Intimate Connections: India, Empire, and the Great War
The twin aims of this paper are recuperative and analytical. The trajectory of the Indian war experience across three continents provides a map of the global aspects of the First World War. This paper will at once try to open up, investigate and connect the categories of the ‘global’ and the ‘local’, putting pressure on either terms, with reference to two lines of enquiry: first, the responses to the First World War within India (from the native princes, the political bourgeois, the subalterns and the attendant complexities), and second, the ‘global’ experiences of the soldiers and how they were understood by these men in local terms (cognitive frameworks, class, history of emotions). How was the war understood locally in relation to questions of race and empire? How did the sepoys connect to the English Tommies or the people in Mesopotamia? Starting with material from archives in India and Europe as well as newspaper accounts, photographs, original sound-recordings from the time and literary representations, I shall investigate the shifting and complex relation between the ‘global’ and the ‘local’ through a focus on the national politics within India 1914-1918 and the individual histories of some of these Indian men serving in France and Mesopotamia.