Nathan, Robert (c. 1864-1921)

Sir Robert Nathan was sent by the British to North America in February 1916 for secret intelligence work in Canada and the United States. Nathan had spent twenty-six years in India, from December 1888, shortly after he graduated from Peter’s College Cambridge, until September 1914, when he officially retired. In the interval he had a full, active and varied career that carried him to the senior levels of the civil service of India. From November 1904 until January 1906, he served as the private secretary to the viceroy, Lord Minto; in 1910 he briefly acted as the chief secretary for the government of East Bengal and Assam. He arrived in Vancouver in May 1916 and remained in North America until 1918, while managing to stay largely out of sight. His contacts with officials were very discrete. In 1917 and 1918 he was occupied mainly in supplying the Americans with material for the prosecution of Ghadr party members in San Francisco. He had the help of Alexander Marr, a military intelligence officer and former secretary to the political department, Bengal, whom the British had sent to North America to assist him in 1917.

Sources: Hugh Johnston, “The Surveillance of Indian Nationalists in North America,” B.C. Studies, no. 78, Summer, 1988, pp. 3-26; Richard James Popplewell, Intelligence and Imperial Defence: British Intelligence and the Defence of the British Empire. (London: Frank Cass, 1995).