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Policing in Colonial Empires

Cases, Connections, Boundaries (ca. 1850–1970)


Edited By Emmanuel Blanchard, Marieke Bloembergen and Amandine Lauro

Colonial security strategies and the postcolonial vestiges they left both in the global South and in former metropoles have recently attracted renewed academic attention. Policing in Colonial Empires is a collection of essays reflecting current, ongoing research and exploring the multifaceted dynamics of policing in colonial societies over the past two centuries. Spanning several continents and colonial contexts (some of them liminal or little-explored), the book examines the limits and legitimacies of the functioning of colonial policing. Addressing issues such as collaboration, coercion, violence, race, and intelligence, the collected works ask what exactly was colonial about colonial policing. Together, the contributors point out the complex nature of colonial law and order maintenance, and provide insights on histories that might reflect the legacies of its many variants.

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The Perils of Impartiality: Policing Communal Violence in Victorian India, 1858-1900 (Mark Doyle)


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The Perils of Impartiality

Policing Communal Violence in Victorian India, 1858-1900


The great Indian rebellion of 1857, commonly known as the Indian Mutiny or Sepoy Rebellion, revolutionized the British administration of that country.1 The old East India Company, whose policies had angered the Indian soldiers (or sepoys) that led the rebellion, exited the stage, and in its place stepped a chastened British government determined to avoid the mistakes of the past. One of those mistakes, officials believed, had been excessive meddling with the native religions of India, particularly through Company-backed Christianization campaigns and contempt for the religious sensibilities of Hindus and Muslims. “Fanaticism” on both sides – among the sepoys who had massacred their white officers and nearly driven Britain from north India, and among the British troops who had exacted Old Testament-style vengeance against the rebels, leveling towns and blowing captives from the mouths of cannons – was something that the new regime was anxious not to rekindle. A new policy of religious neutrality, advertised shortly after the rebellion in an address by Queen Victoria, directed “that none be in anywise favoured, none molested or disquieted, by reason of their religious faith or observances, but that all shall alike enjoy the equal and impartial protection of the law”.2 From now on policemen, magistrates, and governors were to strive for a sort of Olympian remoteness in India, never imposing their own faith upon Indians and, more importantly, staying above...

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