Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Greenough, Paul

Second Advisor

Cox, Jeffrey

First Committee Member

Giblin, James

Second Committee Member

Sessions, Jennifer

Third Committee Member

Khandelwal, Meena


The histories of nationalism and temperance in India were closely intertwined from their very inceptions. While the former is the topic of frequent study, the latter has rarely been examined--in fact, Indian temperance is often taken as an axiom. My dissertation argues that the Indian temperance movement, like the nation, was a timely innovation. It explains the specific history of why and how temperance activism came to be an important facet of the struggle for Indian independence. It will also show how this close relationship played out globally, when Indians exported nationalist sentiments abroad and when the cause of Indian self-rule became an unavoidable question in temperance journals and at temperance meetings in Britain and the United States.

Both scholarly and popular works of history assume that alcoholic beverages were introduced into India by the British. I demonstrate that some Indians consumed alcoholic beverages on a large scale well before high colonialism, but that British rulers made drinking an issue for the first time when, in the 19th century, they introduced a new tax policy favoring the use of European-style liquors over those that had traditionally been produced in India. This resulted in a large protest movement in which thousands of drinking Indians refused to purchase Indian-made alcoholic beverages until the taxes on them were reduced.

Early nationalists acknowledged that many Indians were drinkers and blamed their turn from milder to stronger forms of liquor on colonial administrators who determined alcohol policy. Yet within 50 years, assumptions had changed radically. Where Indian nationalists and temperance activists, often the very same people, had once championed access to less-costly alcohol for the drinking classes, they now argued that Indians had always been an abstemious "race" and fought for the total prohibition of all alcohol sales, making temperance compulsory for all Indians.

This dissertation will provide a new and important frame for analysis of the Indian nationalist movement. By focusing on a single, yet important, strand within the larger nationalist movement, this dissertation reveals conflicts among nationalists and among those associated with the colonial state.

Finally, this dissertation moves temperance from a mere footnote to its proper place as one of the key mass movements of the period, a discourse that influenced both Indian nationalism and the rhetorical content of global temperance activism. My work is predicated on the assumption that ideas and movements move across cultural and national boundaries. Thus while India remains the focus, this dissertation demonstrates that domestic political issues occur in, and are significantly influenced by, a global context.


Alcohol, India, International, Liquor, Prohibition, Transnational


vii, 306 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 284-306).


Copyright 2013 Robert Eric Colvard

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