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‘Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary’ by Anita Anand

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‘Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary’ by Anita Anand

Post by Ivan on Tue Jan 20, 2015 11:33 pm

Anita Anand is best known as a TV and radio presenter. She was born in east London to Indian parents whose families came to Britain from the Punjab after Partition. The subject of her first book, Sophia Duleep Singh (1876-1948), was the daughter of the heir to the kingdom of the Sikhs. The British plundered the kingdom and Sophia ended up in exile in Suffolk. This spoilt princess (and goddaughter of Queen Victoria) was raised as a genteel aristocratic Englishwoman. But when, in secret defiance of the British government, she travelled to India, she returned a revolutionary. Her main causes were the struggle for Indian independence, the welfare of Indian soldiers in the First World War and the fight for female suffrage in the UK.

Sometimes biographers complain that all the great figures have been done. John Kampfner says that Anand’s skill “is to bring to life a character whose name does not figure in the annals of the suffragette movement”. She also describes the violence meted out by the police, and the lengths to which the state sought to exonerate the police. In one passage, Anand shows how the young home secretary, a certain Winston Churchill, dismissed all attempts to investigate after two women died of their injuries. Boyd Tonkin tells us that in its Christmas Eve editorial for 1910, the suffragist newspaper ‘The Vote’ argued: "The feminist movement is intimately associated with the aspirations of Young India". He continues: “Sophia embodied, and deepened, that relationship.”

Sophia upset George V when she sold suffragette papers right outside Hampton Court. Bailiffs entered her home to seize goods after she refused to pay her taxes or the resulting court fines for non-payment. But she couldn't get herself arrested. Anand writes that “despite her best and repeated efforts, Sophia never managed to be sent to prison, and therefore was denied her chance to go on hunger strike and her place in the pantheon. Not even when she threw herself at the prime minister’s car would the police and courts punish her as they punished others of lower rank.” Kampfner calls this “the intolerable burdens of class”.

Amanda Foreman calls this “a groundbreaking work”, while Tonkin concludes that Anand “has triumphantly rescued Princess Sophia from the pampered oblivion in which a fearful Raj sought to bury her”. Perhaps the most glowing tribute comes from Rachel Holmes: “Anita Anand has definitively restored to history one of the most important and charismatic figures in the suffragette movement. This thoroughly absorbing and deftly informative account instantly pulled me into the irresistible adventure and vitality of Sophia Duleep Singh's defiant and innovative existence. Anand's biography is a wonderful testament to Sophia's lifetime of commitment to Indian independence and the advancement of women, and to the range and courage of her achievements.

Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary’ is published in hardcover (432 pages) and kindle by Bloomsbury Publishing.
ISBN-10: 1632860813  ISBN-13: 978-1632860811

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Re: ‘Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary’ by Anita Anand

Post by boatlady on Wed Jan 21, 2015 8:44 am

sounds interesting - may have to suspend reading fiction for a while
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