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Gandhi Before India

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  326 ratings  ·  61 reviews
The first volume of a magisterial biography: the definitive portrait of the life and work of one of the most abidingly influential--and controversial--men in modern history.
Here is a revelatory work of biography that takes us from Gandhi's birth in 1869 through his upbringing in Gujarat, his 2 years as a student in London, and his 2 decades as a lawyer and community organ
Hardcover, 688 pages
Published October 2nd 2013 by Random House Canada (first published January 1st 2013)
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Vivek Tejuja
Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Who was Gandhi? Was he just a movement? Or was there more to him? Was there ever more to him as a person? What was he like before he started the revolution of such a kind that inspired millions to follow him? How did he get there? Who was Gandhi the man? Such questions always cropped in my mind in school.

There was always this chapter on the Mahatma in school and yet we never tried to know more about the man. He was always an enigma. Maybe becau
Terri Jacobson
This book is a detailed chronicle of Mahatma Gandhi's life in the early years. Gandhi spent 20 years working in South Africa trying to negotiate basic rights for his people. Around the year 1900, there was a large population of Indians in South Africa. Many of them came as indentured servants, but there was also a middle class that provided goods and services to the Indian community. Gandhi was trained in London to be a lawyer, and his original goal was to work in this profession in India itself ...more
A great start to the year with two wonderful works of non-fiction by two authors who I am privileged to have met. Indeed they both lunched in our house in Chennai on the same day. William Dalrymple's masterly Return of a King I have already reviewed. Ram Guha's Gandhi before India is also a beautifully written book, and the result of deep research into archives ignored by others.

It is fascinating to learn of Gandhi's progress from indifferent student to Mahatma, his time in the UK and in South
A young London-returned Gujarati lawyer finds little luck establishing a practice in the Bombay High Court. He is called to South Africa by Muslim merchants there, to help with one case. He finds his services so much in demand there that he decides to stay a little longer.

His work brings him in contact with people from all strata of society --- plantation workers, Jewish intellectuals, missionaries, politicians, feminists. He displays an extraordinary talent for deep life-changing friendships w

I was hesitant to buy this book because I was skeptical as to what more that is new can be written about Mahatma Gandhi. After all, the Govt of India had published 100 volumes of his collected works after nearly 40 years of sustained effort in assembling them. Still, the title kindled my interest because I realized that I know little about Gandhi's first 45 years of life, which were spent substantially outside India. In fact, for most of us in India, the window into Gandhi's life before he came
Sam Marlowe
The making of the Mahatma and his time tested methods of passive resistance are usually the missing chapters in any popular biography or biofilm of the Father of the Nation. This book takes us through the many stages in the life of M K Gandhi, who evolves through chapters from a shy student to a cosmopolitan vegetarian to a failed lawyer to a Hindu Pluralist and eventually becoming the champion of the Indian cause in colonial South Africa. Many thanks to Guha, who whether by magic or mastership ...more
வழககறிஞராய போனவர மகாதமவாய திருமபிய வரலாறு.

இநதியரகளைப பொறுததவரை தாஙகள விருமபும/மதிககும மனிதரகளை, புனிதரகளாக உயரததி அவரகளைச சுறறி ஒரு புனித பிமபததைக கடடியமைததுவிடடு, உணமையை முழுதாகவோ அலலது பகுதியாகவோ திரைபோடடு மறைததுவிடுவாரகள. உணமை யாருககும வேணடியதிலலை. அதனால பைசா உபயோகமும கிடையாது. ஆனால, கடடி எழுபபபபடட புகழ மயககஙகளோ இனிமையைத தரும.காநதி-தெனனா...
truly a masterpiece... started loving Gandhi after reading this book
Rob Smith
I don't know a lot about Gandhi. All I know about him comes from pop-cultural osmosis (like Richard Attenborough's Gandhi), or the smattering I picked up in high school. This delightful biography by Ramachandra Guha eschews the typical 'skip to India' philosophies taken towards Gandhi's life. It encompasses Gandhi's birth and early life and ends in 1915, before Gandhi returned to India. Those desirous of a complete narrative will have to wait for the promised sequel volume.

