Social Movements in India, 1800 to the Present

Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements book series (PSHSM)


In this essay, I present a schematic survey of social movements in India from around 1800 to the present. While recognizing the inherent limits of such an exercise, given the vast and diverse array of social movements, I suggest that perhaps one could discern three broad phases within which these movements have occurred. These are: the early colonial period, which broadly witnessed a separation of state and society leading to several socio-religious reform movements; the colonial period, which saw the emergence of nationalist movements that simultaneously also imbued calls for social reform and finally, movements in the postcolonial period, which ushered in the era of the fusion of the social and the political. Here, even as social movements proliferated, the sheer diversity and conflict of interests involved in negotiating with the democratic state both defined and circumscribed these movements. In suggesting this outline, this essay seeks to join scholarly efforts to redirect our attention from primarily viewing social movements as a postcolonial phenomenon towards understanding them as having had a longer history in the subcontinent.


Social Movement Social Movement Activism Reform Movement East India Company Nationalist Movement 
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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.History DepartmentWright State UniversityDaytonUSA

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