In 1893, when Mohandas Gandhi set sail for South Africa, he was a 23-year-old briefless lawyer who had failed to establish himself in India. The two decades that he spent in South Africa were to be the making of the Mahatma. In this remarkable biography, Ramachandra Guha argues that Gandhi’s ideas were fundamentally shaped before his return to India in 1915. It was during his years in England and South Africa that he came to understand the nature of imperialism and racism; and it was in South Africa that he forged the philosophy and techniques that would undermine and ultimately destroy the British Empire. Based on a wealth of new material and archival research in four continents, Gandhi Before India presents a vivid portrait of Gandhi and the world he lived in, a world of sharp contrasts between the coastal culture of Gujarat, High Victorian London, and colonial South Africa. It explores in rich detail his experiments with dissident cults such as Tolstoyans and vegetarians, his friendships with radical Jews, heterodox Christians and devout Muslims, his enmities and rivalries and his failures as a husband and father. It tells the dramatic, profoundly moving story of how he inspired the devotion of thousands of followers as he mobilized a cross-class and inter-religious coalition, pledged to non-violence in their battle against a brutally racist regime. This deeply researched and beautifully written book will radically alter our understanding and appreciation of India's greatest man.