Security and Progress: Lord Salisbury at the India Office

Security and Progress: Lord Salisbury at the India Office

Security and Progress: Lord Salisbury at the India Office

Security and Progress: Lord Salisbury at the India Office

Synopsis

In the wake of the Indian Mutiny, the 1860s and 1870s marked an important period of change and imperial consolidation for the British. Here the author examines the imperial policies of Robert Cecil, the third marquis of Salisbury, who served as secretary of state for India for two administrations during this key era, which marked a significant turning point for relations with the local princes. Clearly defining the office of secretary of state, Salisbury was responsible for policies designed to ensure the smooth running of an empire whose administration was made more difficult by the British Parliament, which possessed the right to oversee Indian affairs. Hoping to prevent a frontier war, Salisbury stressed the importance of promoting progressive change in such a way as to avoid arousing Indian opposition.

Excerpt

As secretary of state for India for a brief period in the 1860s and for four years in the administration of Benjamin Disraeli in the 1870s, Robert Cecil, the third Marquis of Salisbury, oversaw Indian affairs during the crucial period of change and revaluation that followed the terrible events of the Indian Mutiny of 1857. This work, by examining the actions and ideas of one of the most intelligent and influential political figures of the nineteenth century, sheds light on the official thinking of the time and the problems Britain faced in maintaining a complex empire in South Asia. From the India Office in Whitehall, Salisbury involved himself in the details of Indian government, bringing to it an already highly developed understanding of imperial problems and in the process learning much. The importance of India to a man who as prime minister was responsible for consolidating and extending the British Empire needs to be appreciated. His understanding of India was central to his conception of empire generally, and his experiences at the India Office did much to shape the elder statesman whose time as foreign secretary and prime minister has been more closely studied. This work therefore repudiates the assessment of his daughter Lady Gwendolen Cecil, who when writing the life of her father concluded that his period at the India Office was “scarcely…remunerative biographically.” For a biographer seeking to understand his later career, this was understandable: the official and private correspondence of his India Office years is extensive and had to be bypassed. Moreover, Salisbury’s time at the India Office lacked the vital reforms that distinguished those of Sir Charles Wood after the Mutiny. But as a study of a man who was preeminently a man of ideas, an examination of these years

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