Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

57 posts categorized "Reform"

26 March 2024

A letter between female activists

A letter between two 19th-century women can provide a glimmer of light into their personal lives.  It can help researchers relying mainly on published material to find out more about the women than just their public achievements.  Emily Faithfull and Mary Carpenter may not share the same historical fame as Elizabeth Garrett Anderson or Elizabeth Fry, but a letter sent by one to the other gives useful, albeit small, evidence of personality.

Letter from Mary Carpenter to Emily Faithfull  2 July 1862 -  first page

Letter from Mary Carpenter to Emily Faithfull  2 July 1862 - second pageLetter from Mary Carpenter to Emily Faithfull, 2 July 1862 - British Library, Add MS78907H

On 2 July 1862 Mary Carpenter wrote to Emily Faithfull to congratulate her ‘on [the] status given you by being appointed the Queen’s Publisher…’.  Mary was ‘desirous of becoming better acquainted’ with Emily and was keen to meet her if she happened to visit Bristol where Mary resided.  A scrawled note under Mary’s signature suggests that she also had the generosity of spirit to send Emily a mechanical Earth.

Mary Carpenter (1807-1877) was devoted to helping children who were living in poverty, especially those who had unfortunately fallen into committing criminal acts.  Through her lobbying efforts, Parliament introduced two laws known as the Youthful Offenders Act in 1854 and 1857 which approved the establishment of reformatory and industrial schools.  However, Mary became better known for her work in helping to educate women in India with her attempts to establish schools, as well as for establishing the National Indian Association in England. 

Emily Faithfull (1835-1895) was equally committed to promoting the rights of women but in the field of employment in England.  She strongly believed that with good education, women were just as equipped to do the same kind of jobs as men.  This conviction led her to create the Victoria Press in 1860, recruiting women compositors to help publish books.  Emily was rewarded for her efforts by Queen Victoria appointing her as ‘Printer and Publisher in Ordinary’ to Her Majesty.

Front cover of Emily Faithfull  Employment of WomenFront cover of Emily Faithfull, On some of the drawbacks connected with the present Employment of Women (1862) British Library shelfmark 8276.a.13, also available via Google Books

Emily not only issued her own publications about women and employment but also toured the United States giving lectures and helped movements promoting women’s employment rights.  Her beliefs were encapsulated in a paper which she presented to the National Association for the Promotion of Social Sciences.  Mary Carpenter was involved in this group, but clearly hadn't met Emily prior to 1862.  In her paper, Emily argued that a woman should not rely on the income of her husband.  A husband’s sudden death might mean having to find employment to support herself and her family, and an untrained woman was at a disadvantage.  Emily asked: ‘Is it less dignified to receive the wages of industry than the unwilling or even willing bounty of friends and relations?’ and continued to state that it must be, ‘... undignified for her to receive payment for labour...’.  Emily also established the International Musical, Dramatic and Literary Association in 1881 to represent composers and artists.

A letter helps us learn about how women activists might have needed a reason to contact each other, as well as how little they may have met each other in person.

Mary (Marette) Hickford
Library, Information and Archive Services Apprentice

Further reading:
Carpenter, M (1862) Letter from Mary Carpenter to Emily Faithfull, 2 July 1862. London: British Library, Add MS78907H.
Faithfull, E (1862) On some of the drawbacks connected with the present Employment of Women. A paper read before the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science ... 3rd edn. London.
Hunt, F (2009) ‘Faithfull, Emily’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Prochaska, F (2004) ‘Carpenter, Mary’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
The National Indian Association and its handbook for students in Britain

24 August 2023

Seditious Publications

In the early decades of the 20th century the Government of India became increasingly concerned by the publication and circulation of what they perceived as anti-British or seditious publications.  This was a particular concern following the Amritsar massacre which sparked protests across India.  One small collection in the India Office Private Papers gives an interesting glimpse of the efforts of government to suppress these publications.

