ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Multiple Meanings of 1857 for Indians in Britain

Many historians and commentators have discussed the disparate roles and responses of various Britons and Indians in India as well as the opinions and public policies of Britons in Britain during the struggle of 1857. This paper complements such work by highlighting how Indians living in British society related to those events and also the ways in which British attitudes toward them changed before, during and after 1857.

N ews from India about the bloody fighting of 1857 shocked people in Britain, including the thousands of Indians of all classes settled or sojourning there. Each Indian living in London or elsewhere in Britain had to decide whether the anti-British violence by many of their countrymen in India was justified. Further, each also had to choose how to act toward Britons, including British lover, wife or husband, friend, employer, or passer-by on the street. Virtually all Indians despite the variety of their backgrounds, personal feelings toward the fighting in India, or places in British society experienced rising British prejudice. Indian men in particular became the focus of British sexual fears. Consequently, many Indians in Britain felt even stronger solidarities with each other as they faced a collective hostility from the Britons around them.

As demonstrated by this issue of the EPW, prominent historians and other commentators have discussed many of the meanings of 1857. Some have considered the disparate roles and responses of various Britons and Indians in India; others have analysed the opinions and public policies of Britons in Britain. This article complements that distinguished work by highlighting how the many and diverse Indians within British society related themselves to those events and also the ways in which British attitudes toward them altered prior to, during, and after 1857.

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