Guha sets out to provi
A tremendous achievement. 'Gandhi Before India' is an extremely well-written examination of Gandhi's years in South Africa. This period of the Mahatma's career is often treated by Gandhi scholars and biographers as a prelude to his more productive and path-breaking years in India. Guha exposes the folly of this approach- he argues persuasively that Gandhi's experiences in South Africa are of tremendous salience since they moulded his life and character in ways that ultimately enabled the Mahatma ...more
Sudheendra Chaitanya
Excellent book. Good way to write and read history. Especially to show how the character evolves over 25 years.

Gandhi's social identity, how it evolves, how he learns, and the impact it has on the community is laid out threadbare. Event to event, instance to instance. But, his religious core doesn't receive such a focus, one feels. So, while one appreciates the swiftness and the moral strength with which Gandhi responds to a situation, and how that helps the community take to the cause with gre
This is a wildly detailed biography from Gandhi's birth to his studies in London to his failures in Bombay to his satyagraha movement in South Africa to his departure back to India. More so, it's a portrait of how racially torn and divided lands Transvaal and Natal were. God, they sounded terrible. They make turn of the century London and India look like Eden.

Guha emphasizes that Gandhi was able to live among anyone in the UK and India, but when it came to South Africa there were violence and ra
Mayank Kumar
Excellent work again by the author. Very exhaustive and gives a clear insight into formation of a Mahatama with flaws as well as merits covered. Too detailed though.

A must read for anyone who want to understand GandhiJi.
I enjoyed reading Gandhi Before India, though I wish that he had taken up cause with the Africans too. I look forward to reading about the other people he got to know during his time in South Africa.
Ram guha didnt disappoint with his solid research once again writing a facet of history we tend to read / know less about. Some of the basic civil and human rights we take for granted today have been upheld by champions like gandhi whos values and principles are centuries ahead of his time. Strangely, the book got me thinking of immigration in the contemporary world and its associated issues. Hat tip to guha for a balanced and reliable account of gandhi's work- life contradictions. I have to ad ...more
Grady Ormsby
Gandhi Before India by Ramachandra Guha is the first part of a two-volume set about the life of Gandhi. The second volume is India After Gandhi. Obviously Gandhi Before India is about his work in South Africa from 1893 until 1914. It was here that Gandhi began his struggle for the dignity of all people. He developed his philosophy and tactics of satyagrahis, non-violence, gradualism and passive resistance. Guha’s research is based not only on the works of Gandhi but also on the works of those wh ...more
South Africa was the staging ground for Gahndhi's eventual leadership to liberate India from Great Britain. Over many years, Gandhi morphed from a lawyer to a civil rights leader. He developed and evolved his approach to passive resistance and non-violent protest that became a hugely powerful force. It was also in South Africa that Gandhi focused on the the dietary and simple lifestyle that defined his personal life.

In other words, South Africa was where Mohandas became the Mahatma.

This book ta
As can be expected of Guha, this book is a thorough and unprecedented study of the transformation of Gandhi from a city-bred lawyer to a nonconformist civil rights leader in South Africa. The book builds his story chronologically from his birth to his final departure from South Africa using contemporary records - letters to and by him, news articles written about or by him, various petitions, and the views expressed by various leaders and intellectuals on either side of the debate.

The book read
The persona that Gandhi has become in culture stems from what he did in India.

What I never understood, until reading this book, was how his early history - his time in London - gave him an understanding of the west. And then how being at the right time and right place during his time in South Africa raised him as the leader he was to become. In a way, his struggles for freedom in South Africa trained him for his work in India.

Absolutely fascinating!