These are a collection of notifications issued by the Government of the United Provinces.  The notifications give the legislation used and details of the publication suppressed.  A government reviewer had also listed the paragraphs or lines of particular concern.  The legislation used was section 99 of the 1898 Code of Criminal Procedure, and section 12 of the Indian Press Act of 1910.  These pieces of legislation allowed the authorities to declare such books, newspapers or other documents forfeited to His Majesty.  Police officers could then seize them.

Notification about book in Hindi - How America Acquired IndependenceNotification about book in Hindi - How America Acquired Independence

One of the defining events, which galvanised the campaign for Indian independence, was the Amritsar massacre.  Many Indian writers and publishers took this as a subject in calling for resistance to British rule in India.  One collection of poems, ‘Jallianwala Bagh ka Mahatma’, has the line ‘Jallianwala Bagh will be immortal in the world’, and in another of the poems is written: ‘It is Jallianwala Bagh, where the martyrs of the motherland and the gems of the country were robbed’.  It goes on to advise the public to consider the Jallianwala Bagh a place of pilgrimage [folio 21]. 

Notification about Gandhi-ki-gazlenNotification about 'Gandhi-ki-gazlen'

Another pamphlet in Hindi ,‘Gandhi-ki-gazlen’, predicted ‘Scenes of Jallianwala Bagh will be repeated in every city if this Government is not driven out of this country’ [folio 48].  The reviewer noted that the writer urged Indians to follow non-cooperation and emphasised the adoption of swadeshi goods.

Notification about Asahyog KajliNotification about 'Asahyog Kajli'

The campaign to boycott British goods and use Indian products, known as swadeshi, features in many of the publications.  For instance, a pamphlet in Hindi entitled ‘Asahyog Kajli’ encouraged people to use the spinning wheel (charkha) and weave cloth for their use [folio 17]. 

Notification about Sawan SwarajNotification about 'Sawan Swaraj'

Another pamphlet in Hindi, ‘Sawan Swaraj’, written by Sallar Maharaj contain songs with the lines: ‘By working at charkhas the enemy will disappear from our sight and from India’ [folio 19].  The non-cooperation campaigns led by Gandhi are a common theme. 

Notification about Swaraj PratiqyaNotification about 'Swaraj Pratiqya'

One pamphlet in Hindi, ‘Swaraj Pratiqya’, collected poems on the subject.  One line urged: ‘Let us take the vow of non-violent non-co-operation with all resoluteness and let us try soon to liberate India from the unlawful possession of the unjust’.  A similar tone was taken in another line: ‘Let there be new sacrifices made on the altar of liberty and let us all be proud of our mother tongue and of swadeshi clothes’ [folio 118].

Notification about leaflet addressed to Gurkha troopsNotification about leaflet addressed to Gurkha troops

One notification concerns a leaflet in Nepalese addressed to Gurkha troops.  Printed and published anonymously it warned: ‘Just as an insect eats the wall from the inside and makes it hollow in the same way the foreign nation (British) which is deceitful and dishonest is going to make us hollow’.  It urges Gurkha soldiers to ‘Leave the services and protect your brothers’ [folio 75].

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
India Office unregistered files containing copies of notifications issued by the Government of the United Provinces proscribing seditious publications, together with translations and summaries of the literature, 1910-1930, reference Mss Eur F242.

Records relating to seditious or proscribed publications can be found in the Public & Judicial Department records series (IOR/L/PJ).

Indian Press Act, 1910

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.  

Publications proscribed by the Government of India: a catalogue of the collections in the India Office Library and Records and the Department of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books, British Library Reference Division, edited by Graham Shaw and Mary Lloyd (London: British Library, 1985).

 

13 December 2022

The oldest cyclist in the UK

At the age of 80, Mordaunt Martin Monro was advised by his doctor to take up tricycle riding.  He was assured that this would add ten years to his life.  Mr Monro was to be seen pedaling around near his home in Enfield, Middlesex, until shortly before his death at the age of 92 on 21 March 1899.  The cycling press named him ‘the oldest wheelman in the United Kingdom’.

