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Stanley Albert Wolpert (born December 23, 1927) is an American historian, biographer and novelist. He is emeritus professor of History at University of California, Los Angeles. He specializes in the modern political history of India and Pakistan.


Early life & Academic Carrer

Stanley Albert Wolpert was born on December 23, 1927 in Brooklyn, New York, USA of Russian Jewish heritage. He arrived in Mumbai, India for the first time on February 12, 1948 while on an overseas sightseeing trip. Upon his arrival, Wolpert was fascinated and overwhelmed by the extraordinary outpouring of grief at the death of Mahatma Gandhi. Atop a hill, he witnessed numerous mourning Indians who were rushing to touch one of the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi as the ship in which the urn was placed weighed anchor, to sprinkle a portion of his ashes into the water below. He hardly knew anything about India or Mahatma Gandhi then. On returning home, he abandoned his career in marine engineering for the study of Indian history.[1][2][3] He then went on to do his BA from City College, New York in 1953 and completed his MA in 1955 and Ph.D in 1959 from the University of Pennsylvania.[4]

Personal life

Stanley Wolpert is married to Dorothy Wolpert (née Guberman). They met in an American government class. They got married on June 12, 1953. Dorothy Wolpert later studied law at UCLA's renowned law school and is now a senior partner in a Century City law firm. She has made several visits to India with him. They have two sons, Daniel and Adam.[5]



Gandhi's Passion : The Life and the Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi

Published in 2001, Gandhi's Passion is a biography of Mahatma Gandhi. The biography was severely criticised by conservative historian Swapan Dasgupta, who wrote in India Today, "Wolpert's biography is not the work of a professional historian.... it is essentially a sympathetic assessment, a study of Gandhi the saint that only tangentially - and with some glaring factual inaccuracies (like describing the Jallianwala Bagh meeting in Amritsar as a gathering of peasants "celebrating their spring harvest") and sweeping over-generalisations takes into account the environment he operated in. That's not surprising because Wolpert approached the project less as a scholar and more as a polemicist. His study was prompted by his grave disquiet at the May 1998 Pokhran blasts, particularly his "amazement" that "hardly any Indian voices were raised against so complete a departure from everything Mahatma Gandhi believed in and had tried to teach throughout his mature life". An Indophile angst at the disappearance of a mythical "eternal India" is articulated through a celebration of Gandhi's piety."[6] Delhi University historian Shahid Amin in his review for the Outlook, called it an "empathetic and meticulous biography". He observed "Wolpert’s attempt is to demonstrate through a close reading of Gandhi’s own voluminous writings the unique combination of yogic tapas and Christian passion—“the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross”—that the Mahatma embodied in his body-polity."[7] Pankaj Mishra in his review for The New York Times, described it as a "somewhat perfunctory biography". He wrote, "the best that can be said about Wolpert's book is that while it tells you nothing about Gandhi that hasn't been said before, it doesn't oversimplify its subject." Further adding, "Wolpert mentions Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela as having drawn inspiration from Gandhi's methods. Disappointingly, he doesn't go into the manifold ways Gandhi's distrust of modernity has found echoes among many political and environmental movements around the world."[8] Diplomat and author, Shashi Tharoor in his review for The Washington Post called it " a smooth, highly readable but flawed book." He added, "Wolpert's narrative is rather bloodless; the characters on its pages are largely just names, with little physical description, social background or political context provided. Two skimpy chapters on Gandhi's legacy are all that justify the book's subtitle." He also observed, "that the book is riddled with minor errors unworthy of a historian of Wolpert's eminence, ranging from the description of Ahmedabad in 1887 as the capital of Gujarat, a state that did not come into existence till the 1950s, to placing the British Viceroy in 1925 in Calcutta, though British India had moved its capital to Delhi in 1911." He further added, "Wolpert gives us the saint, but the shrewd politician is little in evidence in this book. And yet Wolpert gets all the essentials right, and he does so in lucid and lively prose."[9]

Shameful Flight : The Last Years of the British Empire in India

Published in 2006, Shameful Flight is a chronological study of the last days of the British Empire in India from the fall of Singapore in 1942 to the Jammu & Kashmir war of 1947-48. Conservative historian Swapan Dasgupta in his review for The Times Of India criticised Wolpert's 'central argument' for mirroring 'the misgivings of the relics of the pre-War Conservative Party to the management of decolonization.' Yet, he refused to lump him with the Tory "revisionist" historians such as Andrew Roberts and Niall Ferguson and called his central thesis 'intriguing'. He observed, 'The problem is that Wolpert's own narrative doesn't justify singling out Mountbatten for all the opprobrium'. Furthermore, 'On Wolpert's suggestion that a united, independent Bengal would have prevented the tragedy in the east ignores cruel ground realities'.[10]


Wolpert's 1962 book, Nine Hours to Rama was adapted as the 1963 film, Nine Hours to Rama. It starred J.S. Casshyap as Mahatma Gandhi and Horst Buchholz as Nathuram Godse. [1]



  • Tilak and Gokhale : Revolution and Reform in the Making of Moder India (1962)
  • Morley and India, 1906-1910 (1967)
  • A New History of India (1977)
  • Roots of Confrontation in South Asia : Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and the Superpowers (1982)
  • Jinnah of Pakistan (1984)
  • Congress and Indian Nationalism : The Pre-Independence Phase (co-edited with Richard Sisson) (1988)
  • India (1991)
  • Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan : His Life and Times (1993)
  • Nehru : A Tryst With Destiny (1996)
  • Gandhi's Passion : The Life and the Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi (2001]
  • Encyclopedia of India (4 Volumes) (Editor-in-Chief) (2005)
  • Shameful Flight : The Last Years of the British Empire in India (2006)


  • Aboard the Flying Swan (1954)
  • Nine Hours to Rama (1962)
  • The Expedition: A Novel (1967)
  • An Error of Judgment (1970)


  1. ^ Wolpert, Stanley (2001). Gandhi's Passion: The Life and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. Oxford University Press. pp. vii
  2. ^
  3. ^ Long, Roger D. (editor) (2004).Charisma and Commitment in South Asian History: Essays presented to Stanley Wolpert. pp. 6-35.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Long, Roger D. (editor) (2004).Charisma and Commitment in South Asian History: Essays presented to Stanley Wolpert. pp. 6-35.
  6. ^ | Swapan Dasgupta's review in India Today
  7. ^ | Shahid Amin's review in Outlook
  8. ^ | Pankaj Mishra's review in The New York Times
  9. ^ | Shashi Tharoor's review in The Washington Post
  10. ^ | Swapan Dasgupta's review of Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India in The Times Of India

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