Insurgent Sepoys: Europe Views the Revolt of 1857
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There is a before and an after before , the commercial oriented East India Company and after the transformation of India into the biggest part of the Empire, with Queen Victoria calling herself the Empress of India from on. Behind this change in names and terminology there were major political transformations: the event, as is so often repeated, had a deep and enduring impact on Indo-British relationships.
And even if this view is contested and considered as an artificial projection from the present to the past, it is generally accepted that the impact of this uprising had an enduring effect on subsequent colonial relationships: from a deeper British consciousness of the need to respect local traditions and religious precepts, to the growing separation of colonizer and colonized.
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A characteristic of this event is the quantity of fiction that it provoked. Beyond the newspapers articles, the historical writings or the autobiographical narratives of those involved, there was an immense output in popular adventure novels and literary texts.
Early on, men, and also women, started writing about the event in a kind of worldly catharsis, one which the editor of this book identifies as a response to trauma. Along with writings, there were many visual images of the event contributing to augment its tantalizing effect, something that this book does not explore. Another characteristic that Insurgent Sepoys does not address is the fact that there was a substantial number of women writing about the uprisings.
However, what many of the authors of this book also show is that when analyzing the response of this event beyond the specific British context, the reactions, positions and approaches were much more diverse. And so was the terminology used to designate an historical episode that, as this book also demonstrates, had a huge impact on European public opinion of the time.
Amongst the prolific writing on European orientalism that has been published in the last decades, the India that comes across was that of Sanskrit literature, religiosity, and ancestral traditions. By concentrating on the European—which here means non-British—reactions to a major episode of the history of British-Indian relationships in the middle of the nineteenth century, and therefore a central subject of British imperial history, this book also has the great merit of subverting the tendency of British historiographical preeminence in anything that relates to this period of Indian history.
But what the book also shows is that they were attentive for different reasons. Like themselves, the Indians were also reacting to an invasive and uncomfortable power or even fighting for their national independence. The Italian example is especially rich because of its transformations along the second half of the nineteenth century: from concentrating on the internal process of becoming a united nation, to the late-nineteenth-century effort of also becoming a colonizer nation, as other major European countries.
Insurgent Sepoys: Europe Views the Revolt of 1857
These changes also had repercussions in the ways in which the Indian revolt of was perceived. The Italian case is perhaps the most explored within the book, with many different articles devoted to different kinds of responses. Some concentrate on newspaper articles or on travel accounts, while others analyze the very popular tales of Emilio Salgari, a familiar name amongst a vast European readership, mostly boys, as from the late nineteenth century, when he first published his adventure books, and throughout the twentieth century.
Salgari also used the Indian rebellion as a backdrop to one his books as Nicora explores in her article: in it the British are not portrayed in a very favorable light, in contrast with characters from other nationalities, such as the French, the Portuguese or the Italian, who somehow project their individual qualities into the wider idea of different national colonialisms, some better than the others. Along with the Italian Emilio Salgari, another nineteenth-century author that has a significant presence in this book is the French writer Jules Verne.
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Insurgent Sepoys: Europe Views the Revolt of by Shaswati Mazumdar, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®
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