India’s Silver Bullets: War Loans and War Propaganda, 1917–18

  • Radhika Singha


The intensification of war demands in 1917 introduced many firsts in India's financial history. That year the government announced the ‘gift’ of a 100 million pounds towards Britain’s war expenses and launched the first of two Indian War Loans to meet this sum. This cast the colonial regime in the role of debtor to a subject population over which it had to reproduce its standing and authority. War loan propaganda could never be too strident, lest Indians conclude that Britain was bankrupt and losing the war. Social responses varied. Peasants viewed the war loan as just another oppressive exaction. However, in appealing to the figure of the ‘small investor’, war loan propaganda opened up a space for dialogue with the Indian middle classes. In the process it added fuel to the demand for home rule.


  1. Aga Khan. India in Transition: A Study in Political Evolution. Bombay: Bennet, Coleman and Co., 1918.Google Scholar
  2. Annual report on the Posts and Telegraphs of India for the year 1916–17, Simla, 1917.Google Scholar
  3. Aulich, James and Hewitt, John. Seduction or Instruction?: First World War Posters in Britain and Europe. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007.Google Scholar
  4. Balachandran, G. ‘“Finance Orientalism”? Britain, the United States and India’s Wartime Currency Crisis, 1914–1918’, South Asia 16, no. 2 (1993): 89–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Birla, Ritu. Stages of Capital: Law, Culture, and Market Governance in Late Colonial India. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  6. Chablani, Hashmat Rai. Indian Currency and Exchange. London: Oxford University Press, 1925.Google Scholar
  7. Clarke, Geoffrey. The Post Office of India and its Story. London: John Lance, 1921.Google Scholar
  8. Fraser, Lovat. Iron and Steel in India. Bombay: The Times Press, 1919.Google Scholar
  9. Ghosh, Kali. The Autobiography of a Revolutionary in British India. New Delhi: Social Science Press, 2013.Google Scholar
  10. Hardgrove, Anne. Community and Public Culture: The Marwaris in Calcutta, 1897–1997. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.Google Scholar
  11. Haynes, Douglas E. Rhetoric and Ritual in Colonial India: The Shaping of a Public Culture in Surat City, 1852–1928. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991.Google Scholar
  12. Horniman, Benjamin Guy. British Administration and the Amritsar Massacre. Delhi: Mittal Publishers, 1984.Google Scholar
  13. Hook, F. A. Merchant Adventurers, 1914–15. London: A&C Black Ltd, 1920.Google Scholar
  14. India’s Services in the War, Vols III, and IV-V, Lucknow: Newal Kishore Press, 1922.Google Scholar
  15. Jain, Jyotindra. Bombay/Mumbai: Visual Histories of a City. Delhi: Centre for Indian Visual Culture, 2013.Google Scholar
  16. Jain, Jyotindra, ed. The Story of Early Indian Advertising. Marg, 68, no. 3, 2017.Google Scholar
  17. Lajpat Rai, Lala. England’s Debt to India: A Historical Narrative of Britain’s Fiscal Policy in India. New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1917.Google Scholar
  18. Leigh, M. S. The Punjab and the War. Lahore: Government Printing, 1922.Google Scholar
  19. Mann, Jatinder, ‘War Finance, Australia’ in (accessed September 2017).
  20. Omissi, David. Indian Voices of the Great War: Soldiers Letters, 1914–18, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ott, Julia. When Wall Street Met Main Street: The Quest for an Investors’ Democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.Google Scholar
  22. Panandikar, Satyashraya Gopal. ‘The Economic Consequences of the War for India’. PhD thesis, University of London, 1921.Google Scholar
  23. Playne, Somerset, comp. Indian States: A Bibliographical, Historical and Administrative Survey. London: Foreign and Colonial Compiling and Pub. Co., 1921–1922.Google Scholar
  24. Reed, Stanley, ed. The Indian Year Book 1919. Bombay: Bennet Coleman and Co.Google Scholar
  25. Report of the commissioners appointed by the Punjab Sub-Committee of the Indian National Congress, Vol. 1. Bombay, 1920.Google Scholar
  26. Review of the Report on the Administration of the Mints at Calcutta and Bombay for the years 1916–17. Calcutta: Government Printing: 1917.Google Scholar
  27. Speeches By Lord Chelmsford Viceroy and Governor General of India. Simla: Government Press, 1921.Google Scholar
  28. Slater, Gilbert. Southern India: Its Political and Economic Problems. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1936.Google Scholar
  29. Sunderland, David. Financing the Raj: The City of London and Colonial India, 1858–1940. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2013.Google Scholar
  30. Tilak, Bal Gangadhar. His Writings and Speeches. Madras: Ganesh and Co., 1922.Google Scholar
  31. Tooze, Adam. The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of the Global Order 1916–1931. New York: Allen Lane, 2014.Google Scholar
  32. Vaman, Govind Kale. India’s War Finance and Post-war Problems. Poona: Aryabhushan Press, 1919.Google Scholar
  33. Williams, L.F. Rushbrook. India in the Years 1917–1918. Calcutta: Government Printing, 1919.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Radhika Singha
    • 1
  1. 1.Jawaharlal Nehru UniversityDelhiIndia

Personalised recommendations