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The Anglo-Indian Novel, 1774-1825: Ameliorative Imperialisms

  • Author(s): Soni, Samir M.
  • Advisor(s): Nussbaum, Felicity A.
  • et al.
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This dissertation suggests we regard critics of empire as belonging to a subcategory of the dominant paradigm of ambivalence I call “ameliorative imperialists,” a term borrowed from the West-Indian slavery debate to describe those Britons who offered sympathetic approaches to colonialism in India, proposing solutions to ameliorate or improve the conditions of British, Indian, and other residents of the subcontinent.

By studying the early Anglo-Indian novel beginning with the first, C.W.’s Memoirs of a Gentleman (1774), and ending with a comparison between Mary Martha Sherwood’s evangelical children’s novels and the first decolonization Anglo-Indian novel, Sydney Owenson’s The Missionary (1811), this dissertation offers a cultural history of some minority ameliorative imperialisms in the Romantic era. This dissertation follows arguments among often conflicting philosophies of empire, including, for example, competing interests that propose to craft India into an “ancient” Eden or a “modern” utopia. It also demonstrates a contest between the causes of early protofeminism and transnational equality, suggesting that many British women writers attempted to differentiate British women from Indian men and women in order to assert their own utility in the empire abroad. Rather than allying with Indians as mutual subjects of British men, British women largely sided with British men in subjugating Indians, though they purported to offer more kindness to their Indian subjects. I conclude with a discussion of ameliorative imperialism’s manifestation in the early nineteenth-century missionary debate, in which evangelists justified the empire in India by claiming that it ultimately helped to save Indian souls.

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This item is under embargo until October 15, 2019.