Quick Revision Series for Prelims 2021: INDIAN NATIONAL MOVEMENT (1885-1905): Moderate Phase

By Aman|Updated : July 27th, 2021

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Table of Content


Rise of Nationalism in India

  • The social, economic and political factors had inspired the people to define and achieve their national identity. People began discovering their unity in the process of their struggle against colonialism.
  • The sense of being oppressed under colonial rule provided a shared bond that tied different groups together. Each class and group felt the effects of colonialism differently.
  • The social and religious reform movements of the 19th century also contributed to the feeling of Nationalism.
  • Swami Vivekananda, Annie Besant, Henry Derozio and many others revived the glory of ancient India, created faith among the people in their religion and culture and thus gave the message of love for their motherland.
  • The intellectual and spiritual side of Nationalism was voiced by persons like Bankim Chandra Chatterji, Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Aurobindo Ghosh.
  • Bankim Chandra’s hymn to the Motherland, ‘Vande Matram’ became the rallying cry of patriotic nationalists. It inspired generations to supreme self-sacrifice.
  • The Revolt of 1857 created a kind of permanent bitterness and suspicion between the British and the Indians.


  • Allan Octavian Hume, a retired civil servant in the British Government took the initiative to form an all-India organization.
  • Thus, the Indian National Congress was founded and its first session was held at Bombay in 1885.
  • The history of the Indian National Movement can be studied in three important phases:
    • The phase of moderate nationalism (1885-1905) when Congress continued to be loyal to the British crown.
    • The years 1906-1916 witnessed- Swadeshi Movement, the rise of militant nationalism and the Home Rule Movement. The repressive measures of the British gave rise to extremists within Congress like Bipin Chandra Pal, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai (Lai, Bal, Pal), along with Aurobindo Ghosh
    • The period from 1917 to1947 is known as the Gandhian era.

Important Sessions of Indian National Congress 

  • Congress met each December. The first meeting was scheduled to be held in Poona, but due to a cholera outbreak there it was shifted to Bombay.
  • Hume organised the first meeting in Bombay with the approval of the Viceroy Lord Dufferin.
  • W. Chandra Banerjee was the first president of the Congress.
  • The first session was held from 28–31 December 1885 in Mumbai and was attended by 72 delegates.
  • Mahatma Gandhi presided over the Belgaum session of INC in 1924.
  • The first woman president of INC was Mrs Annie Besant.
  • The first Indian woman president of the INC was Mrs Sarojini Naidu.
  • The first Englishman to become the president of INC was George Yule
  • The first Muslim president of the INC was Badruddin Tayabji.
  • The president of INC at the time of India's independence was Acharya JB Kriplani.

Moderate Nationalism

The leading figures during the first phase of the National Movement wereA.O. HumeW.C. Banerjee, Surendra Nath Banerjee, Dadabhai Naoroji, Feroze Shah Mehta Gopalakrishna Gokhale, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Badruddin Tyabji, Justice Ranade and G.Subramanya Aiyar.

  • Surendranath Banerjee: was called the Indian Burke. He firmly opposed the Partition of Bengal. He founded the Indian Association (1876) to agitate for political reforms. He had convened the Indian National Conference (1883) which merged with the Indian National Congress in l886.
  • Subramanya Aiyar preached nationalism through the Madras Mahajana Sabha. He also founded the Hindu and Swadesamitran.
  • Dadabhai Naoroji was known as the Grand Old Man of India. He is regarded as India’s unofficial Ambassador in England. He was the first Indian to become a Member of the British House of Commons.
  • Gopal Krishna Gokhale was regarded as the political guru of Gandhi. In 1905, he founded the Servants of India Society to train Indians to dedicate their lives to the cause of the country.

Between 1885 and 1905, the Congress leaders were moderates.

  • The Moderates had faith in British justice and goodwill.

Main Demands of Moderates

  1. Expansion and reform of legislative councils.
  2. Greater opportunities for Indians in higher posts by holding the ICS examination simultaneously in England and in India.
  3. Separation of the judiciary from the executive, more powers for the local bodies.
  4. Reduction of land revenue, reduction of spending on army and protection of peasants from unjust landlords, the abolition of salt tax and sugar duty.
  5. Freedom of speech and expression and freedom to form associations.

Methods of Moderates

  1. They were loyal to the British. They looked to England for inspiration and guidance.
  2. The Moderates used petitions, resolutions, meetings, leaflets and pamphlets, memorandum and delegations to present their demands.
  3. They confined their political activities to the educated classes only.
  4. Their aim was to attain political rights and self-government stage by stage.
  5. With the increase in Congress demands, the government became unfriendly. It encouraged the Muslims to stay away from Congress.
  6. The only demand of the Congress granted by the British was the expansion of the legislative councils by the Indian Councils Act of 1892.


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