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Social and Political Evolution M uch has already emerged to show Nightingale’s support of self-government in India, especially at the local level. Here as the subject becomes the main focus we provide further background both on political developments and on the broader evolution of Indian society and culture. After the crown in 1858 assumed the sovereignty of India in the wake of the 1857 Mutiny, Britons and Indians became fellow subjects. Yet few Britons then regarded Indians as their equals. Real knowledge of Indians too often was not even sought, an attitude that went back to the times of the East India Company. As early as 1853, Nightingale noted that ‘‘Lord Cornwallis acted in India either as if it was a tabula rasa or as if the Hindus had no old feelings, traditions and customs to interfere with his new plans.’’1 Conversely she doubted that much good had accrued to India through British occupation and was inclined to agree with Burke that ‘‘if we were to leave India, our possession of it would leave no more traces of civilization than if it had been in the possession of the hyena and the tiger.’’2 However, things were expected to change after the Mutiny. The Queen’s Proclamation of 1858 solemnly declared the equality of the races. In principle access to the civil service was open to all qualified persons regardless of race. Indian nationals were gradually admitted to posts previously reserved for Europeans, but actual progress was meagre and slow. British officials often disingenuously found subterfuges to avoid or delay implementation of the law. Hence only minor changes were made to the governance of India. From 1861 ‘‘the viceroy’s council and also the councils at Bombay and Madras were 1 Note 14 February 1853, Add Mss 43402 f98. 2 Letter to Parthenope Nightingale 26 September 1863, Wellcome (Claydon copy) Ms 9000/133. See also a letter to Sir Harry Verney 19 September 1863, in Health in India (9:458). / 797 increased by the addition, for legislative purposes only, of non-official European and Indian members. These tiny advances in the practice of representative government were intended to provide safety valves for the expression of public opinion, which had been so badly misjudged before the rebellion.’’3 British officials, however, were too often concerned with upholding the control of the raj and determined to do their utmost to maintain their own prestige. Indians admitted to higher positions were often met with hostility and racist condescension. Many Britons doubted that Indians ever would be able to be masters at home, still less to exercise authority over Europeans in any field of activity. This would require a much greater understanding and appreciation of India’s culture, history and traditions. Nevertheless mentalities were evolving. A watershed in the history of the raj and in the political evolution of India was reached with the viceroyalty of Lord Ripon (formerly Lord de Grey), 1880-84. His liberal policies favoured a greater participation of Indian nationals, especially in local government. Later, in hindsight, Nightingale stated that he took ‘‘the actual administration in the rural districts from the hands of the low-paid, corrupt, extortionate , petty native officials, who alone represent the British raj in Indian eyes, and put it into the hands of the respectable villagers—villages having been self-governing republics with a headman as mayor from time immemorial’’ (see p 889 below). He encouraged local governments to do more to train Indians for self-rule. His policies encountered at best lukewarm support and often strong opposition on the part of the British in India, but their reception by Indians was enthusiastic . Nightingale was a strong and outspoken supporter of Lord Ripon’s reforms and what she described to Ripon himself as his ‘‘wise and steadfast and brave and honest policy’’ (see p 802 below). Lord Ripon resigned in December 1884 to allow a Liberal (Lord Dufferin) to be his successor—the Liberal government was about to be defeated in London. He left India as one of the most popular viceroys that country was to see, although most of the British there were pleased to see his departure. His ‘‘failures bore within them the seeds of eventual success. He had sought to impart real content to abstract doctrines and remote sentiments. The effect was not lost on the imagination of the class which was to be the custodian of national forces in 3 Bayly, Indian Society and the Making of the British...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781554581115
Related ISBN
9780889204959
MARC Record
OCLC
236362188
Pages
976
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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