The Oxford History of the British Empire - Vol. 3

By William Roger Louis; Andrew Porter et al. | Go to book overview

19
Imperial India, 1858-1914

ROBIN J. MOORE

The half-century between the crises of the Mutiny and the First World War, both of which threatened the very existence of the Indian Empire, was the long afternoon of the Raj. From 1858 India was governed in the name of the Crown. In 1876 Queen Victoria became Empress of India, the only possession to which such Imperial nomenclature was applied. The Queen's long reign seemed a symbol of Imperial stability and India was, as Benjamin Disraeli affirmed, the jewel in her Crown. There is an intrinsic and continuing interest, therefore, in pursuing some of the oldest questions in historical debate for this period. How did the Raj recover so effectively from the cataclysm of 1857-58 that India committed 1.2 million troops to the Great War? What was the rationale of the Empire in India? And what were the implications of British rule for the development of India?

The early sections of this chapter examine the post-Mutiny rehabilitation of the Raj and the relatively small adjustments to it during the late nineteenth century. On the whole, the government in London and India, as well as the military reconstruction, administrative arrangements, and financial organization, endured remarkably well, sufficiently satisfying Indian demand for participation in the regime. A later section explores the transformation that Victoria's last Viceroy, the authoritarian Lord Curzon, sought to effect in order to regenerate and remotivate an Imperial order that he found tired and complacent. Another follows the counter-revolution that, under Liberal governments from 1905 to 1914, was intended to re-establish stable relations between the Raj and Indians whom Curzon had alienated, and between Britain and rival European empires with interests in India's neighbours whom Curzon had sought to dominate. Final sections attempt to assess India's importance for the Empire, and the consequences of Empire for India.

Queen Victoria intended that her November 1858 Proclamation to the princes, chiefs, and peoples of India should be heard as the voice of 'a female Sovereign', speaking to hundreds of millions of 'Eastern people on assuming the direct Government over them after a bloody civil war'. She insisted that the Prime

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