Remembering a Democratic Legacy of the Great War in Interwar India

Stephen Legg
University of Nottingham

In 2019, India will embark upon a uniquely postcolonial set of centenaries. During the Great War the Defence of India Act (1915) had given the Government of India exceptional powers to silence dissent and crush any nascent “terrorist” or “revolutionary” movement. So effective had the powers proven, against both radical and moderate nationalists, that there were many within the colonial state who sought their extension into peace time. The “Rowlatt” (Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes) Act of 1919 attempted this, and the resistance against the act was led by the ex-lawyer and future-Mahatma, Mr MK Gandhi. The centenary of the Rowlatt “Satyagraha” (the name for Gandhi’s non-violent, political “truth-force”, protest movement) will doubtless by commemorated by the Congress party and many others in India.

Yet both these commemorations may well be overshadowed in 2019 by the centenary of the “Jallianwala Bagh” massacre, in which the colonial state displayed the violence inherent in the Rowlatt regulations in Amritsar; the shooting of unarmed civilians that sparked a global outcry. While India was enduring violence at home it was plotting peace abroad. The year 1919 will also mark the centenary of India’s contribution to the Peace Treaty of Versailles. Few anticipated that India’s attendance at the conference would automatically make it a founder of the League of Nations, the only non-self-governing state to ever become a member. 1919 will be a busy year for centenaries; all of the above, in some way, are legacies of the First World War.

Who, then, will have time to commemorate the Government of India Act of 1919? Continue reading “Remembering a Democratic Legacy of the Great War in Interwar India”

Call For Papers – Colonialism, War & Photography

       Call for Papers for an Interdisciplinary Workshop as part of the research project

Cultural Exchange in Times of Global Conflict: Colonials, Neutrals and Belligerents during the First World War

Colonialism, War & Photography

London – 17 September 2015

If the First World War is usually defined as the military clash of empires, it can also be reconceptualised as a turning point in the history of cultural encounters. Between 1914 and 1918, more than four million non-white men were drafted mostly as soldiers or labourers into the Allied armies: they served in different parts of the world – from Europe and Africa to Mesopotamia, the Middle East and China – resulting in an unprecedented range of cultural encounters. The war was also a turning point in the history of photographic documentation as such moments and processes were recorded in hundreds of thousands of photographs by fellow soldiers, official photographers, amateurs, civilians and the press. In the absence of written records, these photographs are some of our most important – and hitherto largely neglected – sources of the lives of these men: in trenches, fields, billets, hospitals, towns, markets, POW camps. But how do we ‘read’ these photographs?

Second-Lieutenant Frank Bassill, British official cameraman, with a Moy & Bastie camera and members of the Chinese Labour Corps (IWM Q 10260).
Second-Lieutenant Frank Bassill, British official cameraman, with a Moy & Bastie camera and members of the Chinese Labour Corps (IWM Q 10260).

Using the First World War as a focal point, this interdisciplinary one-day workshop aims to examine the complex intersections between war, colonialism and photography. What is the use and influence of (colonial) photography on the practice of history? What is the relationship between its formal and historical aspects? How are the photographs themselves involved in the processes of cultural contact that they record and how do they negotiate structures of power? Continue reading “Call For Papers – Colonialism, War & Photography”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Photo of Askaris (local soldiers) during shooting practice in German East Africa (now Tanzania)
Photo of Askaris (local soldiers) during shooting practice in German East Africa (now Tanzania)

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From the Mã Lai Origins of the Viet to the global war on blackness, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

A mechanical postcard-form protest published by the Hungarian's Women's National Association, 1920, protesting the division of Hungaria by the Treaty of Trianon. A dial on the side of the card splits the country into its new political boundaries. Wofsonian
A mechanical postcard published by the Hungarian Women’s National Association, 1920, protesting the division of Hungaria by the Treaty of Trianon. A dial on the side of the card splits the country into its new political boundaries. Courtesy of Wofsonian

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From the Great War’s global effects to ISIS’s anti-Western gold currency, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Exeter’s Dr. Singh Featured in BBC’s ‘Soldiers of the Empire’

Singh headshot
Dr. Gajendra Singh

BBC Radio 4 recently featured the Centre’s Dr. Gajendra Singh in its ‘Soldiers of Empire’ series, ‘The Fight for Fairyland’ (especially at 17 minutes and 26 minutes). This episode:

tells the story of the Indian Army on the Western Front, from disembarkation in Marseilles where the troops were greeted by excited crowds, to the grim reality of the trenches. Ill-equipped and inadequately trained for industrial combat, they nonetheless resolutely held one third of the British frontline between October and December 1914.

Continue reading “Exeter’s Dr. Singh Featured in BBC’s ‘Soldiers of the Empire’”

Lloyd George’s Greatest War Speech, 100 Years On

Lloyd George

Richard Toye
History Department, University of Exeter

Follow on Twitter @RichardToye

Today (19 September) is the centenary of David Lloyd George’s speech at the Queen’s Hall in the West End of London. As we digest the news that Scotland’s voters have rejected independence, it is interesting to reflect on the role that a different form of Celtic nationalism played in shaping the rhetoric of the Great War.

In the first autumn of the war, Lloyd George’s carefully cultivated public character was almost perfectly pitched. Continue reading “Lloyd George’s Greatest War Speech, 100 Years On”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Marc-William Palen

LawBooksHere are this week’s top picks in imperial and global reading: Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”