Tricycle of the 1880s1880s tricycle from Nauticus in Scotland - A tricycle tour of 2,462 miles. Including Skye & the West coast (London, 1888) Digital Store 10370.d.28 BL flickr

Monro’s dedication to tricycling was shared by his friend Daniel Gilsenan.  In his 80s, Mr Gilsenan was a familiar sight in Enfield riding a tricycle which pulled a trailer carrying his widowed sister Justina Clark as a passenger.  Most appropriately, Daniel lived in Raleigh Road.

Mordaunt Martin Monro was the child of Captain James Monro of the East India Company’s maritime service by his second wife Caroline née Martin.  He was born at Hadley in Middlesex on 3 November 1806, just a fortnight before his father died.  His mother had him educated at home by tutors, and he then received practical instruction in agriculture at nearby Rectory Farm.  At the age of 22, Monro took over Bury Farm in Southbury Road and his mother lived there with him until her death in 1848.  Daniel Gilsenan worked as his farm bailiff for 26 years, and his sister Jane was servant and housekeeper for Monro for over 30 years.  When Monro retired from the farm, he lived with Daniel and his wife Lucy.

Monro was associated with Richard Cobden and John Bright in anti-corn laws agitation, and in 1849 was a founder member of the National Freehold Land Society, also known as the National Permanent Mutual Benefit Society.  The Society aimed to enable working men to acquire 40 shilling freeholds and thereby the right to vote.  Monro served as director, trustee and chairman, and remained connected to the Society until his death.

Both Caroline and Mordaunt Monro joined the Society of Friends and attended the meeting house at Winchmore Hill.  Mordaunt supported the anti-slavery movement and the 1850s Peace Movement.  He was a regular and generous donor to the Enfield and Tottenham Hospitals, and paid £5 a year to fund the winding of the clock at Enfield Church.  Although said to be of a retiring disposition, Monro held public office, as Poor Law overseer and then as one of the first members of the local board of health.

Mordaunt Monro was also involved in the temperance movement.  He began to abstain from drinking alcohol in 1840 and founded the first Temperance Society in Enfield, using a converted barn as a meeting place.  This barn was also used as premises for an evening school.  In August 1843 he hosted at his farm a meeting of the Total Abstinence Society which was addressed by the Irish celebrity temperance campaigner Father Mathew.  Hundreds of people attended on a very hot day and were supplied with temperance refreshments from tents erected in a large field.  The temperance pledge was taken by about 400 people on that day.

Newspaper article about Father Mathew at EnfieldFather Mathew at Enfield - Hertford Mercury and Reformer 19 August 1843 British Newspaper Archive 

Daniel Gilsenan survived his friend for five years.  He died on 1 August 1904 at his house in Raleigh Road.  Enfield had now lost both of its most elderly cyclists.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper ArchiveHertford Mercury and Reformer 19 August 1843, Westminster Gazette 24 March 1899, The Middlesex Gazette 25 March 1899, Soulby’s Ulverston Advertiser and General Intelligencer 17 September 1903.

Previous posts about Captain James Monro -
The sale of East India Company maritime commands

Private trade and pressed men – the voyage of the Houghton to China

 

15 August 2022

Sources for Indian Independence and the creation of Pakistan

This month sees the 75th anniversary of the partition of pre-1947 India and the creation of the modern states of India and Pakistan.  The British Library holds a wealth of resources relating to these events.

Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru & Mr M.A. Jinnah  walking together in the grounds of Viceregal Lodge Simla, 11 May 1946.Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru & Mr M.A. Jinnah, walking together in the grounds of Viceregal Lodge Simla. 11 May 1946. British Library Photo 134/2(28) Images Online

India Office Records:
These are the official records of the India Office, the British Government department responsible for the administration of pre-1947 British India.  Created in London or received from India as part of the normal business of government, for example correspondence or copied reports, they complement the huge collections of official records in archives in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Front cover of Top Secret Report on the Punjab Boundary Force Front cover of Top Secret report on the Punjab Boundary Force  1947-1948 IOR/L/WS/1/1134 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The most significant series for the study of independence and partition are:

