Public Activities

The anniversary of some women getting the vote in the UK in February 1918 has kept me busy with talks at the House of Commons and pieces in BBC History Magazine, The Oldie and Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine.

I have also given a number of radio interviews and contributed to programmes like the excellent The Lost World of the Suffragettes on the BBC World Service, which can be heard from this link:


I have been busy recently, and will be in 2018, working on Decadent Women: Yellow Book Lives about which more will follow when publication is closer.

Jad on CBS TV talking about Women & the Vote: A World History

At the start of book signing in Cheyenne branch of Barnes & Noble.

My WOMEN & THE VOTE: A World History was published in September 2014 by Oxford University Press in the UK and was published in November in the USA.

The book starts recollecting a trip I made across America while I was a student and I encountered a huge statue of a woman in Wyoming which was declared to be the first place where a legislature gave women an equal vote - in 1869.  The early provenance of women's voting intrigued me and led to many questions I deal with in this book.  I returned to Wyoming to do some of the research.  

Women & the Vote
is the first history looking at women and the vote throughout the world.  I have been able to study startling new connections across time and national boundaries with biographical pictures of the dramatic lives of suffrage leaders in history including little-known activists from China, Latin America and Africa.   I note the regional cultures and their different influence on women's politics, showing how in Catholic countries the image of the mother or beauty queen could prevail to political advantage where the earnest feminist failed.

Taking the story of women in politics from the earliest times, I have been able to extend the range from familiar fields in Europe and North America to encompass Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, with new insights into women and Arab politics in the post 9/11 period.

The launch of Women & the Vote: A World History took place at Daunt Books in Marylebone High Street on 16 September.  Thank you to all who attended and those who sent good wishes.

Reviews have started to come in for Women & the Vote: A World History:

'Impressive in its reach, authoritative in its meticulous research...A broad remit and a book peppered with tantalising glimpses of the personalities involved, moments of immense courage, tales of teamwork and of female friendships spanning continents....At its best the writing enthals....authoritative and thought-provoking'
-The Independent

'Jad Adams' account of the global history of the fight for women's suffrage tells the collective story of thousands of tenacious battlers, clamouring for a place in the seat of power.  Women and the Vote is half encyclopaedia, half breathless adventure tale.'
- New Statesman

'Adams is unafraid to take on historical sacred cows...in this authoritative, scholarly text, Adams reveals the contributions of an array of interesting, insufficiently recognised individuals who worked for female suffrage all over the world'
Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine

'highly readable...Adams draws upon a mass of data to paint a fascinating picture of women's enfranchisement worldwide, not just in Europe and North America.'
- BBC History Magazine

'Book of the Month' - History Revealed


I have been speaking on Radio 4's Four Thought programme about the  national challenge of homelessness and the failure of current policies.   The Four Thought series gives a thinker space to deliver a talk on a subject on which they have personal experience.  The broadcast was on Wednesday August 14 at 8.45pm on Radio 4.  A version of it is on the Public Activities page of this website.

To hear the talk, follow this link: 



My Tony Benn, updated and with new material to cover the twenty years since it was first released, was  published by Biteback in 2011.

I was interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Wednesday 13 July 2011 along with Tony Benn by James Naughtie about the biography.

When Tony Benn died in January 2014, as well as radio and television comments on his life, I contributed a piece to History and Policy and to Open Democracy on 'Tony Benn and the British Radical Tradition' http://tinyurl.com/o945r32

I also did a piece on the Benn Diaries: http://blog.oup.com/2014/03/in-memoriam-tony-benn/ and an article on them for the TLS: http://tinyurl.com/nrc88b3

'Jad Adams has written a well-researched and sympathetic biography - though not a hagiography - about someone who will live for ever in the pantheon of Labour heroes. Here is a man capable of arousing great and contradictory passions among friends and foes alike, by turns inspiring, infuriating, courageous, irresponsible, right about some of the big issues of the day and sometimes just plain wrong.' - Chris Mullin, New Statesman

This is some career and this is some book, well documented and packed with atmosphere and insight. A strong argument holds this considerable volume together. It might be described as the biographical dialogue between Benn’s considerable political achievements and the fact that he failed to become leader of his party and to carry his Cabinet colleagues with him to realise political goals that were tremendously important to him. But whether we think of him as a failure or as a success, his importance in British politics since 1945 cannot be denied.’ Robert Giddings - The Tribune


The Gandhi: Naked Ambition paperback was released by Quercus on 21 April 2011

It was published in the US by Pegasus under the title Gandhi: The True Man Behind Modern India

I spoke about Gandhi: Naked Ambition at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 23 August 2011.

