Cosmopolitanism and Imperialism in Nineteenth-Century British India

Abstract: In this essay, I examine the link between cosmopolitanism and imperialism in colonial India. In the late eighteenth century, colonial rulers redefined Britishness as a racial category, excluding from it all those who were not of pure white British stock. This racial regime led a growing group of Western-educated Indian literati to adopt cosmopolitanism as an alternative strategy of empowerment. But their cosmopolitanism took different forms: some opted for imperial cosmopolitanism and sought a form of imperial citizenship; others found political models outside Britain, to inspire them in a struggle against empire.

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