• Fortnightly reports: Governors, Chief Commissioners and Chief Secretaries 1937-1948, and British High Commissioners and Deputy High Commissioners 1947-1950 (IOR/L/PJ/5/128-336).
• Public & Judicial Collection 117: law and order, 1933-1947 (IOR/L/PJ/8).
• Transfer of Power Papers 1942-1945 (IOR/L/PJ/10).
• Indian Political Intelligence files, 1913 to 1947 (IOR/L/PJ/12).
• Files on political and constitutional development, 1916-1947 (IOR/L/PO/6).
• Private correspondence: printed series and file copies, 1914-1947 (IOR/L/PO/10).
• Political papers and correspondence with Provincial Governors and their Secretaries, 1936-1948 (IOR/R/3/1/1-178).
• Records relating to Gandhi and the Civil Disobedience Movement, 1922-1946 (IOR/R/3/1/289-370).
• Files of the Bengal Governor’s Secretariat, 1936-1947 (IOR/R/3/2/1-86).

Map of pre-partitiion India from Mountbatten's last report showing which parts became PakistanMap of pre-partitiion India from Mountbatten's last report showing which parts became Pakistan IOR/L/PJ/5/396/15 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

India Office Private Papers:
These collections of papers differ from the official records through being created or kept by individuals, families or organisations separate from government.  They provide alternative perspectives on official business and insights into individuals’ lives, and include significant collections relating to independence and partition. To take just a few examples:

• Secretaries of State for India, such as Sir Samuel Hoare (Mss Eur E240) and the Marquess of Zetland (Mss Eur D609).
• Viceroys, such as the 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow (Mss Eur F125), Lord Wavell (Mss Eur D977) and Earl Mountbatten of Burma (IOR Neg 15538-67).
• Provincial Governors, such as Sir Maurice Hallett (Mss Eur E251) and Sir Francis Mudie (Mss Eur F164).
• Permanent Under-Secretaries of State for India, 1920-1948 (Mss Eur D714).
• Military men, such as Major John McLoughlin Short, Civil Liaison Officer to the Sikh community 1940-42, and Personal Assistant to Sir Stafford Cripps during Cabinet Mission to India 1946 (Mss Eur F189).
• Indian political leaders and supporters of independence such as Gandhi (several small collections), Mahomed Ali Jinnah (IOR Neg 10760-826), and Sir Fazl-i-Husain (Mss Eur E352).
• The struggle for freedom during the last three decades of British rule in India was the backdrop to the lives of many British families in India.  Not surprisingly, it often features in memoirs, journals, diaries and letters home found in numerous small collections of private papers.  For example: a letter, dated 26 Sept 1947, from Freda Evelyn Oliver, wife of the Deputy Commissioner of Bahawalpur State, describing her family's journey from Simla to Bahawalpur during the disturbances following partition (Mss Eur A168).

Map showing the partition of Punjab Map showing the partition of Punjab IOR/L/WS/1/1134 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The Library holds a mass of other source materials for the study of independence and partition, including photographs and newspapers.   There is a wonderful collection of Indian publications banned or ‘proscribed’ by the British Government as they were considered seditious or liable to incite unrest.  In addition, one of the most fascinating resources the British Library holds is the Oral History collections, allowing researchers the ability to hear the voices of the people who lived through those momentous times.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
The Transfer of Power, 1942-7: Constitutional Relations between Britain and India, edited by Nicholas Mansergh, 12 vols. (London, 1970-1983).

Gandhi and Civil Disobedience: Documents in the India Office Records 1922-1946 by Amar Kaur Jasbir Singh (London, 1980).

Indian Independence Collection Guide

Publications proscribed by the Government of India: a catalogue of the collections in the India Office Library and Records and the Department of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books, British Library Reference Division, edited by Graham Shaw and Mary Lloyd (London: British Library, 1985).

Oral History collections relating to independence and partition: Oral histories of migration, ethnicity and post-colonialism - scroll down to the section on ‘British rule in India’.

Titles of English language Indian newspapers are listed on the Explore the British Library catalogue, and British newspaper reports can be found online by searching the British Newspaper Archive.

