Exhibition showcases ‘fascinating relationship’ between Britain and India between 17th and 20th centuries

Posted by ap507 at Jun 23, 2016 09:27 AM |
University of Leicester exhibition ‘Strangers in the Land – Impressions of India’ running until 30 September features a wealth of historical materials

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 23 June 2016

Images from the exhibition are available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/06t2zt7x3vv2e60/AADCaVP4abIYqMiZvxVdOl8Ca?dl=0

An exhibition running at the University of Leicester traces the history of the British in India from the early 17th century to the turn of the 20th.

The exhibition, which runs until 30 September and is titled ‘Strangers in the Land – Impressions of India’, uses rare books and materials from the University of Leicester’s Special Collections archives to explore the ‘fascinating relationship’ between the two nations across the ages.

Among the materials on display in the exhibition is an account of Sir Thomas Herbert which was first published in 1634, who travelled to Persia and India as a member of Charles I’s embassy to Shah Abbas I. In the text, which is full of interesting details and illustrated with engravings, he describes the richness of India, suggesting that it ‘equals, if not exceeds any other Kingdom’.

A beautiful folder of rare maps, a survey of rail and canal links in India, dated from 1901 from the Transport History Collection, presents a topographical view of the country – it is marked ‘H.E. The Viceroy’s Copy’ and was therefore presumably used by Lord Curzon, Viceroy from 1899 to 1905.

The exhibition also uses rare books from Library collections to look at the impact of the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Many of the items on display are from the Union Club Library, the contents of which were purchased by the University of Leicester in 1964, mainly through the good offices of Professor Christopher Hughes, a specialist in political theory. 

The membership of the Union Club included many high-ranking military men and Hughes’s family had strong links with the military – he served in an Indian infantry regiment during World War II.

Margaret Maclean from the University of Leicester Special Collections, who organised the exhibition, said: “The exhibition displays a variety of 17th-19th century publications, which deserve to be seen and appreciated not only as beautiful objects, but also for the insight they provide into a complex and fascinating relationship.

“I couldn’t help but be struck by the wealth of material in the Special Collections, which throws light on the history of the British in India, much of it lavishly illustrated. 

“We are fortunate to have many of these items, as a result of the University’s purchase of the contents of the Union Club Library in 1964. I was intrigued as to why the decision to buy was taken and a search of the Minutes of various University committees around that date revealed that Professor Christopher Hughes offered to ‘contribute substantially’ to the purchase.”

Other items come from the collection of Victor Neuberg (1924-1996), whose father was an early member of the Theosophical Society and a close friend of Aleister Crowley.

Margaret added: “The last British regiment departed from India in February 1948, ending a presence there, which had stretched back to the early 17th century, when English merchants, in search of exotic goods, found their way to the west coast port of Surat, attracted by its wealth of silk and cotton textiles. 

“This exhibition uses material from the University’s Special Collections to examine some aspects of the history of the British Raj, which, it goes without saying, still excites passionate reactions and provokes intense debate.”

The exhibition runs from 8 June until 30 September 2016 in the basement of the David Wilson Library, and may be viewed during the Library's staffed opening hours: http://www2.le.ac.uk/library/services/openinghours/openinghours

Entry to the Library is free but security controlled. Ask for admission to the Special Collections exhibition at reception.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information contact Margaret Maclean on mm219@le.ac.uk

 

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