"It's rather sad for the younger generation that it no
longer exists as it did.
I remember when our son was commissioned -- he's
in the Army, too -- he said,
'Oh, what's the good. There's no India to go
- Major General R.C.A. Edge
No More India to Go to:
The process by which Britain disengaged from political control of
India was a long and arduous one. Though reaction against British rule
was periodic, Indian nationalism evolved in the latter half of the 19th
century, a process stimulated by the creation of the Congress Movement
(actually founded by an Englishman) in 1885, as Indians increasingly
opposed being ruled by a foreign power. The march to Independence
involved protracted political maneuvering, various reforms, visiting
British delegations, much debate and discussion, repressions, mass
demonstrations, and -- in some places -- riots and terrorism. Mohandas K.
Gandhi emerged as the guiding force of the independence movement. The
Second World War weakened the power of the British Empire and a post-war
Labour government in London undermined the dedication to empire. The
decision was made by the British government to prepare for the
independence of India, though two separate nations emerged -- Hindu India
and Muslim Pakistan -- as did violence between religious groups.
Departure and Connections
Most of the British in India returned home to retirement or new
lives. Some "stayed on" in various capacities, but the old system which
had sent Britons to India as colonial rulers had ended forever and with
it a unique mode of life. Those who spoke of this end spoke of it with a
mixture of regret, good will, recognition of the inevitable, and pleasure
in on-going ties to the new nations.
Beyond personal ties, however, were the cultural ones which had
grown up over the course of more than two centuries. India obtained the
English language -- indeed, created a distinct version of English -- a factor
which had a profound influence upon the writing and literature of the
subcontinent. The English language, on the other hand, borrowed numerous
words from Indian languages (pajama, jungle, coolie, bungalow, kabob).
More importantly, the Indian connection gave English literature a milieu
dissected and projected by numerous British writers -- Kipling, Forster,
Paul Scott, George Orwell, Rumer Godden. British landscape
artists -- Edward Lear, Sir Charles D'Oyly, William and Thomas
Daniell -- were attracted to India to create vivid images that introduced
Europeans to the physical shape -- both natural and cultural -- of the great
subcontinent. The tradition of Indian miniature painting adapted itself
to a British market. European style buildings sprouted all over India,
while British architects adapted Indian styles for use both in India and
Britain. British dominance brought about many changes in Indian life,
while the Indian connection made a lasting impact upon British popular
culture. Indeed, India became ingrained in British consciousness -- as an
image, as a place where friends or family members lived, as a symbol of
British power. Since the Second World War, there has been a mass influx
of Indians and Pakistanis into Britain -- a development enabled by former
imperial connections -- so that today, perhaps ironically, many more people
from the subcontinent live in England than Britons ever lived in India.
In many ways these Asians are now transforming British life.
Family photo album; 1920s-1930s
The opened pages show photographs of the family in Bournemouth, on the
left. On the right are photographs of the Indian tea plantation where
one family member spent his life. Many Britons had direct connections to
India through family and friends, so that India was an immediate reality
even for those who never went there, just another page in the family album.
Camp Coffee bottles; 1970s.
Labels for commercial products, such as this one of a British officer in
camp in India with his Sikh orderly, reminded Britons of the Indian
connection. That the label persisted into the 1970s suggests the
enduring appeal of India for the British.
"India: The Imperial Cadet Corps,
Composed Only of Indian Native
Princes," cigarette card from another series, "Allied Cavalry"; issued by
John Player and Sons; c. 1918.
"Ruins of the Antient City of Gour, Formerly on the Banks of the
Ganges"; aquatint by Thomas Daniell; 1795.
Thomas Daniell and his uncle William were among the most
the British artists who visited India over the years, producing paintings
and prints which conveyed to those at home what India looked like and
which gave the Indian landscape a role in British art. The Daniells were
in India 1794-96 and published dozens of aquatints in portfolios such as
Painted blue earthenware plate by J. and R. Riley of Staffordshire;
This plate combines two aquatints by the Daniells, one of a Calcutta
street, the other of a sacred tree in Bihar, to create a single image.
Pottery with Indian motifs was another factor in bringing India to the
Indian clerk, Malabar Coast; Company School painting, 19th century.
Because they wanted souvenir images of the India they knew, Britons in
India began to patronize Indian artists who could provide them. Thus
there arose the "Company School" of miniature painting, so called because
the pictures were originally produced for employees of the East India
Company. Though they drew upon a long tradition of miniature painting in
India, the painters adapted their style for European consumption. The
subtleties of the earlier traditions were sacrificed to produce fairly
simple illustrations of a limited range of Indian life which the British
encountered. Thus the Company paintings provided what was in some ways a
"Book Hawker and Wife," Company School painting on mica, North
India (?); c. 1850;
"Mussalman [Muslim] Taking His Bride Home,"
Company School painting on mica, North India (?); c. 1850;
The mounting, decorations and labeling indicates that these images were
parts of albums, probably brought home to England from India. Company
School paintings tended to focus on a simple range of representative
crafts and occupations, castes and ethnic groups, and commonly observed
events and occasions.
"Khansamah Followed by Coolie
Bringing Home the Provisions for the Day," Company School painting, Patna
artist; c. 1880.
Company School painting by Bani Lal of Patna; c. 1880.
"Mysore Government Offices, Cubbon Park"; "Oilette" postcard
(London: Raphael Tuck and Sons; c. 1910; "View of Calcutta from the
Esplanade," steel engraving; 1850s (?), later hand coloring.
Especially in the cities they founded, like Madras and Calcutta, but
elsewhere as well, the British imposed European architectural styles.
In this engraving the European woman and child in the center
appear to be engulfed by Indian humanity, but they in turn are dominated
by the severe lines of the European structures in the near distance.
"Municipal Building" and "Victoria Terminus," photographs in a
souvenir portfolio, "Views of Bombay"; late 19th century.
By the end of the 19th century British architects were mingling European
and Indian styles in the structures they designed in India.
"The Legislative Buildings, Delhi (India)" and "The Secretariats
of the Government of India," tear-out postcards (Delhi: H.A. Mirza and
Sons); c. 1912.
By the time the British built New Delhi -- out of a desire to move their
capital from Calcutta to a more central and more historically symbolic
place -- the British had developed a style of architecture that fused
Western and Indian features.
"The Royal Pavilion, Brighton," postcard (Brighton: A.W.W.); c.
1910; "North Gate, Pavilion, Brighton," postcard from a watercolor by
W.H. Borrow (London?: Water Colour Post Card Co.); c. 1900; British
structures influenced by Indian architecture, in Apollo, August 1970.
Indian architectural features also found their way into British
buildings, most notably into the fantasy Royal Pavilion in Brighton,
rebuilt in this style after 1817 for George IV when Prince of Wales.
However, Indian influence can be seen in many other buildings.
"Court of Honour, Franco-British Exhibition, London, 1908,"
postcard published by Bonnett and Shum; 1908;
"The Lake by Night, British Empire Exhibition, Wembley,"
color postcard published by the Photochrom Co.; 19xx.
Vast exhibitions showcasing European overseas empires not only
to England but played a major role in further building popular awareness
1. The Passage to India | interviews
2. Running Your Empire |
3. Life in the Bungalows |
4. Imperial Diversions |
5. Never the Twain? |
6. "No More India to Go to" |