Collections in the UK on Indian Independence and Partition

 

24 March 2022

Sources for Madame Cama, Indian Political Activist

The struggle for Indian independence from British rule was not only carried on in India, but was eagerly pursued by Indian activists and revolutionaries across the world, particularly in Europe and America.  The India Office Records contains some fascinating files on one such activist, Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama, more often known as Madame Cama.

Stamp of India 1962 depicting Bhikhaiji Cama.Stamp of India 1962 depicting Bhikhaiji Cama. Copyrighted work of the Government of India, licensed under the Government Open Data License - India (GODL)

Born in 1861 into a wealthy Parsi family in Bombay, Madame Cama was educated at the Alexandra Parsi Girls School in Bombay, and later married Rustom Cama, a lawyer and son of the prominent Parsi reformer K R Cama.  With her health suffering due to her work as social worker during the 1897 plague epidemic in Bombay, Madame Cama travelled to Britain in 1901.  She would spend the next three decades working tirelessly for Indian freedom from British rule, becoming known as the ‘Mother of Indian Revolution’.  In 1907, Madame Cama moved to Paris, where she was at the centre of a small group of Indian nationalists.  That year she also travelled to Stuttgart for the International Socialist Conference, where she spoke of the poverty of the Indian people due to British rule, and unfurled the National flag of India 'amid loud cheers' as reported in the Manchester Courier.

The India Office was greatly concerned at the influence of Indian activists abroad, and through the intelligence services kept a close eye on their activities.  In 1915, the India Office received a copy of a letter sent to the Foreign Office from the British Political Officer in Basra, along with a specimen of Bande Mataram, the pamphlet published by Madame Cama, found in an Indian soldier’s kit.  In his letter, he asked: 'In view of the existing conditions of war and of close alliance with France, could the French Government be got to arrest Madame Cama and put her away somewhere?'  A note in the file suggested such a move would do more harm than good and pointed out: 'The lady is under close observation, and is not now in a position to tamper with Indian troops'.  By February 1917 more direct action had been taken, with the newspaper Call reporting that 'Madame B. Cama, editor of the "Bande Mataram", a Hindu paper published in Paris, is one of the most important women who have been denied their liberty.  She was interned in Paris at the special request of the British Government'.

Intelligence Report on Indian Communists 1924Intelligence Report on Indian Communists -  British Library IOR/L/PJ/12/49 f.134 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In the 1920s and 1930s, surveillance of Indian activists continued.  Madame Cama appears in several of the files of Indian Political Intelligence, the branch of British Intelligence responsible for monitoring Indian nationalist in the UK, Europe and America, and some examples are given below in the suggestions for further reading. 

Intelligence Report on Indians in Europe Intelligence Report on Indians in Europe - British Library IOR/L/PJ/12/50 f.14 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Madame Cama's health had never fully recovered from her social work in 1897, and her work, combined with continual government hostility, strained it further.  As she wrote to the Russian political activist Maxim Gorky in 1912: 'All my time and energy are devoted to my country and her struggle'.  In November 1935, she returned to India, and died shortly afterwards in August 1936.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Pamphlets published by Madame Cama of a seditious nature and names of four Indians implicated in sedition, April-May 1915, shelfmark IOR/L/PS/11/91, P 1667/1915.

Indian agitators abroad; containing short accounts of the more important Indian political agitators who have visited Europe and America in recent years, and their sympathisers, compiled in the Criminal Intelligence Office, 1st edition, November 1911 (Simla: Government Monotype Press, 1911), shelfmark IOR/V/27/262/1.

Chowdhury, Bulu Roy, Madame Cama: a short life-sketch (New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1977), shelfmark Mss Eur F341/108.

