John Sainsbury: In the Afterglow, a Balanced View of Empire
John Sainsbury is a professor of history at Brock University.
A hundred years ago, the British Empire reached its zenith. At least it did in pomp and circumstance, even as its foundations were beginning to crumble. The defining event was the Great Durbar in Delhi, when, on Dec. 12, 1911, King George V was crowned Emperor of India.
It was a brilliantly choreographed ceremony, designed to give visible expression to the British conception of India as an enduring hierarchy of loyal subjects. As magnificently dressed maharajas, nawabs and other notables paid homage to their Emperor King, the emergent force of Indian nationalism – and India’s dire economic problems – could be temporarily disregarded.
[Is] empire ... now a taboo subject? No. ... Enlightening conversation about empire has shifted from what empire means in terms of ideology to the more neutral ground of what it means in terms of communal and personal experience.
...[F]or balanced views of empire, it’s to India we need to go. India’s comfortable assimilation of its colonial heritage is a remarkable story. An eloquent statement is the condition of Coronation Park, where the Durbar was held a hundred years ago. It has been neither destroyed nor maintained. Instead, its monuments to British rule are simply being left to crumble. Shelley’s poetic reverie on the monstrous, ruined statue of a long-forgotten emperor comes irresistibly to mind: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”.
comments powered by Disqus
- Memorial for black Revolutionary War soldiers finds spot on Mall after 30 years
- Sherlock Holmes star to feature in a new movie about Alan Turning
- Man’s Genome From 45,000 Years Ago Is Reconstructed
- This company claims its video games about the French Revolution are accurate
- Origins of sex discovered
- Thousands of Historic Archives from British Asylums to Go Online
- American Studies Association boycott of Israel: Conservatives say it’s weakening
- YIVO Vilna Project Will Digitize Jewish History
- Columbia historian Eric Foner is giving his lectures to the public -- and to posterity — through a free MOOC.
- Black studies professor in the middle of exploding scandal at the University of North Carolina