Colonial India has long been characterised by historians as a destination for British men enacting a 'flight from domesticity'. Imperial masculinity has been closely associated with adventuring and war, and the home has been dismissed as irrelevant to the so-called 'soldier heroes' of the British Empire.
However, this characterisation is based primarily on 19th-century literature, rather than analysis of the lives of real men.
Drawing on the diaries, letters and memoirs of men who served in the armies in India, this talk will demonstrate that British officers in India were deeply attached to the concept of home, and enthusiastically created home-like environments during military service.
Rather than undermining their 'militaristic masculinity', Holly Winter will show that these home-building activities enabled men to demonstrate their authority, military experience and management skills.
Holly will connect the military world with the domestic world, and show how knowledge of textiles, furniture and domestic economy was surprisingly essential for British officers in 19th-century India.