Indian Political Intelligence files at British Library:
IOR/L/PJ/12/49: Indian Communist Party: intelligence reports, 1923-1924 - Madame Cama is mentioned in the papers at folios 134 and 187-190.
IOR/L/PJ/12/50: Indian Communist Party: intelligence reports, 1924-1925 - Madame Cama is mentioned in the papers at folios 12-16.
IOR/L/PJ/12/174: Activities and passport application of Mandayam P Tirumal Acharya, 1926-1933 - Madame Cama is mentioned at folio 12.
IOR/L/PJ/12/219: Activities of Indians and Afghans in Paris: activities, 1924-1925 - Madame Cama is mentioned in the papers at folios 10, 11 and 18.
IOR/L/PJ/12/667: M.I.5. B[lack].L[ist]. Volume XXI (Indian Volume), 1921 - Madame Cama is mentioned in the entry for Sirdar Singhji Revabhai Ranna on page 57.

Foreign Office papers regarding Madame Cama can be found at the UK National Archives, references FO 800/56B.

British Newspaper Archive (also available via Findmypast):
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 23 August 1907.
India, 30 August 1907.
The Call (London), 01 February 1917.

The Open University, ‘Making Britain, Discover how South Asians shaped the nation, 1870-1950’.

Asians in Britain: 400 years of history, Rozina Visram (London: Pluto Press, 2002).

 

06 January 2022

Protesting Against the Simon Commission

One controversial moment in India’s fight for freedom from British rule in the 1920s, was the arrival in India of the members of the Indian Statutory Commission in 1928.  The India Office Private Papers at the British Library contains some wonderful material documenting this event.

The Indian Statutory Commission was a British commission appointed on 26 November 1927 to enquire into the working of the system of government, the growth of education, and the development of representative institutions in British India, and to recommend future policy regarding further constitutional reforms.  It is often referred to as the Simon Commission after its Chairman Sir John Allsebrook Simon.  Unfortunately, the members of the Commission all belonged to the British ruling classes, and the exclusion of Indian members understandable prompted outrage in India, with both Congress and the Muslim League boycotting the Commission.  The Commission visited India twice, once in February/March 1928, and again from 11 October 1928 to 13 April 1929, and wherever they travelled there were protest marches.  Protestors questioned the Commission's legitimacy and demanded that it leave India.

A black flag with the words ‘Simon Go Back’ in white lettering'Simon Go Back’ flag, reference Mss Eur D856 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

One particularly striking item in the Private Paper collections relating to these protests is a black flag with the words ‘Simon Go Back’ in white lettering, reference Mss Eur D856.  The flag had been given to Lady Carter, wife of Richard Henry (later Sir Archibald) Carter, Assistant Secretary to the Commission.  It had been presented to her while on a visit to the United Provinces by the Governor, Sir Malcolm Hailey (later Baron Hailey).  Of him, she wrote: ‘I first saw him at a tennis party and he swooped down on us like a great hawk.  Everybody seemed frightened of him, but I loved him at first sight’.  The story Lady Carter told of how Lord Hailey obtained the flag was that he had joined one of the processions against the Commission.  She said: ‘He gave me one of the black flags that they carry in the processions against the Commission, with a SIMON GO BACK on it’.

Protest banner with the words: 'Indian Uninvited Guest, Simon Go Back’Protest banner Mss Eur D890/1 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

There is also another protest banner in the papers of Sir (Samuel) Findlater Stewart (1879-1960), India Office official from 1903 to 1940, demanding ‘Indian Uninvited Guest, Simon Go Back’, reference Mss Eur D890/1.

The Commission published its report in two volumes in 1930 to further criticism and condemnation in India.  It was rejected by virtually all parts of the Indian political spectrum, and in London it sparked a march from Trafalgar Square to Victoria Station by around 200 protestors.  The British Government responded by holding a series of Round Table Conferences held in London between November 1930 and December 1932.  This eventually fed into the reforms incorporated into the 1935 Government of India Act.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
`Simon go back' black flag used in Congress demonstrations against the Indian Statutory (Simon) Commission; reference Mss Eur D856.

Papers of the Indian Statutory Commission 1928-1930; series reference IOR/Q/13.

Papers of the Round Table Conference, 1930-1932; series reference IOR/Q/RTC.

Papers of 1st Viscount Simon as Chairman of Indian Statutory Commission 1927-1930; collection reference Mss Eur F77.

Government of India Act 1935.

Making Britain, Discover how South Asians shaped the nation, 1870-1950: Indian Statutory Commission.

