A. Martin Wainwright
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Imperial subjecthood and legal identity
in ‘The better class’ of Indians
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This chapter examines the ways in which the legal ambiguities surfaced in the encounter between Indians and institutions in the United Kingdom. It demonstrates the willingness of British institutions to accept Indians as 'British subjects', and highlights the confusion that officials felt regarding this status, especially as it applied to Indians in the United Kingdom. The chapter also demonstrates the importance of class in determining Britishness at the legal level. The institutional approach to the status of Indians encouraged British officials to use the concept of imperial subjecthood in order to promote unity within the Empire. British subjecthood entitled Indian men who met the property qualifications to vote in elections and hold public office in the United Kingdom. Certificates of identity presented the ideal opportunity for Indians to continue in a centuries-old practice, the assertion of higher social status in potentially hostile political environments.

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‘The better class’ of Indians

Social rank, imperial identity, and South Asians in Britain 1858–1914


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