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The Cripps Mission in India

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Sir Stafford Cripps visiting with Mohandas Gandhi in India, March 1942.

Sir Stafford Cripps was appointed the British ambassador to the Soviet Union by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1940. Cripps excelled in this role, visiting Moscow in 1940 and securing a clandestine agreement that the Soviets would eventually join the Brits in fighting Germany. With the betrayal of Operation Barbarossa — the German invasion of Russia in June 1941 despite the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact — Cripps’ handiwork came into play. The Soviets joined the Allied fight against the Axis.

Upon his return to Great Britain in 1942, Cripps secured widespread popular support at home, and many even believed he would be the next Prime Minister. In March of that year, Churchill sent Cripps to India on what would become known as the Cripps Mission. Some suspected Churchill was simply trying to get Cripps out of sight and therefore out of mind of the British people with whom Cripps had become so popular so quickly. Some historians go so far as to say that Churchill believed he was setting Cripps up to fail in India, knowing full well that he wouldn’t be able to offer or secure the full independence that most Indians wanted.

Not all of India’s leaders agreed, however. Gandhi, for one, would settle for nothing less than full and immediate independence with Indian war support in exchange. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League, was fully supportive of the British war effort and believed that surely the British would grant India independence after the war if India proved their loyalty during the fight. Needless to say, no agreement was reached and Cripps returned to Great Britain without success. He left his cabinet position later that year and served the  remainder of the war as Minister of Aircraft Production.


This post by curator Meg Roussel

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