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Some years ago, in the midst of a conversation about tourism and travelling, a friend from one of Britain’s former colonies remarked how shocked she had been to see ‘white people begging’ during her first trip abroad to Australia.
Popular references to Calcutta (now Kolkata) – once the gleaming capital of British India – in Anglo-American contexts often conjure images of poverty, crowded city streets, unbearable traffic, smog, and residents that require a savior.
Despite the flurry of works over the past 20 years or so which have explored the course and consequences of colonial rule in India, and increasingly the impact that such rule had upon British society, the period before the Battle of Plassey has remained for the most part insulated from questions about the ideologies and operations of territorial governance.
Late in the afternoon on 13 April 1919, the British officer Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, with 90 native troops under his command, entered the enclosure known as the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar in Northern India. A crowd of several thousand civilians were gathered in the public garden to protest against the imprisonment of two local nationalist leaders by the colonial authorities.
The subject of sati – more commonly known to Anglophone readers as ‘suttee’, a term which was used by 18th- and 19th-century writers to signify the self-immolation of Hindu widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands (1) – has long been of interest to historians.
In September of 1934, an incredulous (or perhaps simply amused) Dutch official wrote from Batavia to his mentor in Leiden telling of the most incredible journey made by a family of Sundanese from West Java.
It is perhaps less true today than it was a decade ago that ‘an enormous number of early photographs of China lie largely ignored or unknown’, as Regine Thiriez, one of the pioneers of the field who has spent many years collecting and studying scattered and often very small albums, wrote in 1999.(1) During the last two decades the so-called ‘pictorial turn’ in the huma
In Western imaginations, the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966–76) – in which one of the world’s oldest, most elaborate cultures began destroying itself, in which a successful, disciplined political organisation tore its own heart out, and in which colleagues and classmates turned murderously on each other – stands among the landmarks of the recent Chinese past.
Penelope Fitzgerald’s historical novel The Beginning of Spring, set in Moscow in 1913 but written at the height of perestroika, conveys an ambivalence familiar to those of us who spent time there during the Gorbachev years.
After lagging behind the field of British imperial studies, in the last decade the historiography of the French colonial empire has become an increasingly dynamic and rich field.