'Fringeguru' blogger Miriam Vaswani who was there wrote: 'An interesting parallel is drawn between Gandhi and Gladstone, whose 'rescue work' with young prostitutes, though it did not involve penetration, was extremely personal and sexual. It's a brave and original look at Gandhi, and the author asserts that at this time in history we're ready to see a more human picture of our civil rights icons.'

I spoke at the Cheltenham Literary Festival on 10 October 2012

Published on 25 March 2010 in hardback by Quercus at £20. 

Launched at a talk:

'A semi-repressed sex maniac'? - Gandhi's experiments in chastity  
Given by Jad at the Institute of English, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

'I have just finished reading Gandhi: Naked Ambition by Jad Adams (Quercus). I confess when it landed on my table, I did not want to read it. What is there about Gandhi that we do not know? At the best, it could be the personal opinion of the author, who had per force to rely on the published material.

What provoked me to read it was the sub-title Naked Ambition. It was deliberately provocative. So was the introduction in which he drew attention to a couple of contradictions in statements made by the Mahatma. Then I could not stop till I reached the last page. I realised that the author, who is a historian and a biographer, is also a television producer. He knows the art of holding a reader’s interest.' - Khushwant Singh in THE TRIBUNE (and syndicated)

‘Jad Adams’s biography has the merit of restoring Gandhi to thecentre of the political story while offering a full discussion of his extraordinary characteristics ... The result is a fascinating portrayal of an individual’s ambitions and ideas in the context of the struggle for power between the British Raj and Indian nationalism.’ TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

'Readable and provocative…Adams strips away Gandhi’s saintly aura and explores the duality between his grand vision of an independent India and his fastidiousness with regard to his vegetarianism, clothes and sexual abstinence. Gandhi may have secured independence, have been India’s most famous leader and promoted principles of non-violence that have retained their global appeal, but Adams suggests that Gandhi’s preoccupation with sex, a cultivated pauperism and emphasis on personal perfection were wasteful, indulgent distractions.'  FINANCIAL TIMES

'An engrossing biography…Adams's intent is to separate the myth from the man. He has some sobering insights to offer…Adams has made substantive use of the copious paper trail Gandhi left behind and delved deep into his confessional prose.' THE INDEPENDENT

'Adams focuses not on the idealised apostle of peace, but Gandhi the man who spent much of his life refining his eccentric theories of chastity, vegetarianism, bowel movements and how best to conserve his sperm which he saw as a vital fluid.' TIMES OF INDIA

'There have been enough hagiographies of this great, peculiar, wilful figure, and after his death there was a concerted effort to erase some embarrassing truths from the Gandhi legend.  This is a vividly human, even funny book.'  DAILY MAIL

'Recounted briskly and concisely by Jad Adams who is experienced enough to know what to omit and what to emphasise…Adams certainly does not pull his punches, and as a result the Gandhi that emerges from his rounded and provocative study is a much more vivid personality…a no-nonsense biography.'  THE HERALD

‘Ever since his assassination in 1948, Gandhi’s life has been the subject of
legend and controversy. Was he the "father of India" or an obsessed guru? Gandhi’s part in bringing the British Raj to its knees is well known, as are his ideas and lifestyle. What this new, provocative biography does is to make his private quest for spiritual perfection the centre of the story.’  DAILY EXPRESS

'Jad Adams' critical and irreverent biography of the great man explains his various experiments with celibacy, chastity, brahmacharya and sexuality' DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS (Mumbai)

Indian coverage has included a number of features on different aspects of the book.  The Times of India ran a full page on 3 May titled The Mahatma in the Bedroom. Mid Day newspaper from Mumbai on 8 April 2010 ran: Gandhi's Naked Truth?  British historian Jad Adams' book Naked Ambition offers an explicit account of Gandhi's sexual experiments with his followers' wives and his teenaged grandnieces.:  (www.mid-day.com/ (put Jad Adams into the search engine to call up the story.)  The Mail Today in Delhi ran two pages on 11 April: http://epaper.mailtoday.in/epaperhome.aspx?issue=1142010; Open magazine ran a piece: www.Openthemagazine.com/shorts/smallworld/2010-04-17#1; Daily News Analysis also did a piece: www.dnaindia.com/.../report_my-interest-is-in-gandhi-s-life-jad-adams_1380112.

