I came across this pamphlet from 1942 recently - and the story attached to it is so striking, I'm going to share it.
Ram Nahum, the man on the cover, was a communist and clearly a brilliant physicist who was killed in July 1942 when a stray bomb was dropped on Cambridge by a German plane returning east. He was 24. This pamphlet was published a few months later by the (clearly Communist-minded) University Labour Federation.
I imagined at first that Ram Nahum was an Indian student. Ram is a very Indian name - and Nahum or Nahoum is a surname of a prominent Calcutta Jewish family. That's not right. Though it's not entirely wrong.
Effraim Nahum was born into a Jewish family in Manchester. He went to Clifton College and on to Pembroke College, Cambridge. He was a very active part of a flourishing Communist movement at Cambridge in the late 1930s, the Popular Front period which was the zenith of the party's appeal to both the young and intellectuals. Eric Hobsbawm mentioned him as part of a formidable coterie of Pembroke leftists. In his autobiography, Interesting Times, Hobsbawm describes Nahum as:
a squat, dark natural scientist with a big nose, radiating physical strength, energy and authority. He was the son of a prosperous Sephardic textile merchant from Manchester and, by general consent, was the ablest of all communist student leaders of my generation. As a graduate physicist, he stayed in Cambridge during the war , and was killed ... by the only German bomb to fall on the city.
The 'ablest' of that remarkable cohort of student communists - quite a compliment from someone as able and discerning as Eric Hobsbawm.
Hobsbawm also related how he and Nahum were asked by the party HQ to attend meetings of a party "Jewish group". Both went alaong a few times but concluded that it had little relevance to their own political activity.
Nahum's parents set up a physics fellowship at Cambridge in their son's memory. A few years ago, an album which his parent's collated of cuttings and obituary letters was presented to Pembroke, and one of the college archivists, Jayne Ringrose, wrote a wonderfully researched account of Nahum's life and death which you can find in the Clifton College magazine, towards the end of the issue you can access through this link.
And the India connection? Well, the pamphlet I came across explains how strongly Ram Nahum felt about the India issue and how closely he worked with Indian students at Cambridge to challenge imperialism and work for India's independence.
The photograph below, by the way, apparently was taken at a 1938 demo against the British government's refusal to countenance intervention in the Spanish Civil War.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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