UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sovereign myths and the realities of material diplomacy : British and princely Indian gift-giving in the late 19th century Reddecliff, Kayla


Current scholarship on British and princely Indian gift-giving presents it as at first a negotiation and manipulation in the eighteenth century and then an elimination of the ambiguities of gift-giving by 1858 when India came under the rule of the British Crown. However, through a discursive and symbolic analysis of a diplomatic gift to the Queen of Britain from the titular Maharaja of Mysore and the British precedent set in 1861 for British and princely Indian gift-giving in the latter half of the nineteenth century, this diplomatic and bureaucratic dominance turns into a contested issue of sovereignty wherein the Maharaja subverted colonial expectations and myths of sovereignty within the material and legal spheres while the British sought to conflate treaties, grants, and gifts into the notion of the “true gift.” Gift-giving continued to play a central role in the negotiations around sovereignty in late nineteenth-century colonial India, yet the British efforts to manage the meaning of exchange, such as categorizing ornate objects as tokens or souvenirs of a personal nature, obscured the continuation of the diplomatic practice within the policy of indirect rule.

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