Barry Crosbie
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The curious case of the chabutra-wallahs
Britons and Irish imperial culture in nineteenth-century India
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This chapter examines the role of Irish soldiers in British India during the long nineteenth century. Rather than focusing on familiar representations of the Irish soldier abroad, this chapter links Irish service in the Empire to contemporary imperial ideology and changing patterns of economic and political thought. Ireland was central to British imperial expansion in the East, a point vital to our understanding of the multifaceted and pluralized nature of the British imperial experience, an experience which embedded Irish Catholics into British India. This chapter draws attention to the close, informal bonds that existed between Irish individuals within the imperial armed forces in India, which gradually gave rise to soldier networks based along ethnic lines. This was bolstered by the presence of Irish Catholic chaplains, stationed in British military cantonments. These networks were important conduits of cultural, financial and political interchange between Irish, Indian and Eurasian communities. These networks transmitted material items, capital, information and knowledge across the Empire, adding yet more links to the imperial systems of mobility and exchange.

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