indians from possessing arms.
  • The Vernacular Press Act was passed in 1878. This Act empowered the government to confiscate the assets of newspapers including their printing presses, if the newspaper published anything “objectionable”.
  • The government tried to introduce the Ilbert Bill in 1883. The bill made provisions for trial of British or European persons by Indians. Thus, the Ilbert Bill sought equality between British and Indian judges in the country. But the whites opposed the Bill and forced the government to withdraw it.

The Indian National Congress

The Indian National Congress was established in 1885 at Bombay. In its first meeting at Bombay, 72 delegates from all over the country were present. The early leadership was mainly composed of people from Bombay and Calcutta. Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozeshah Mehta, Badruddin Tyabji, W. C. Bonneryji, Surendranath Banerji, Romesh Chandra Dutt, S. Subramania Iyer, etc. were part of the early leadership of Congress.

A nation in the making

In its first twenty years, the Congress was “moderate” in its objectives and methods. During this period, the main demand of Congress was about getting a greater voice for Indians in the government and administration. Some of the demands made by the Congress during this period are as follows:

  • The Congress wanted better representation of Indians in the Legislative Councils. It also wanted introduction of the Legislative Council in those provinces where none existed.
  • The Congress made a demand for civil service examinations to be held in India also.

  • The Congress also demanded a separation of judiciary and executive, the repeal of Arms Act and freedom of speech and expression.
  • Reduction in revenue, cut in military expenditure and more funds for irrigation.
  • The Congress also passed various resolutions on the salt tax, treatment of Indian labourers abroad and the suffering of forest dwellers.

These demands show that in spite of being a body of the educated elite, the Congress also talked about the common people.

The Moderate leaders wanted to create public awareness about the unjust nature of British rule. In order to do so, they published newspapers, wrote articles and tried to show the bad effects of the British rule.