Main Content

Eric Hielscher

  • Dissertation

    Indian indenture in the British Empire. A global network, 1833-1920" (working title)

    The general aim of the thesis is to describe networks in the field of Indian indenture in the British Empire. Within nearly 100 years, around 1.3 million Indians were transferred from India to 14 colonies across five different continents. This migration has had a worldwide economic, political and social effect. Although many studies post the question if indenture is the successor of slavery or not, this research, in general, approaches the administration of indenture as a network. The central topic isn’t the infrastructural networks of Empire, rather the networks of ideas, impacts, and knowledge as well as the transfers of them. The theoretical focus provides an insight into the impact and the adaption of knowledge and laws which were determined by the administration of each colony to connect “center” (London) and “periphery” (colonies) of the Empire. With this information, the thesis determines some of the key actors in the Indian indenture system such as the Colonial Office in London, the governors, and the colonial administration as “the men on the spot”, the Government of India, and administrative network in India that included protectors, recruiters, agencies, etc. These networks didn’t only exist as a string between London and the colonies but between the colonies themselves. In many cases, the decisions were made by “the men on the spot” and not by the Colonial Office in London. Nevertheless, London was a central hub in the networks of the 19th century. Despite this, in many cases, regulations of rules weren’t always implemented top-down. Thus, the thesis challenges the idea of the classification of the terms “center” and “periphery” in the Empire. Furthermore, it provides a view of the impact and the adaption of rules and laws in the timeline. The geographical space is the British Empire where the subjects moved and interacted. Due to the large time period and the extended space, the study concentrates on four specific colonies with four timeframes. These are Guyana and the establishment of indenture in the Caribbean between 1838-1850, Fiji and the implementation between 1874-1890, St. Lucia and the country economy between 1874-1890, and India and the end of indenture between 1912-1920.