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Colony as Empire: Histories from Whitehall

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As the British Empire expanded through the long 19th century, imperial colonies across the globe began to play an ever greater role in all aspects of life and society at home in Britain – from textiles to tea, industry and manufacture to civil service, architecture to museum collections, cultural habits to national income, and all else. A new unit -- The India Office – was established at Whitehall to oversee the administration of colonies from the Middle East to South Asia, becoming one of the most complex paper bureaucracies the world had ever known. Yet, intriguingly, imperial colonies have no organic presence in Britain’s historical narrative or understanding of itself as a nation-in-the-making even as she invested, inventoried and inherited so much in and from each colony. Even today, people in Britain search for details of family members in distant former ‘colonies’ – from records of births and baptisms to graves and wills, to appointments and pension records. 

Between ownership by the Company and the Raj, British control of India (including modern Pakistan and Bangladesh) stretches over 300 years. As we approach 2017 and the Indian subcontinent marks 70 years of its independence from Britain, the lectures in this series reposition the presence of colonial India in Britain’s historical understanding of itself.  

Upcoming Events

Roy Moxham

The Theft of History: The British Empire in India

This is a co-hosted South Asia Centre and ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival @ British Library event. 

Sunday 21st May 2017

4:30pm

JLF London, The British Library, Euston Road

Roy Moxham and Shashi Tharoor in conversation with Alex von Tunzelmann

As India celebrates 70 years of its independence from colonial rule, a session that debates colonialism's claims of benefit and development in India, despite evidence of its fundamental nature. The panelists discuss if this period -- from the time of Vasco da Gama's arrival to the final emergence of the English as the principal colonisers of the Indian subcontinent -- was one of acquiring as much and as many of India's riches as each European power could lay their hands on. Roy Moxham and Shashi Tharoor in conversation with Alex von Tunzelmann

Roy Moxham grew up in Worcestershire. His varied and exciting life has seen him work on a Herefordshire fruit farm; as a tea planter in Nyasaland, and later Malawi – spending 13 years in Eastern Africa before returning to London in 1974 to set up a gallery of African art. He is a trained book and paper conservator, has worked at the Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Senate House library, University of London. 

Dr Shashi Tharoor is a sitting Member of the Indian Parliament affiliated to the Congress Party. Dr Tharoor has a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in the US, and was named by the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1998 as a Global Leader of Tomorrow; he has authored fourteen previous books and has won numerous literary awards, including a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. 

Alex von Tunzelmann read Modern History at University College, Oxford, and now lives in London. She is the author of four books, including Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire, and writes drama for film and television. She writes the occasional column Reel History at The Guardian.

Ticket required - get yours here.

This event is in place of the previously advertised event with Roy Moxham  'Distorting History: Robert Clive and the Capture of Bengal in 1757' on 17 May. Apologies for any inconvenienced caused.  

 
LucyChester

The Radcliffe Boundary Commission and the Geographical Imagination of Pakistan

This is a South Asia Centre public lecture which is part of the Colony as Empire: Histories from Whitehall series.

Monday 16th October 2017

6:30pm - 8:00pm

TBC

Speaker:  Dr Lucy Chester

The Radcliffe Boundary Commission, which drew the lines dividing India and Pakistan in 1947, brought both the culmination of hopes for an independent Muslim state in South Asia and disappointment for those who had imagined that state in a different geographic form.  Proponents of ‘Pakistan’ in the 1930s and 1940s held a variety of views about its rightful boundaries; this talk will examine the effects of earlier visualisations of that Pakistan on the work of the Radcliffe Commission.

Dr Lucy Chester is Associate Professor of History at the University of Colorado Boulder. Lucy’s monograph Borders and Conflicts in South Asia: The Radcliffe Boundary Commission and the Partition of Punjab (2009) is the only modern study of the drawing of the Radcliffe Line (separating India and Pakistan) by Sir Cyril Radcliffe a few months before the partition of the Indian subcontinent in August 1947. Her more recent research has been on cartography, and on Britain and the Palestine Mandate.

This event is free and open to all. 

