Papers of Granville Austin, noted scholar of Indian constitution, now available

This post was written by Phoebe Nobles, the archivist who processed the Granville Austin Papers.

We are pleased to announce the addition of the Granville Austin Papers (MC287) to the Public Policy Papers at Mudd Manuscript Library. Austin (1927-2014) was an independent scholar and political historian who wrote two of the seminal works on the constitution of India, and garnered esteem enough in the Republic of India to receive its fourth-highest civilian honor, the Padma Shri Award, in 2011.

Free of nearly a century of British rule, India created a Constituent Assembly to draft the constitution between late 1946 and 1949. The Constituent Assembly adopted the constitution on November 26, 1949, and the document became effective on January 26, 1950, declaring India a sovereign democratic republic, and resolving to secure justice, liberty, and equality to its citizens and to promote fraternity among them. Austin was to make a case for India’s constitution as “first and foremost a social document.”

How did Vermonter Granville Austin, known as “Red” to his friends and colleagues, come to be read so widely by students of Indian political history and to be cited in decisions of the Indian Supreme Court? His life’s work did not fit neatly the mold of the academic historian. With a degree from Dartmouth College in 1950, he began his career as a photographer and journalist for a local Vermont-New Hampshire newspaper. He joined the U.S. Information Service as a photographer in Vietnam in the mid-1950s, and later as political analyst and press attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. Austin left Beirut to study at Oxford, and his graduate thesis would become his first book, The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a Nation, published in 1966.

Granville Austin at the U.S. Information Agency office, Saigon, 1960s. Granville Austin Papers (MC287), Box 12.

Continue reading