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LSE releases Ambedkar archives

Thursday, February 11, 2016

UK's prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) has released archival documents on Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, one of its famous students and architect of the Indian Constitution, to mark his 125th birth anniversary.

Ambedkar was studying at the Columbia University in 1920 when economist Edwin R. Seligman wrote to Professor Herbert Foxwell, teaching at London School of Economics (LSE), asking him to help Ambedkar with his research.

"I find he has already taken his doctor's degree and has only come here to finish a research. I had forgotten this. I am sorry we cannot identify him with the School but there are no more worlds here for him to conquer," Foxwell wrote to LSE secretary Mrs Mair soon after. The Dalit leader's student days in London were marked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last November when he opened a museum at his former home in north London.

Ambedkar went on to register for a master's degree and completed a PhD thesis at LSE. The year 2016 also marks the centenary of his first visit to LSE in 1916, the LSE said in its release.

"In 1916, he registered at LSE for a master's degree and took courses in Geography with Halford Mackinder, and Political Ideas with G Lowes Dickinson, alongside Social Evolution and Social Theory with Professor L T Hobhouse. The fees for the course were 10 pounds 10 shillings.

"At the same time, Ambedkar enrolled for the bar course at Gray's Inn," the LSE documents show.

Ambedkar's studies were interrupted as he was recalled to India to serve as Military Secretary in Baroda and in July 1917 the University of London gave him leave of absence of up to four years.

In 1920, Ambedkar returned to LSE after working as professor of political economy at Sydenham College in Mumbai and giving evidence to the Scarborough Committee preparing the 1919 Government of India Act on the position and representation of "untouchable" communities.

Initially, he applied to complete his masters degree and wrote a thesis on 'The Provincial Decentralisation of Imperial Finance in India'.

"There was a slight glitch in his LSE career in April 1921 when he failed to send in his form for the summer examinations and the School Secretary, Mrs Mair, had to write to University of London's Academic Registrar for permission to submit the form late," the LSE records.

Ambedkar finally submitted his doctoral thesis, 'The Problem of the Rupee', in March 1923 but it was not recommended for acceptance and reports claim that the thesis was too revolutionary and anti-British for the examiners.

However, there is no indication of this in Ambedkar's student file.

The thesis was resubmitted in August 1923 and accepted in November 1923.

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