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British India, 1601-1947

3. The High Noon of Empire, 1858-1919

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About this Lecture


In this module, Christopher explores the period from 1858 to 1919, looking in particular at four themes. The first is how it is that a government can change the way people think, and the way they think about themselves. The second is to ask the question why people co-operate with colonialism. The third theme is the irony of the civilising mission, why it looked so hypocritical by 1919, if not before. And finally, why by 1919, after the First World War, India was in dire need of someone like Gandhi.


This course provides a comprehensive history of British India. After an introduction to the geography, climate, and people of the Indian subcontinent, we explore how a private company, the East India Company, came to administer a whole country. A turning-point came in 1857-8 with the Indian Mutiny (also known as the Sepoy Massacre). In 1858, the Government of India Act transferred administrative control of the country from the Company to the Crown: Victoria was dubbed Empress of India and the following 89 years would become known as the British Raj. Another turning-point was the Amritsar Massacre of 1919. With Britain refusing to loosen her grip on the administrative reins of India, despite the great sacrifice Indians had made on Britain's behalf in the First World War, protests began to break out across the country: the British response was brutal, and in 1919 in Amritsar, 400 peaceful protestors were gunned down in the Jallianwala Bagh public garden. Our next two modules cover the period from 1919 to 1947, looking first at the figure of Mahatma Gandhi, and then at the period more generally. The final module looks at the end of British rule in India, and the reasons behind the Partition of India, a political disaster which resulted in the death of one million people.


Christopher grew up in London before heading ‘up north’, as it seemed at the time, to Oxford University. Following an undergraduate degree in History, he was the co-founder of a company producing music for the computer games industry, before being lured back into academia via an MSt in Historical Research and then a DPhil in South Asian history, both at St Antony’s College, Oxford.

In 2004 he had the opportunity to go to Japan for a couple of years on a Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation Scholarship, studying the language intensively, working on some comparative South Asia – Japan research, and training and working as a journalist with Tokyo’s Asahi Shimbun.

He returned to the UK at the start of 2007 to take up a post at Edinburgh University, where he now researches and teaches on both South Asia and Japan.

In April 2012 he was privileged to be the recipient of the EUSA Teaching Award for Best Course (Pioneers of Cultural Communication 4MA) and to receive the Runner Up award for Innovative Teaching.

He is one of AHRC/BBC's ten New Generation Thinkers for 2013, with contributions to Radio 3's Nightwaves beginning in June 2013.

Chris can be found on X (formerly Twitter) at @drchrisharding, while he also writes an Asian history newsletter (

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Harding, C. (2018, August 15). British India, 1601-1947 - The High Noon of Empire, 1858-1919 [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Harding, C. "British India, 1601-1947 – The High Noon of Empire, 1858-1919." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,