In the UK:

There was a two-page feature in the British Independent by Jad on 7 April 2010 title 'Gandhi: Thrill of the Chaste': www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainmentbooks/featuresgandhis-sex-life-1937411.html

A two page feature in the Daily Mail on 10 April 2010 titled 'Sexual Torment of a Saint'

A five-page article by Jad in the April edition of History Today, titled ‘A Man Out Of Time?

An article by Jad in the June edition of BBC History Magazine titled ‘Dandy Gandhi to Naked Fakir.’ 

An article in The Oxonian on 10 May titled 'Elephant Traps in the Hunt for Gandhi' on sources used for the book.  www.oxonianreview.org

There has been an interview on Talk Radio Europe and an interview on BBC Asian Network on Tuesday 20 April.  Radio interviews for stations Ireland, in Colombia and Australia. 

A Message from Jad Adams

I am pleased that there has been so much interest in my book in India, where it is distributed by Penguin India.  Many Indian journalists have called me.  Many of the questions have been similar so I am noting my responses to some of them.

Why did you write this book?

I am a historian and a biographer of a number of world figures.  I have particularly concentrated on political radicals and nationalists in my work.  I was pleased to be invited to write about Gandhi because his life is so multi-faceted – his political, spiritual and personal life all have interest; he lived in three different continents; and people still invoke his legacy.

Why do you feel there is a need of another book?

All great figures deserve a number of biographies, giving different views of the same person.  A multiplicity of biographies is, in fact, evidence of the enduring interest of a historical character. How many of the nineteen viceroys who ruled India during the time Gandhi was alive are still worth writing about?  In contrast, the interest in Gandhi will endure and people will continue writing about him on into the future.

Why explore Gandhi from a sexual angle?

The book does deal with Gandhi's sexuality, but as part of an attempt to understand his entire personality.  Different things possessed him at different times in his life.  When he was in London as a student it was vegetarianism (not sex or politics) that interested him.  In South Africa his attempts to remain chaste and his creation of ideal communities was more important to him than his work for Indian traders.  Back in India he was preoccupied with Indian nationalism and his ashrams for the 1920s and 30s.  At the end of his life, his sexual experiments preoccupied his thinking.   My interest is in the whole of his life, his political, spiritual and family life as well.  In my book I give what I hope is a rounded picture of Gandhi, not concentrating on sex, but not ignoring it either. 

Do you fear a backlash from Indian government or from Indian public?

I trust to the good sense of the people of India who will read my book before condemning it, and will see the serious intent behind it and the respect I have for its subject.


A revealing new biography of the most influential individual in modern Indian history.

The pre-eminent political and spiritual leader of India’s independence movement, pioneer of non-violent resistance through mass civil disobedience, honoured in India as ‘father of nation’, Mohandas K. Gandhi has inspired movements for civil rights and political freedom across the world. 

This book delineates Gandhi’s searing ambition, involving the relentless creation of an image from London dandy to naked wise man; his ruthless sacrifice of his family for his principles; and the tragedy of partition in which he became not the father of India, but of Pakistan, through his refusal to accept a constitutional settlement

Gandhi: Naked Ambition sees Gandhi as a guru in the style of later popularisers of Indian ideas such as the Maharishi and Osho; and shows how he operated a similar control over every aspect of the lives of his followers.   This book is able to offer the most explicit account yet of Gandhi’s sexual experiments with the wives of his followers and his teenage grand-nieces.  

Jad Adams traces the course of Gandhi’s multi-faceted life, and the concomitant development of his religious, political and social thinking.  Gandhi’s life is explored over seven tumultuous decades: from his comfortable upbringing in a princely state in Gujarat; via his training as a barrister in London to his early civil rights campaigns in South Africa; his leadership role in the Indian National Congress and unsuccessful struggles to unite the interests of Muslim activists and orthodox Hindus; through the campaigns of non-cooperation and civil disobedience in the 1920s and 1930s that made him a world icon.  

Jad Adams explores the many contradictions of this most complex of men: a lifelong pacifist whose treatment of his wife and sons bordered on cruelty; a self-denying ascetic who preached the virtues of chastity in marriage yet experienced a high degree of intimate physical female contact; a political radical whose resistance to racism and appreciation of the value of all religions strike a thoroughly modern note, but whose vision of India was the almost medieval one of a village nation sustained by farming, spinning and weaving.

Using material only recently made available, Jad Adams’ accessible and challenging biography reveals the man behind the Mahatma.

Gandhi Naked Ambition was publsihed in Brazil, in Portuguese in 2012

Jad Adams was one of the winners of the international Bridport Prize for poetry and stories, for his story The Loves of Michaelis, one of a series of stories about life on a Greek island.