05 November 2021

Fireworks in India for Queen Victoria

A Royal Proclamation was published in India on 1 November 1858 transferring government from the East India Company to the Crown.  The document, addressed to the Princes, Chiefs, and people of India, was read out in the open in many places in both English and vernacular languages.  Public displays of fireworks and illuminations were organised to celebrate the change.

Copy of the Proclamation by the Queen in Council dated Allahabad 1 November 1858, announcing the transference of the government of India from the East India Company to the CrownCopy of the Proclamation by the Queen in Council dated Allahabad 1 November 1858, announcing the transference of the government of India from the East India Company to the Crown - British Library Mss Eur D620

The transfer of power from the Company to the Crown took place in the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion. Viscount Canning was appointed first Viceroy and Governor General.  The proclamation announced that all Company civil and military personnel were confirmed in post ‘subject to Our future pleasure’.  Treaties and engagements made with Princes of India were to be ‘scrupulously maintained’.  No extension to present British territories was desired and the ‘Rights, Dignity, and Honour’ of the Princes would be respected.  Internal peace and good government would secure social advancement for the whole of India.  The native peoples of British India would be treated with the same obligations of duty as all Queen Victoria’s other subjects.  There was to be no imposition of Christianity, no discrimination on religious grounds, and no interference with belief or worship.  People of any race or creed would be able to hold office if qualified ‘by their education, ability, and integrity’.  Ancient rights, usages and customs would be respected.

The proclamation also spoke of the Rebellion, lamenting ‘the evils and misery which have been brought upon India by the acts of ambitious men’.  Pardons were offered for all ‘Offenders’ except those convicted of ‘having directly taken part in the Murder of British Subjects’.

Viscount Canning presided over the proclamation ceremony at Allahabad, which began with a salute of nineteen guns and the national anthem.  The document was read out in English, followed by an Urdu translation.  A firework display lasted from 8.30pm to nearly midnight – ‘trees of fire, crackers, squibs, whirligigs, and rockets’.

In Calcutta, large numbers of people gathered to hear the proclamation read from the steps of Government House, first in English and then in Bengali.  The royal standard was hoisted, cheered by the Europeans in the crowd.  At night there was a wonderful display of gas light illuminations.  The Homeward Mail was impressed: ‘ No other city in the world could have prepared such a sight... The City of Palaces shone a city of fire… we do not think any pen can paint the beauty of the scene’.  Even the smallest shops were decorated with a few lights.

Crowds flocked to the fort in Bombay to hear the proclamation in English and Marathi.  Ships in the harbour then fired a salute of 101 guns.  The fireworks were on a scale never before seen in Bombay and workmen had spent days constructing elaborate illuminations on government buildings and the private mansions of prominent Indians.  Poor citizens had decorated the narrow streets and alleys.

At Madras the proclamation was read in front of an invited European audience of about 100, and there was a gun salute.  According to The Homeward Mail the only Indian present was the man who translated the document from English.  However a week later there were ‘some bad fireworks’, dancing girls and jugglers, and a state ball at the illuminated banqueting ball.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Library Mss Eur D620 Copy of the Proclamation by the Queen in Council dated Allahabad 1 November 1858.
British Newspaper Archive also available via Findmypast e.g. The Friend of India 4 November 1858; The Homeward Mail 6 December and 15 December 1858; Evening Mail 6 December 1858.