Please email if you have any queries.    

 
mahesh-rangarajan-262x300

Nature and Nation: India’s Post-Independence Environmental Transformations

This is a South Asia Centre public lecture which is part of the Colony as Empire: Histories from Whitehall series.

Monday 13th November 2017

6:30pm - 8:00pm

TBC

Speaker: Dr Mahesh Rangarajan

The aftermath of Indian independence not only witnessed an acceleration of rates of economic and demographic expansion, but was also a period when the ways in which people related to the environment underwent changes. These were of defining significance both in terms of ecological destruction and measures for conservation, yet are often overshadowed by socio-political narratives. This talk will reflect more deeply on the processes behind independent India’s environmental shifts and how its nature was remade.

Dr Mahesh Rangarajan is Professor of History and Environmental Studies at Ashoka University, Sonepat. He has written extensively on environment in Indian history. His most recent publication is Nature and Nation: Essays on Environmental History (2015), which discusses events and processes that show how specific environmental changes happened, and the global ecological dimensions of Indian transformations.

This event is free and open to all. 

Please email if you have any queries.    

 
DavidGilmartin

Pakistan and the Grand Narratives of 20th Century History 

This is a South Asia Centre public lecture which is part of the Colony as Empire: Histories from Whitehall series.

Monday 4th December 2017

6:30pm - 8:00pm

TBC

Speaker:  Dr David Gilmartin

The birth of Pakistan as an historical event varies depending on the lens through which it is viewed and interpreted. In this talk, David Gilmartin will explore the different understandings of Pakistan produced by competing narratives of 20th century world history, whether it is empire and nation, religion and democracy, or environment and development.

Dr David Gilmartin is Professor of History at North Carolina State University. His research focuses on the intersection between history and imperialism in South Asia; he is currently working on the legal inheritances of India’s electoral institutions from colonial times, and their concomitant visions of sovereignty. His most recent publication is Blood and Water: The Indus River Basin in Modern History (2015).

This event is free and open to all. 

Please email if you have any queries.    

 

Past Events

Tristram Hunt (2)

Cities of the Empire

This is a South Asia Centre '100 Foot Journey Club’ (#100FJC) event.

Wednesday 23rd November 2016

5:00-6:30pm

Wolfson Theatre, NAB

Speaker: Dr Tristram Hunt, MP

The Hon Dr Tristram Hunt, MP, will speak on the cities of Calcutta, Bombay and New Delhi, and their role in making the Empire over a century, drawing direct and close links between the colonial cities and their relationship with cities like Liverpool on the one hand, and Britain as a whole on the other. 

The Hon Dr Tristram Hunt, MP, is an intellectual and cultural historian specialising in urban pasts. He is Senior Lecturer in modern British history at Queen Mary University of London, and Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central. He is the author of Ten Cities that made an Empire   (2014).

This event is free and open to all. It is part of the Colony as Empire: Histories from Whitehall series. 

Listen to the event podcast here, and read the South Asia @ LSE interview with Dr Hunt here.

 
susheila-nasta

‘The Bloomsbury Indians’: Writing Across the Tracks in Colonial London

This is a South Asia Centre public lecture.

Thursday 26 January 2017

6:30-8:00pm

NAB.2.04, NAB

Speaker: Susheila Nasta

‘Bloomsbury’ is often represented as a culturally dynamic space, the familiar crucible oftwentieth century Euro-American modernism where bohemians lived in squares but loved in triangles. Many of those very streets, squares and lodging houses which criss-cross its parameters were inhabited by several hundreds of Indian students, intellectuals and writers who had taken up residence at the heart of Empire through the 19th-20th centuries. Drawing on recent research, Nasta’s lecture will reveal how the Indian presence in Bloomsbury began to shape a transnational global modernity, simultaneously shifting British perspectives and angles of vision. In mapping such material traces, one simultaneously encounters the fascinating characters who once walked its streets: novelist, public intellectual and BBC broadcaster, Mulk Raj Anand;  poet, editor and publisher, Tambimuttu; Labour councillor and Founding Editor of the Penguin Pelican series, Krishna Menon;  and gay Irish-Indian novelist, drama critic and journalist, Aubrey Menen. Although writing Britain from a range of different perspectives, this distinctive group were key to exposing the hidden contours of a differently inflected modernity situated both within and outside the European body.  

