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Digital Exhibition

British Voices from South Asia


An Introduction

Barely more than fifty years ago, on July 10, 1947, the important modern nations of India and Pakistan (including what later became Bangladesh) came into existence as independent, modern states after two centuries of domination by Great Britain. This event marked the beginning of the end of the European political control of large parts of Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world which had developed as European empires extended their power outward over the course of several centuries.

These empires exerted a powerful political and economic force but also influenced how the industrial nations of Europe and much of the rest of the world interacted and thus encountered, perceived, and culturally influenced each other. Even today in our "postcolonial" world the impact of the colonial period is enormous, influencing international relations, art and literature, and how we perceive cultures not our own.

This exhibition examines only one "corner" of European colonial empire, albeit a very important one -- the Indian Empire, which was the central focus of later British colonialism. It does not deal directly with politics or economics, however, but rather with the social and the cultural, with the experiences of British life in India and with intercultural influences. The colonial subculture it depicts is an example of the little societies spawned by colonialism worldwide. As part of a greater process, such subcultures played a significant role in contact between the West and the rest of the world within the context of their times.

The exhibition marks the acquisition by the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History at LSU of a series of taped interviews -- conducted by Professors Frank de Caro and Rosan Augusta Jordan of the LSU English Department -- with British people who lived and worked in India before Independence in 1947. Collectively they provide a sort of "self-portrait" of a colonial subculture and accounts of how Europeans experienced a great Asian society under the peculiar conditions of their time. Quotations from the interviews have been included for each section of the exhibition. These first-person "testimonies" allow the visitor to experience history through the immediacy of spoken recollections.

The picture of British India presented by the exhibition has been influenced in part by how the interviewees themselves remembered their experience and India. But a variety of images, artifacts, and other information contribute to presenting the larger picture of "Anglo-India" -- of what has come to be called "The Raj" -- and of the impact of the British Indian connection upon culture and society.

Special thanks and acknowledgements:

This electronic exhibit reproduces an exhibition which was held in Hill Memorial Library at Louisiana State University, April 8 to August 6, 1996. The materials presented here focus on British India as a colonial subculture and on some of the cultural implications of the British-Indian connection.

Viewers can move to any section from here or from any other section. Each section contains an introduction and small images with captions. Each image can be enlarged for better viewing.

The exhibition was occasioned by the acquisition by the T. Harry Williams Oral History Center at Louisiana State University of a series of taped interviews conducted with British people who had lived and worked in pre-independence India (including Pakistan and Bangladesh). A few excerpts from these interviews were available as sound recordings at the original exhibition. Transcribed texts of excerpts have been more extensively provided for this electronic version of the exhibition. From each section the viewer can move to excerpts related to that section.

Further acknowledgements:

Curated and edited by Rosan Augusta Jordan and Frank de Caro

Additional editing and electronic design by Merle Suhayda and Steve Weddle

Exhibit Technician: Emily Robison

Consultants: Pamela Dean and Elaine Smyth

Exhibition Web Design: Jeffrey Brady

Special acknowledgments:

Unless otherwise indicated, materials in the exhibition were anonymous loans. Permission to reproduce materials is indicated in the appropriate places and is gratefully acknowledged. The curators would like to express their thanks to many persons and organizations who gave them valuable assistance during their research:

Mary Thatcher, Dr. Lionel Carter and the Centre of South Asian Studies at the University of Cambridge; the India Office Library and Records, London; the National Army Museum, London; the Imperial War Museum, London; Dr. Robert Whittle; Fran Whittle; Dr. Helen Taylor; Derrick Price; Dr. Venetia Newall.

The curators are particularly grateful to the men and women who agreed to share their recollections of India, whose names and recorded and transcribed words can be found throughout this document. They express their special gratitude to Major General Sir Charles and Lady Dalton, Major General R.C.A. Edge, Margery Hall, Henry Hall, Brigadier Richard Gardiner, and Colonel W.A. Salmon. Louisiana State University generously supported some of this research, as did the American Association of University Women.

Special thanks to the LSU Cartographic Information Center; research for map background images was provided by John Anderson, Map Librarian and Director of the LSU Cartographic Information Center.

Background and supplemental image sources for this exhibit: Bartholomew, J.G. India and Farther India - Political. 1:10,000,000. London. The Times. 1920. In: Bartholomew, J.G. "The Times" Atlas. 1st edition. London E.C.4: Edinburgh Geographical Institute. 1920. and Dunn, Samuel. India - Political. 1:10,000,000. London.1889. In: Dunn, Samuel. Atlas of the Mundane World. 1st edition. London: London Print House. 1889.

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