Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ronald Hyam, Empire and Sexuality

Ronald Hyam, Empire and Sexuality: The British Experience. Manchester University Press, 1991.

Some mistakes here and there? For instance, is his take on 'Bibi' correct?

Bibi is a Hindustani word meaning 'high-class woman,' which in Hobson-Jobson 'Anglo-Indian' parlance came to mean native mistress. Colloquially the bibi was spoken of as a 'sleeping dictionary', though the linguistic competence of the British in India was never much improved, and all mixed-blood Eurasians became English-speaking. The initial pattern in all early European empires tended towards intermarriage with local women. The keeping of mistresses was not uncommon in eighteenth-century Britain itself. So the keeping of a mistress in British India became a well-establshed practice by the later eighteenth century, defended as increasing the knowledge of Indian affairs. Some officers recommended it quite openly, and the pattern was set at the highest level. Job Charnock (d. 1693) had three children by the Hindu mistress he had rescued from a suttee funeral pyre. George Dick (Governor of Bombay in the 1790s) kept a Maratha woman, allowing her to parade about the streets ostentatiously; she was accused of tyranny, corruption, and even of spying on behalf of Maratha pirates. Sir David Ochterlony (the Resident of Delhi, 1803-25) apparently had thirteen mistresses among Indian ladies. Even so respectable a figure as Lord Teignmouth, Governor-General (1793-98) and a British and Foreign Bible Society founder, had such a liasion. Col. James Skinner (1778-1841), founder of the crack reigment Skinner's Horse, was said to have had a harem of fourteen wives, though the family hotly denied there were ever more than seven; eighty children claimed him as their father. (115)
On Eurasians:

Lower down the social scale, too, many of the British in India formally married Hindu women or (preferably) half-Indians, known as Anglo-Indians, or in Victorian times as Eurasians. It is estimated that ninety per cent of the British in India by the mid-eighteenth century made such marriages, but there is a great deal of uncertainty abot this. In the biographies of the period the phrase 'is thought to have married an Anglo-Indian' occurs with maddening frequency. The marriages of Dupleix, Warren Hastings (as regards his first wife, Mary Buchanan, in 1756), and William Grant all fall into this uncertain category. What is hard fact is that the directors of the East India Company on 8 April 1778 declared that because of the importance of solders' marrying Indian women in Madra, they were 'content to encourage at some expense' such marriages, making a christening present of five rupees for every child of a rank-soldier baptised. In other words, a delicate policy of intermarriage was encouraged by the company, in the interests of building up the army. The Anglo-Indians were thus a vital bulwark of the growth of company power in the early stages of territorial expansion. Moreover, Warren Hastings as Governor-General (1774-85) headed essentially a cosmopolitansociety in which reciprocal entertainments between Indians and the British were common. In the 1790s, however, these policies went into revers. Governor-General Cornwallis purged the administration and widened the social gulf. Wellelsley stopped entertaining Indians at Government House. Anglo-Indians were prohibited in 17981 from holding civil or military office with the company. (The exclusion lasted for two generations.) They were disqualified from the army as combatants. There were massive discharges in 1795. By 1808 non was left in the British army. This reversal was a hard blow for the Anglo-Indian community. The most obvious alternative employment was to join the armies of the Indian princes, but they eventually found their true vocation with the coming of the railways, which to a considerable extent were built and then run by Anglo-Indians. The size of the community stabilised and became endogamous. (From 1835 the company would not, in any case, allow intermarriage.) (116)

Hyam suggests that the change in policy at the end of the 18th century had to do with the slave uprising in Santo Domingo, which led to the creation of Haiti after 1791.

Though it became less common, many Englishmen in India continued to have relations with Indian women after 1835. He quotes Richard Burton, who had a series of affairs with Indian women in 1842, including an extended affair with an Indian mistress in Baroda. It's only after the Mutiny that this practice diminishes.

The rise in the Regimental/Barracks brothel seems to have occurred at exactly the same time as the change in attitude to the taking of mistresses -- 1850s-188 (Hyam 123). After 1865, "lock hospitals" for veneral disease were set up in encampments across India. One prostitute for about 40 soldiers. The prostitutes were officially barred from also sleeping with Indian men, but there were ways around this. (According to Hyam, they would receive Indian clients in the morning, while the white soldiers were on morning parade).

Non-registered prostitutes coset four to six annas. Registered prostitutes were generally fifteen and over, and earned as much as 1 Rupee per session.

The camp of prostitutes traveled with the regiment (how exactly, one wonders?).

Quotes Frank Richards: "It was impossible, he said, to walk out of barracks without being offered 'jiggy-jig.' (125)

Much emphasis was laid on washing afterwards, in order to avoid veneral disease: hot water was provided in a small lavatory in the street. At Agra, the 'rag' was right opposite the small Protestant church, and it was possible to stand in the road and hear both the preacher and the cries of the soliciting girls. Small boys of six to nine years ran errands and acted as punkah wallahs: 'wicked little devils' they were, and 'very knowledgeable about sex'. Truly the soldiers of the King Emperor at Agra were in a different world from the barracks at Colchester. Richards also mentioned that at Curzon's durbar a half-caste prostitute aged fifty announced her retirement after thirty-six years and kept open free house for five hours. Enormous numbers paid their farewell respects. (125)
Citing Frank Richards, "Old Soldier-Sahib." (1936)
Also C. Deveureux "Venus in India, or Love Adventures in Hindustan." Brussels, 1889.

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