Press Release | First Biography of Eardley Norton, Legendary Barrister and Politician in British India
Suresh Balakrishnan, a Chennai based lawyer and author of a few books, has written a comprehensive biography of Eardley Norton (1852 – 1931), a famous British barrister and politician who lived and worked in India. Published in 2018, this first biography of Norton has appeared eighty-seven years after his death. A mammoth work in two hardbound volumes, it presents an arresting story of a man who was almost a legend in his lifetime.
Born in Madras and having undergone School and College education in England and worked for a brief period at the English Bar, Norton returned reluctantly to Madras, where he soon became the undisputed leader of the Madras Bar, a distinction he held for about twenty years. Many were his forensic successes; they called him the “Lion of the Madras Bar”. In 1906, he migrated to Calcutta. There he appeared as the lead prosecutor in the sensational Alipore Bomb Case, in which Aurobindo, later the sage of Pondicherry, faced trial and was acquitted. As one of the early leaders of the Indian National Congress (1887 – 1895), Norton had played a noteworthy role in the Congressmen’s efforts to get the Indian Councils Act, 1892 passed in Britain. An extra-marital affair erupted as a scandal, which led to his dissociation from the Indian National Congress in 1895. After living in India for nearly fifty years, Norton returned to England, where he died in 1931.
Created with painstaking research and drawing from a multitude of extremely rare sources, Balakrishnan’s book presents a comprehensive picture of the different facets of the protagonist’s personality, the many distinguished hats he had donned, the many phases of his Indian career, and the forensic and political triumphs and tumults he had experienced. Copious extracts from Norton’s writings and writings by his contemporaries, and a large number of rare photographs add immensely to the book’s value. Norton counted as his friends many great leaders of the Indian national movement. His reminiscences of his contemporaries and other writings are reproduced at great length, largely from the now forgotten My Reminiscences written by Eardley Norton as a series in a Calcutta fortnightly. A separate chapter is devoted to Norton’s views on Gandhi and his methods and Gandhi’s views on Norton.
Ever remaining a liberal in political ideology, Norton had expressed his views on many of the major developments in India’s political and constitutional history from 1883 to 1921, from the Ilbert Bill controversy to Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation and Satyagraha. All those writings along with their historical settings are given deserved space and treatment in Balakrishnan’s work, making this book more than a detailed biography. Containing copious Notes, a Bibliography and Index, it is a must read for scholars in the field of modern Indian history and legal historians alike.
Title: Eardley Norton: A Biography
Author: Suresh Balakrishnan; ISBN: 978-81-937335-0-9; Publisher: Old Madras Press, Chennai; First Edition: 2018; Pages: 1,200; Price: India Rs. 1,900/ UK £ 21.99/ USA $ 28.99 (for the Set of Two Volumes)
“… meticulously and painstakingly researched…This hugely magnificent work written in lucid, readable style, bristles with family histories, genealogies, telling episodes, delectable anecdotes, court room dramas and at times hilarious advocacies, extensive extracts from the protagonist's 'My Reminiscences', besides from official records and personal interviews…Exhaustive appendices, notes, bibliography and index are a researcher's wonder. With rare, exquisite and well reproduced photographs, it is an amazing collector's delight...” – Deccan Chronicle, Chennai
About Suresh Balakrishnan
Suresh Balakrishnan is a Chennai based lawyer and author of a few non-fiction books such as Famous Judges and Lawyers of Madras, Nani Palkhivala: A Miscellany, and Bagavather: His Life and Times. He has also edited a book called Lives of Chief Justices of Madras, containing a selection of rare writings by the late V. N. Srinivasa Rao, an eminent legal historian in Madras.
About Old Madras Press
Old Madras Press is an independent Chennai based publisher.