Colonial Self-Fashioning in British India, c. 1785-1845: Visualising Identity and Difference

A stereotypical view of the nineteenth-century British in India, which might be characterised as one of deliberate isolation and segregation from their surroundings, has recently been complemented by one evoking a high degree of integration and closer co-existence in the eighteenth century. Focusing on a period which straddles this apparent shift, this book explores a variety of ways in which British residents in India represented their lives through visual material, and reveals a more nuanced position. Consideration of these images, which have often been overlooked in the scholarly literature, opens up questions of identity facing the British population in India at this time and facing colonial societies more generally, and issues about the role of visual culture in negotiating them. It also underlines the fragile and contested nature of identity: the colonists’ self-fashioning encompassed not only expressions of difference from their Indian setting, but also what distinguished them from their compatriots back in Britain, as well as engaging with metropolitan attitudes towards, and prejudices about, them.


Prasannajit de Silva completed his doctorate at the University of Sussex in 2007. He lectures on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British art, and his recent teaching includes roles as Associate Lecturer in History of Art at Birkbeck, University of London, Associate Tutor in Art History at the University of Sussex, and Sessional Lecturer for the Workers’ Educational Association.

“In this remarkable and meticulously researched book, Prasannajit de Silva considers how the British in India imagined their lives through the visual context of paintings and prints. He comes to rather different conclusions from the stereotypical view of this period of transition and reveals a much more nuanced interpretation of how the British identified themselves in their Indian colonial setting. […] This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the lives of the British in India but also for anyone seeking an interpretation of the images that have come down to us.”
Charles Greig
Review, Chowkidar, the Journal of the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia

Buy This Book

ISBN: 1-5275-0898-6

ISBN13: 978-1-5275-0898-9

Release Date: 26th April 2018

Pages: 309

Price: £61.99

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