The book is very thorough which may turn off
Vivek Subramanian
One of the best book ever I read.. when I started I was bit hesitate whether I could complete this book..but I strongly believe gandhis's soul exist in this book which driven me to read completely.. Thanks to ram guha for this wonderful book.. This book introduces unknown characters who we're admire by mahatmas goodness like Thambi Naidoo, Herman Hallanbach, Henry Pollack, Millie Polack, Calicha, Albert West, Joseph Doke, Henry Salt, raychandabhai, pranjeevan Mehta, sheik mehtab, maganlal, kastu ...more
A great view into the events that formed who Gandhi became. It was interesting to see his view being limited to Indians and then Asians, while overlooking the native Africans in South Africa. He seems later to come to the understanding that all peoples should be equal under the law, but limited his efforts in promoting this, even for Indians in South Africa.

His strong views on vegetarianism and natural remedies struck me as a bit odd, but given the state of medicine at the time (and perhaps eve
Sandeepan Mondal
A brilliant portrayal of one of the world’s greatest thinker, non-violent practitioner and leader

Many of us have criticized Gandhi (and his protégé Nehru) for his inept handling of Hindu-Muslim unity, sidelining other prominent leaders of his time and constantly seeking a compromise with the British thus delaying the much anticipated “swaraj” by many years. What most of the people don’t get right is that only because of the methods of non-violence adopted by the Mahatma, India could function as
Samrat Ashok
This magnum opus by Ramachandra Guha , the first of the two books on the Life of Gandhi is a truly amazing book on Gandhi.I have read a fair share of books on Gandhi notably Louis Fischer book on Gandhi, controversial book Great Soul which mischievously suggested that Gandhi could have been Gay. This book stands out for its truly remarkable and objective treatment on the early life of Gandhi in South Africa.

It gloriously captures the travel of how Gandhi from a orthodox Hindu background overcome
Ramachandra Guha offers a brilliant insight into Gandhi's life in South Africa, which he argues laid the foundation to his role as a political activist in India. The only reason I gave this book 4 stars rather than 5, is because I feel the book could have omitted certain unnecessary details like parties and receptions hosted for Gandhi,excessive focus on the fact that Gandhi was able to unite people across caste/creed/religion etc.
Ananth Krishna
This Is one of the best books I've read about the economical,m social and political history of India after independence. Th richness and details That the author can portray is amazing.Even though it's Lengthy ,it isn't drab at all. A must read for those who want to know more About our Post-independence history.(Note: I'd recommend every Student read this)
One of the best books i have read so far.I provides insight to every detail of gandhiji's life till 1914.It is a detail work done by profound analysis and show how gandhiji's character was build.His struggle in south africa is written in depth.Sublime writing by one of the most talented historian.Just waiting for it's second volume.
Daniel Farabaugh
This book had high aspirations and it hit most of them. It wanted to be the definitive biography of Gandhi and it comes close and makes me want to read the next installment. It is meticulously researched and annotated, drawing from many sources. It is a bit dry at times but overall very good.
This is one of the best books I have read; a detailed view of Gandhi's first 45 years and the work he did in South Africa. I had a pretty limited knowledge of his life and was amazed that one human being could accomplish what he did. If only we could learn from his example.
All I can say is that, after this book, what very naturally comes to my mind is to read more about is life after South Africa. What I have already known about him from our history books are paeans about a national hero...mythical figure, whose leadership resulted in the end of the English era in India. But an intimate estimation of the man, a person in flesh and blood is mostly missing. Need suggestions from the community here on books that specifically would give me that. Dont know if Mr. Guha ...more
Blaine Morrow
This is certainly a thorough chronicle of Gandhi's South African life, work, and development. I had trouble, though, with the dryness of the details. The narrative isn't really hard to follow, and the author is well organized, but I found the reading slow going.
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Ramachandra Guha was born in Dehradun in 1958, and educated in Delhi and Calcutta. He has taught at the University of Oslo, Stanford, and Yale, and at the Indian Institute of Science. He has been a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and also served as the Indo-American Community Chair Visiting Professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

After a peripatetic academic career, with
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