University of Notre Dame


Course Number: HIST 13184-8
Instructor: Nikhil Menon

This course will explore the ideas, actions, and global influence of Gandhi. As a historical figure M. K. Gandhi is compelling not only due to his role in the movement for Indian independence from British rule, but also because of the originality with which he combined political action with faith, morality, social critique, and economic policy. The course will address themes ranging from the religious traditions that inspired Gandhi, to non-violence and civil disobedience as political tools, to his opposition of modern industrial society, to his attitudes about race and caste relations, and views on gender. We will also explore the debates that both defined his life and continue to define independent India today. This will include disputes with contemporaries over how religious communities should interact in a multi-faith nation, the role of caste and class, and how to design a more just society. The course will conclude by surveying the influence Gandhi’s life and example has had across the world—from Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, to Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. Together, we will read documents written by Gandhi and his contemporaries, a short novel, and watch films. By the course’s end we will better comprehend the man they call ‘Mahatma’ (Great Soul) in India, and understand why Gandhi remains relevant today in South Asia and beyond.