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By Gautam Chakravarty

Gautam Chakravarty explores representations of the Indian Mutiny of 1857 in British well known fiction and historiography and in the wider context of British involvement in India. Drawing on diaries, autobiographies and country papers, Chakravarty demonstrates how narratives of the uprising have been inflected by means of the worries of colonial coverage and the calls for of imperial self-image. The ebook has a huge interdisciplinary attraction.

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7 And while E. H. ’9 f r a m e s o f re f e re n c e While British advance in India from c. 10 Though confined to north and central India, the Madras and Bombay presidencies remaining largely unaffected, the extent of insurgency within the region, the degree of popular participation and the number of violent attacks on British property and persons were a disturbing comment on the From chronicle to history 23 security of colonial possessions. As the combined resistance of Hindus and Muslims, the peasantry, the urban citizenry, the soldiers in the Company’s army, the zamindars and talukdars and several dispossessed royal houses, the rebellion drew upon many accumulated fears and grievances, though the fractiousness within and amongst these groups, and chronic weakness in organisation, made British reconquest possible.

In politics and historiography as in everyday life, perspectives are relative to positions, and the positions we take at home or in the world outside bear the impress of the interests they minister. What to many British was a military aberration became a war of independence in the nationalist imaginary that took shape by the turn of the century, which stridently rejected the ‘mutiny’ thesis as a deliberate slur. But it would be an error to consolidate and polarise a British and an Indian interpretation; for, as the second chapter will show there were gaping differences in the British view of the matter as there were in Indian opinion.

There is, however, one twist to this tale. Coming from an area geographically to the west of the Indus, yet east of the European west, Muslim invasions and migrations were perceived to be at once like and unlike their European, and specifically British, successors. ’23 They conquered the land and the people to become the ruling elite, established their religion, forms of life, languages, architectures, modes of government and warfare, and in the case of the Mughals, an imperium too. 24 Having dismissed elements of Hindu mythology and customary practices as indices of an inferior culture, Martin turns to praise the Hindu past when he compares it with India under Muslim rule, claiming that an ‘extensive study of Indian records leads to the conclusion that the decay of Hindoostan dates from the period of Muhammedan incursion and conquest’.

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