Conferencing the International
Photograph depicting protesters marching against the Simon Commission, holding a banner reading "Simon Go Back"

Preceding the Conference

Timeline of events leading to the Round Table Conferences

December 1921

  • Reading offered a ‘Round Table Conference’ to propose concessions in the face of the non-cooperation movement, but the British Cabinet refused. 

February 1924

  • 8th: the Swaraj Party called for a Round Table Conference with official powers to devise a constitution, during a Legislative Assembly debate in Delhi.

November 1927

  • 11th: the Indian Statutory Commission, under the Chairmanship of Sir John Simon, investigating the working of the 1919 reforms was announced, with an all-white membership.

December 1927

  • 16th: the (Sir Harcourt) Butler Indian States Committee was appointed.

February to March 1928

  • The ‘Simon Commission’ visited India for a reconnaissance tour.

August 1928

  • 10th: the (Motilal) Nehru Report, laying out Indian nationalist constitutional proposals, was published.

October 1928 to April 1929

  • The Simon Commission toured India, facing widescale boycotts and pickets (see image above).

December 1928

  • From December 1928 to October 1929, Viceroy Irwin put together his Round Table Conference initiative.
  • 17th: Sir Malcolm Hailey advised Irwin that any conference would have to be advisory and not authoritative.
  • 23rd: Simon disputed the proposed conference, feeling it would undermine his report.
  • 19th: the Indian National Congress, at its Calcutta Session, passed a resolution giving the deadline of 31st December 1929 for the British government to commit to Dominion Status, or face a movement of civil disobedience.

February 1929

  • 14th: the Butler “Report of the Indian States Committee, 1928-29” was published.
  • 16th: Irwin sent a memorandum to Simon, leading to a dispute over how the commitment to a conference could fit with the issuing of the Simon Report.

March 1929

  • 18th: after discussions with Irwin in New Delhi, Simon agreed that his report would recommend a conference.
  • 24th: Sir Grimwood Mears met with Sapru, Motilal Nehru and others met in Allahabad, where the nationalists stressed that Dominion Status needed to be declared as Britain’s ultimate purpose at the conference.

April 1929

  • 5th: Sapru met Irwin and Simon in the Viceregal Lodge at New Delhi and pressed for Britain to announce its intended outcome at the conference.
  • 8th: a bomb was thrown in the New Delhi Legislative Assembly by Bhagat Singh, with Simon in attendance.

May 1929

  • 30th: at the British general election, Ramsay MacDonald secured a minority government, to serve with the support of David Lloyd George’s Liberal Party.

June 1929

  • The Home Department confirmed to Irwin that Dominion Status was an international question of recognition, whereas responsible government was a question of internal political administration.

July 1929

  • 18th: Irwin met Benn in London and confirmed the plans made with Simon to publicly exchange letters with the Prime Minister calling for the RTC. MacDonald was keen that Dominion Status be acknowledged as the aim.

September 1929

  • 9th: Irwin drafted an announcement emphasising the goal of Dominion Status and the freedom of the RTC to set its own agenda.

October 1929

  • 7th: the British Cabinet approved the Irwin Declaration.
  • 23rd: Baldwin told the Tory shadow cabinet about the Irwin Declaration, which they resisted but failed to stop.
  • 31st: Irwin made his declaration, confirming Dominion Status as the ultimate goal of the British and India, and announcing a conference in London for Princely and British Indian delegates, to take place late in 1930.

November 1929 

  • 2nd: at a meeting in Delhi of nationalist leaders (called by Motilal Nehru and including Gandhi, Malaviya, Moonje, Muhammad Ali and Sapru) all but Subhas Chandra Bose agreed to the terms of the declaration, although they wanted Dominion Status to be the object of discussion. Irwin responded that the RTC would be a free conference so couldn’t accept this term.
  • 18th: having considered Irwin’s response, another meeting of nationalists in Allahabad confirmed their stance.

December 1929 

  • 23rd: leading nationalists met Irwin at the Viceregal Lodge, repeating that they would attend the RTC if Irwin supported the demand for Dominion Status. He insisted that it had to be a free conference.
  • 31st: the deadline set by Congress for the British Government to commit to Dominion Status, or civil disobedience would be declared. At the Lahore Congress Gandhi confirmed the rejection of the RTC and the acceptance of civil disobedience.

February 1930

  • The Maharaja of Patiala welcomed the idea of a RTC, and India Office officials pressed Benn to outline how the conference method would operate.

March 1930

  • 12th: Gandhi set out on the 240-mile Salt March from Sabermati to Dandi.

April 1930

  • 5th: Gandhi reached Dandi and broke the salt laws, instigating civil disobedience across the country.

May 1930

  • 1st: Benn and Irwin begin detailed discussions on the organisation of the RTC.
  • 5th: news of Gandhi’s arrest spread across India leading to widespread strikes and protests.

June 1930

  • 10th and 24th: Volumes I and then II of the Simon Report were published.
  • 26th: Benn and MacDonald met members of the British opposition parties to discuss the RTC and where discussion of the Simon Report would fit into it.

July 1930

  • 9th: Irwin issued an address re-emphasising the government’s commitment to the conference method.
  • 14-15th: at a conference with leading Princes at Simla, Irwin raised the idea federation, but it was opposed by the Chamber of Princes as well as the major Princely States not represented by the Chamber, including Hyderabad and Mysore.

August 1930

  • 29th: the India Office circulated a confidential memo setting out the conference procedure and organisation, anticipating the conference agenda.

May 1930

  • Irwin announced plans for the RTC to open on 20th October.

September 1930

  • 10th: Hoare wrote to Benn asking for British opposition delegates to be given as much information as possible, and supporting a unified British delegate line. Benn resisted.

October 1930

  • 1st: the Imperial Conference opened in London.
  • 4th: the SS Viceroy of India set sail from Bombay-, carrying many delegates to Europe, where it arrived two weeks later.
  • 11th: the Princely States delegates had the first of five preliminary London meetings at St. James’s Palace.

Conferencing the International

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