Queen Victoria’s Proclamation, 1858

“We desire no extension of our present territorial possessions; and, while we will permit no aggression upon our dominions or our rights to be attempted with impunity, we shall sanction no encroachment on those of others. We shall respect the rights, dignity and honour of native Princes as our own; and we desire that they, as well as our own subjects, should enjoy the prosperity and that social advancement which can only be secured by internal peace and good government.”

Introduction/Context

This Gobbet is Queen Victoria’s proclamation, a public announcement which typically relates to a matter of great importance, in this case the War of 1857; written however at the end of the war in 1858. This is significant as it is clearly written to keep up the perception to the public that Britain was innocent and understanding throughout the conflict, and will continue to be such. For Victoria’s sake, she probably wanted to make herself appear to be a merciful, and a strong monarch in order to prove that women can rule as successfully despite the initial scepticism at the beginning of her reign in 1837[1]. It is important to note that this document shows the interests of Britain as a country, rather than the Queen’s direct thoughts, and is written in a professional manner accordingly, and would be influenced by her advisers also.

Content

The extract discusses matters of respect, suggesting that the Indians were perceived as equal to the British. However, this is contradicted instantly with the line ‘they, as well as our own subjects, should enjoy…’, which implies an air of superiority on the side of the British, suggesting that the British already have what the Indians must work towards achieving in terms of ‘social advancement’. This is further supported to referring to them as ‘native[s]’ which sets them apart from the British, illustrating the contemporary views of Orientalism of the time, with Edward Said’s ‘Theory of the other’ and binary opposites[2]. This means that if the British thought themselves to be civilised, the ‘other’ were therefore not.

Furthermore, the sense of British superiority is evident throughout the text, inflated by the opinion that the ‘social advancement’ can only be achieved with ‘internal peace and good government’, critically implying that the current situation in India is unstable and their politics insufficient. Though it isn’t said, the tone of this comment gives the impression that the way this will be achieved is under Britain’s leadership, as the Queen knows her government to be strong. This then contradicts the first line of the extract, ‘we desire no extension of our present territorial possessions’ and the implication that they do not wish to intrude on others, as although they are not expanding geographically, Britain desires to heighten their control on the political situation in India, to work in British favour. This is in keeping with the Imperialism of this module’s block on wars.

Comment

Overall, the Gobbet has a tone of superiority which contradicts the written word of the text. This gives the impression that Britain are trying to justify their actions by stating that they never intended to oppress the Indians, as the fact that this must be stated implies that this is how the Indians perceived the British intrusion. Ultimately this source shows Britain’s desire to outlay plans to move forward to create a positive British history for future generations to look back on with nationalist pride at the expense of Indian independence, effectively using this war and the documents following it as propaganda.

Bibliography

Ashcroft, Bill. Ahluwalia, Pal. Edward Said, Routledge (2008) p.3

Goodwin, Daisy. Victoria, Headline Review, Great Britain (2016) p.34


[1] Daisy Goodwin, Victoria, Headline Review, Great Britain (2016) p.34

[2] Bill Ashcroft, Pal Ahluwalia, Edward Said, Routledge (2008) p.3

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: