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Bearing Witness in Wartime: The East India Company’s Soldiers in the Public Domain, 1764-1857

Objective

Former U.S. Army analyst Chelsea Manning became notorious after releasing classified information to WikiLeaks in 2010. Manning’s 35-year prison sentence, commuted in 2017, provoked acrimonious debate not just about American military operations overseas, but about the extent to which values of transparency and accountability apply in the defence sector. Manning is the famous face of a larger trend, as new social media have enabled soldiers to publicize their experiences of combat environments through blogs, video clips, and leaks to the press. Soldiers’ revelations have elicited public and academic debate, but their impact remains unclear. My research provides a historical perspective to this question by refocusing attention on a period of global war and imperial expansion when modern ideals of open government first took shape. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, against the backdrop of an expanding print industry and growing demands for government accountability, the East India Company (EIC) became the dominant imperial power in the Indian Ocean world. EIC soldiers acted as vital witnesses to these events, writing letters to newspapers, authoring books and pamphlets, and providing testimony in parliament. By comparing soldiers’ statements with official narratives, and by tracing how soldiers’ statements were received by parliament, the public, and the EIC, this research will determine what impact soldiers had on contemporary debates about imperial operations. Fulfilling this research objective will enhance our understanding of public attitudes to empire as well as illuminating the changing relationship between military, government, and the public. Through this research I will achieve technical competence in computational methods and narrative analysis techniques as well as training in grant-writing and team management, thereby positioning me to secure an ERC Starting Grant and become a leading voice in the field of British imperial history.

Coordinator

LUDWIG-MAXIMILIANS-UNIVERSITAET MUENCHEN
Net EU contribution
€ 173 847,36
Address
Geschwister Scholl Platz 1
80539 Muenchen
Germany

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Region
Bayern Oberbayern München, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Non-EU contribution
No data