'The centre of the muniment’: archival order and reverential historiography in the India Office, 1875

Mitchell, Peter, Lester, Alan and Boehme, Kate (2019) 'The centre of the muniment’: archival order and reverential historiography in the India Office, 1875. Journal of Historical Geography, 63. pp. 12-22. ISSN 0305-7488

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Abstract

In 1875, the civil servants and scholars George Birdwood and Clements Markham both submitted proposals to the India Office regarding the cataloguing and arrangement of its archive. These proposals had in common that they both involved the records of the early modern East India Company, and evinced an understanding of the archive as both a privileged repository of historical artefacts and a technology of imperial government. However, they articulated divergent ideologies of empire, ways of conceptualising the past and its materials, and understandings of the ways in which information and knowledge should be mobilised in an imperial context. This article analyses the two proposals in the light of their proposers’ biographies, their politics, and their institutional and disciplinary commitments; and it notes each proposal’s contribution to the production of a historiography which valorized early modern navigators, traders and mercantile communities as progenitors of the British imperial state. The proposals’ troubled bureaucratic history emerges as an expression of conflicts of practice, ideology and administrative cultures within the India Office, and more broadly within the imperialisms of the time.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: History of Geography; Royal Geographical Society; India Office; East India Company; imperialism; information
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Geography
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies
Centre for International Education
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General) > G0001 Geography (General) > G0080 History of geography
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General) > G0001 Geography (General) > G0141 Historical geography
Depositing User: Alan Lester
Date Deposited: 23 Aug 2018 13:51
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2019 14:45
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/78231

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Snapshots of Empire: managing a diverse empire all at onceG1680LEVERHULME TRUSTRPG-2015-155