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Edwin Samuel Montagu, 1879-1924


British Minister of Munitions and Secretary of State for India.

The second son of international financier and Jewish activist Samuel Montagu (Montagu Samuel), Edwin was elected to Parliament in 1906. Edwin was a Liberal, and served as the private secretary of Herbert Asquith, who later became Prime Minister. He was Undersecretary of State for India (1910-1914), Financial Secretary to the Treasury (1914), Chancellor of Lancaster (1915), Minister of Munitions (1916), and Secretary of State for India (1917-1922).

Edwin championed Indian independence from 1910-1914; in 1918 he toured India, wrote the Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms, and in 1919 he was responsible for the Government of India Act, which provided India with wide powers of self-government. In 1922 he resigned as Secretary and also lost his seat in Parliament.

Edwin was a strong opponent of Zionism, and as a member of Lloyd George's administration was able to modify the text of the original Balfour Declaration (which, in the end, was instrumental in the creation of the state of Israel).

Edwin is probably most famous for the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms in India, which took effect in 1919. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, puts it (accurately) like this:

"... the Indian national liberation movement was growing stronger. The reforms developed out of a report published in 1918 by E. Montagu, secretary of state for India, and Lord Chelmsford, viceroy of India...

The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms provided for the establishment of a bicameral legislature subordinate to the governor-general and consisting of the Council of State and the Legislative Assembly. Some of the members of the legislative bodies were to be appointed. The governor-general retained the right to veto bills.

In the largest provinces the new law introduced dyarchy, or dual power, a complicated and confusing system of dividing power among different departments. Some of the ministers (department heads) were responsible to the legislative bodies, but others were responsible to the provincial governors. Essentially, dyarchy made it impossible for the new bodies to act with any degree of effectiveness.

The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms retained the principle of separate religious communal constituencies, which had been introduced in 1909. Only about 1 percent of the Indian population was granted the right to vote for representatives to the national legislative bodies, and about 3 percent received the right to vote in elections to the provincial bodies. The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms did not change the essential character of colonial rule and provoked protests by various strata of Indian society. The Indian National Congress boycotted the 1921 elections. Nevertheless, the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms remained in force until 1935." (Great Soviet Encyclopedia)


Great Soviet Encyclopedia,
Encyclopaedia Judaica,
Webster's Biographical Dictionary.

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