Ideologies of the New Commonwealth

Paul Tonks, L. M. Ratnapalan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


South Asian leaders shaped the Commonwealth’s reorientation from an association grounded in British-derived ideals of representative government to an international organisation that expressed multiracial solidarity in the face of ideological fragmentation. This article fills a crucial historiographical gap by explaining how ideas motivated the new Asian members of the expanded and transformed Commonwealth. Balanced historical interpretation must give weight to both ideas and practice. Few scholars have studied systematically the ideas associated with the New Commonwealth, however. This article thus uses a wide variety of sources, biographical materials, letters and speeches, philosophical treatises, and diplomatic correspondence, to construct an understanding of South Asian political ideas and practices in the New Commonwealth. It examines and explains this interaction through four interpretative strands, identified here as East-West, Whig, realist, and national cultural. Each strand is explicated through crucial figures in the New Commonwealth and the Anglo-Asian past. In the 1940s and 1950s, South Asian ideas about politics and international relations came from shared historical sources and experiences, such as anti-colonial nationalism and Western education. The Commonwealth became an important place to frame and articulate these ideas, as it was flexible enough to accommodate them. South Asians recognised and built on these possibilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)887-905
Number of pages19
JournalInternational History Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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