"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 to.'"

- Major General R.C.A. Edge

Exhibition Navigation

An Introduction

1. The Passage to India
2. Running Your Empire
3. Life in the Bungalows
4. Imperial Diversions
5. Never the Twain?
6. No More India to Go to

Chapter 1 interviews
Chapter 2 interviews
Chapter 3 interviews
Chapter 4 interviews
Chapter 5 interviews
Chapter 6 interviews

No More India to Go to:
Departure and Connections

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.

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 successful of 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 Oriental Scenery.

Painted blue earthenware plate by J. and R. Riley of Staffordshire; c. 1815.

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 British public.

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 restricted vision.

"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.

"Basket Makers," 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 brought Indian architecture to England but played a major role in further building popular awareness of India.

An Introduction

1. The Passage to India | interviews

2. Running Your Empire | interviews

3. Life in the Bungalows | interviews

4. Imperial Diversions | interviews

5. Never the Twain? | interviews

6. "No More India to Go to" | interviews

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