There are a number of files in the India Office Records about public ceremonies held to celebrate the proclamation e.g.
IOR/L/PS/6/495, Coll 76/312 Measures taken to publicize the Royal Proclamation announcing the assumption of the Government of India by the Crown, October 1858-June 1859.
IOR/L/PS/6/463, Coll 36/9 Notification to the Princely States of Northern India of the Royal Proclamation transferring the government of India to the Crown - reports on the public ceremonies held in celebration - complimentary letters from some of the Native Princes, October 1858-January 1859.
IOR/L/PS/6/489, Coll 76/14 Papers relating to the North Western Provinces - expenditure incurred on illuminations in the Rohilkhand Division during the ceremonies accompanying the formal transfer of power from the East India Company to the Queen, November 1858-January 1860.
IOR/L/PS/6/490, Coll 76/46 North Western Provinces - expenditure of 38 rupees 5 annas on illuminations at Jalalabad Fort on the occasion of the reading of the Royal Proclamation, January 1859-January 1860.
IOR/L/PS/6/490, Coll 76/39 North Western Provinces - expenditure of 5446 rupees incurred on providing fireworks and illuminations at Allahabad on the occasion of the reading of the Royal Proclamation, January 1859-January 1860.
IOR/L/PS/6/490, Coll 76/36 North Western Provinces - expenditure of 500 rupees incurred on illuminations and fireworks at Banda during the occasion of the reading of the Royal Proclamation, January 1859-January 1860.

 

12 October 2021

The Rational Dress Society

The Rational Dress Society was founded in 1881 in London.  The aim of the Society was ‘to promote the adoption, according to individual taste and convenience, of a style of dress based upon considerations of health, comfort, and beauty, and to deprecate constant changes of fashion, which cannot be recommended on any of these grounds’.  The Society promoted its work through drawing room meetings, advertisements, pamphlets, leaflets, and by issuing clothing patterns approved by the Committee.  There was an annual membership subscription of 2s 6d.

Rules of the Rational Dress SocietyRules of The Rational Dress Society printed in Viscountess Harberton's Reasons for reform in dress Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In 1884 Viscountess Harberton, President of the Rational Dress Society, published a pamphlet entitled Reasons for reform in dress.  She contended that anything truly beautiful was in accord with nature and questioned how far current women’s clothing conformed to that rule.  A woman’s waist was naturally broad and flat, but dresses were designed to set off a round waist, sloping in like the letter V from under the arms.

Front cover of Reasons for Reform in DressFront cover of Viscountess Harberton's Reasons for reform in dress Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Skirts were absurd, amounting to the hanging of a sort of curtain round the wearer.  They combined the maximum of weight with the minimum of warmth, and were the cause of many accidents.  Queen Victoria was reported to have sprained her ankle by stepping on her dress.  Women were hurt walking, trying to run, or when getting in and out of trains and carriages.  Every quick or sudden movement was dangerous.  Interference with the power of locomotion resulted in the loss of nerve-power.  A long skirt had a ‘constant liability to disarrangement’ and was difficult to keep clean as it rubbed against the heels and dipped into dust and dirt. 

Moreover, skirts were tiring to walk in – the legs had to be pushed against a mass of drapery.  Going upstairs, a woman probably raised between 2lb and 6lb of weight with her knee at every step.  Women expended maybe twice as much energy as men walking the same distance: ‘Nature gave muscles to the legs to support and convey the body, but never contemplated half the world constructing an artificial jungle for themselves to wade through as long as life lasts’.  Viscountess Harberton therefore advocated the need for women to be able to wear some form of divided skirt.

Viscountess Harberton clothed in Rational Dress - black and white image from a newspaper showing an outfit described as a navy blue jacket and skirt with a white silk vest.
Viscountess Harberton clothed in Rational Dress – navy blue with a white silk vest - from The Gentlewoman 18 April 1891, British Newspaper Archive also available via Findmypast

The pamphlet also discusses the ‘unmitigated evil’ of stays which displaced the internal organs and reduced the wearer’s ability to breathe.  The human form should not be altered to suit the dress: ‘would it not be wiser were all classes to combine to devise and adopt a dress which was both pretty and convenient? ... Our present dress sins against Art, it sins against Health, and it sins against Utility’.  A fresh start was necessary, ‘and if we are too faint-hearted to do this, we may as well give up the whole thing, with the humiliating reflection, that we have not fulfilled our duty in our generation, though seeing it clearly, but have left a grievous burden on our daughters, from which we could well have freed them, but we lacked the courage of our opinions’.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Viscountess Harberton, Reasons for reform in dress (London, 1884) British Library General Reference Collection 7745.bb.6
The Rational Dress Society’s Gazette
Lady Tricyclists

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