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Irish Days, Indian Memories

V. V. Giri and Indian Law Students at University College Dublin, 1913-1916
Conor Mulvagh
Irish Academic Press
9781911024187 (RGB)


From the Introduction

In writing a history of the intersections between Irish and Indian nationality, this book is intended to appeal to two different audiences. To Irish readers, this short book offers an insight into a virtually unknown section of Dublin's political and student life between 1913 and 1916. Among them was V. V. Giri, fourth President of India (1969-74) who would later say of himself 'when I am not an Indian, I am an Irishman'.1 The diversity of Dublin in this era is something which still warrants analysis and it is hoped that this study will incorporate the story of Indian students into Ireland's wartime and insurrectionary experiences. In charting the social history of Dublin as lived by Indian students in this era, I have endeavoured to present the positive and negative aspects of these interactions without dilution and, I hope, with a balance that reflects accurately the realities of the time. I am conscious that the negative aspects of encounter have a propensity to be over-represented in the archive. It is thus important to state that the best overall evidence of how well Indian students integrated into Irish life can be found in the fact that so many of their contemporaries and classmates treated them as equals and that they progressed through their studies in Dublin as peers, finding acceptance and friendship not only in the lecture theatre but in student societies, at the dinner table and in the social outlets of the city.

To Indian readers, it is hoped that what is offered here is a detailed insight into the Irish experiences of V. V. Giri, whose three-year stay in Dublin to study law between 1913 and 1916 left a lifetime legacy. Giri was one of UCD s first identifiable groups of international students. He arrived in Dublin in the late summer of 1913 along with twelve other Indian students. While the fact that Giri studied in Dublin is well known in India, the details of his time here remain impressionistic in the historiography. Furthermore, the retrospective prominence of Giri among Dublin's Indian students has served to eclipse his compatriots who joined him here to live and study. I hope that this book goes some way to uncovering some of those occluded stories and, by so doing, adds depth and context to the story of V. V. Giri's Dublin days.

Writing the history of Indian students in pre-independence Ireland has been a challenging but highly rewarding exercise. For one accustomed to standing on firmer historical ground, this study has forced me to venture further away from archival terra firma than usual. On the face of it, the persons at the centre of this study are almost ghosts. They have left their names in the records of the institutions in which they studied, their lodging houses have been found, and other valuable snippets of functional contemporary detail about their lives have been uncovered. However, as to their lived experiences in Dublin of a century ago, the author has been forced to rely on very scant material indeed. Thankfully this has been enhanced by the existence of a variety of memoirs and oral testimony written and recorded decades after the fact.

It is important to emphasise that this is by no means a definitive study of Indian law students in Dublin. Really, it only represents a starting point which I hope will be of benefit to scholars working on the diversity of Dublin life in this period and also to those interested in the history of international education in Ireland. Only those students who attended UCD are included in this study. By definition, these students also studied at the King's Inns but, as will be shown, a number of Indian students combined their studies at the King's Inns with periods of study at Trinity College Dublin and, it seems, British universities as well. This study finds a logical end-point in 1916. However, Indian law students built lasting associations with Dublin. It stands to future scholars to write a fuller history of these connections and to write the history of international legal education in Dublin more generally.