This exhibition explores the rise of the British Empire in India between 1740 and 1840. Based on The University of Nottingham’s extensive archives on colonial India, ‘Threads of Empire’ examines the history of tense negotiation, resistance and rebellion that lay behind the emergence of India as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the British Empire.
British presence in India began in the seventeenth century with the East India Company’s establishment of coastal trading bases. Granted trading privileges by the Mughal Emperor and a royal charter by James I in 1609, the East India Company exported cottons, silks, calicoes and tea. The exhibition includes the letters of East India Company servants, documenting their motivations for going to India and their experiences upon arrival.
Yet behind the exchange of gifts and elaborate ceremonies between the East India Company and Indian princes lay dissent, distrust and rebellion. Visitors to the exhibition can read the outraged letters of the Prince of Mysore, Jamh O Deen, held hostage by the East India Company and the reports on the Vellore Mutiny of 1806. The advice and petition of Hindu pandits relating to the abolition of sati (the practice of widow immolation) illustrates the role of negotiation and dissent in response to foreign, colonial rule. ‘Threads of Empire’ allows the visitor to witness the fragile terrain of British imperial power in India from the perspective of both the rulers and the ruled.
The exhibition has been jointly curated by Dr Onni Gust (Department of History), Ibtisam Ahmed (PhD Student, Department of Politics and International Relationships) and Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham. Ibtisam Ahmed’s time on the project was supported by the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies. Displayed as part of the exhibition will be an artwork, 'Entangled Freedoms, I, II and III' by Infinite Threads, a local textile-art collective.
Image: Man and woman of Hindostan. From ‘A geographical present’ by Mary Anne Venning.
Weston Gallery Thu 13 Apr - Sun 20 Aug
Open Tues-Sun inclusive