Susheila Nasta is professor in Modern Literature at the Open University. She has earlier held teaching and research positions at Queen Mary University of London, Cambridge and the University of Portsmouth. Nasta have always been interested in issues of cultural difference and diversity having grown up in India, Britain, Holland and Germany.  In 1984, she founded the famous literary magazine, Wasafiri: The Magazine of International Contemporary Writing, now housed at the Open University and co-published with Routledge. 

This event is free and open to all. 

Please email if you have any queries.    

 
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Forgotten Soldiers of the Raj

This is a South Asia Centre public lecture.

Wednesday 8th February 2017

6:30-8:00pm

32L.G.03, 32 Lincoln's Inn Fields

Speaker: Shrabani Basu

Shrabani Basu will speak about the nearly one and a half million soldiers from the Indian subcontinent who fought in the British army in the First World War. Travelling from remote villages in India to the harsh trenches of Flanders and France for a war that was not of their making, they fought with unquestioning valour and loyalty, winning some of the highest bravery awards.Despite being the largest colonial military contingent, their contribution to Britain’s military engagement is almost completely forgotten.

Shrabani Basu is a journalist and writer. Her latest book For King and Another Country: Indian Soldiers on the Western Front 1914-1918  (2015) tells, for the first time, the stories of Indian soldiers who went to the Western Front: from a Maharaja who fought for Empire to the Pathan who won the first Victoria Cross; from cooks and sweepers who accompanied the troops to the young pilots who brought down German planes; from the Indian Muslim soldiers who prayed to Mecca in the fields of France to the bonds that were forged in the mud and blood of the battlefields.  

This event is free and open to all. 

Please email if you have any queries.

 
Shashi Tharoor INGLORIOUS-EMPIRE

Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India

This is a South Asia Centre public lecture.

Monday 6th March 2017

6:30pm - 8:00pm

Thai Theatre, NAB

Speaker: Dr Shashi Tharoor

Focusing on his latest book Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India (2017), Dr Shashi Tharoor takes on and demolishes the argument that British imperialism in the Indian subcontinent was a form of enlightened despotism that would benefit the Indians, demonstrating how every supposed imperial ‘gift’, from the railways to the rule of law, was designed in Britain’s interests alone. This incisive reassessment of colonialism exposes to devastating effect the inglorious reality of Britain’s stained Indian legacy.

Dr Shashi Tharoor is a sitting Member of the Indian Parliament affiliated to the Congress Party. Dr Tharoor has a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in the US, and was named by the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1998 as a Global Leader of Tomorrow; he has authored fourteen previous books and has won numerous literary awards, including a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. 

Listen to the event podcast here and read the South Asia @ LSE interview with Dr Tharoor here.

 
jahnavi phalkey

Flights of Empire: Allies, Aeronautics, and Adversary in World War II Bangalore

This is a South Asia Centre public lecture which is part of the Colony as Empire: Histories from Whitehall series. 

Wednesday 8th March 2017

6:30-8:00pm

32L.G.03, 32 Lincoln's Inn Fields

Speaker: Dr Jahnavi Phalkey

Chair: Emeritus Professor David Arnold

Jahnavi Phalkey will tell the little-known story of an aircraft base in Bangalore -- part of Britain’s Southeast Asia Command during World War II -- its relationship with Germany, and its use by British and allied armies to plan military action in Southeast Asia. Being able to use India as a base gave the British a strategic advantage in the region beginning from Burma to Japan. What is less known is its connection to the establishment of aeronautics research in independent India. 

Dr Jahnavi Phalkey is Senior Lecturer in the History of Science and Technology at King’s College London. She is the author of Atomic State: Big Science in Twentieth Century India (2013).

David Arnold is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Warwick. His work has ranged widely over the history of modern South Asia, and beyond, and has included social and environmental history and the history of science, technology and medicine. Along with David Hardiman he was a founder member of the Subaltern Studies group of historians of South Asia.

This event is free and open to all. 

Please email if you have any queries.    

 
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