Trade, Governance and Empire 1600-1947: From the East India Company to the Indian Independence Act.

31 March 2017

Empire and Globalism | History

Just 3 months into 2017 Adam Matthew have already published a wealth of exciting new collections, one of which I particularly had my eye on: East India Company Module 1: Trade, Governance and Empire, 1600-1947. Unavoidably heightened by the hype surrounding the BBC’s recent drama Taboo, my interest in India’s colonial history and the events leading up to Indian independence meant I was avidly awaiting the grand unveil of East India Company.

The BBC have been particularly hot on the topic recently, having featured their episode of Who Do You Think You Are: Sunetra Sarker (documenting Sarker’s discovery of her ancestor’s involvement in the rise against colonial India) in the same week as the Taboo finale. As you may have guessed, the Who Do You Think You Are episode was just my cup of tea (excuse the tacky colonial trade pun). 

Of particular interest was Sarker’s great-grandfather’s story. Dr Naresh Chandra Sen-Gupta was a lawyer and writer who produced the first English translation of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s 1881 novel Anandamath (The Abbey of Bliss) which was banned by the British for its allusions to the revolt against the British Empire. Sen-Gupta’s 1906 translation of the novel was a response to the 1905 partition of West and East Bengal by the British. 

The 1905 partition was largely an attempt by the British to defuse the increasing anti-imperialist movement by provoking conflict between the majority Hindu Bengali population in the west and the majority Muslim population in the east. Their plan, however, backfired. The partition swayed Bengali Hindus and Muslims to join forces in what became a communal nationalism which advanced anti-imperialist strategies such as the Swadeshi movement. 

The British ultimately conceded and in December 1911 King George V announced the reunification of Bengal during his Coronation Durbar in Delhi. This, as ever, had an ulterior motive. The reunification enabled the British Raj to ease administration by creating separate administrative provinces in Bengal and moving the administrative capital from Calcutta (previously the East India Company’s stomping ground) to Delhi.

A little digging amongst East India Company’s shelves revealed a volume containing a dissent submitted by H.S. Barnes, a member of the Council of India, which records his opposition to the proposed administration changes.

Minutes of Dissent by Members of the Council of India 17 Jan 1901 - 20 Aug 1929, © The British Library Board. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

An original transcription of this manuscript content is below. Click on the image to view the whole document, available open access for 30 days.


Minutes of Dissent by Members of the Council of India 17 Jan 1901 - 20 Aug 1929, © The British Library Board. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Click on the image to view the whole document, available open access for 30 days.

In the document Barnes proclaims the proposals will be met with a ‘storm of hostile criticism’ and laments the unnecessary expenditure as well as commercial implications.

Minutes of Dissent by Members of the Council of India 17 Jan 1901 - 20 Aug 1929, © The British Library Board. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Click on the image to view the whole document, available open access for 30 days.

Minutes of Dissent by Members of the Council of India 17 Jan 1901 - 20 Aug 1929, © The British Library Board. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Click on the image to view the whole document, available open access for 30 days.

Barnes wraps up his argument with the grave caution: ‘I do not think the Government of India have any conception of the strength of the opposition to their proposals that will be aroused on these grounds not only in Calcutta, but throughout India.’ Perhaps Barnes was on to something here – he was just 36 years ahead of the curve.

East India Company, Module 1: Trade, Governance and Empire, 1600-1947 is available now from Adam Matthew and in the British Library’s Reading Rooms in London and Yorkshire. Modules II and III will publish in 2018 and 2019 respectively. The collection is complemented by the recently updated India, Raj and Empire. For more information, including free trial access and price enquiries, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Full access restricted to authenticated academic institutions who have purchased a license.

About the Author

Lucy Davis

Lucy Davis

Having joined Adam Matthew’s Editorial team as a Development Assistant in February 2016, I have already had the chance to work across a wide variety of exciting projects including Literary Print Culture, Shakespeare's Globe and The First World War. My academic background lies in literature and language. I am particularly interested in literary and linguistic contexts within postcolonial writing such as African American and Indian Dalit poetry.