When Queen Victoria died in January 1901, statues to commemorate her legacy sprung up across the British empire. The statues, sculpted most often in London, were sent to Britain’s colonies and installed in public squares, parks, museums, and gardens. Ceremonies to unveil the Victoria statues became social events that affirm India’s attachment to the crown, even as anticolonial protests raged against the British government of India. This talk follows the installation of royal statues across India in a moment of rising opposition; it concludes by considering the continued existence of royal statues in a time of decolonizing. (Photograph used by permission of the Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata)
Durba Ghosh is professor of history at Cornell University and the director of the Humanities Scholars Program in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her research has focused on gender, culture, law, archives, and colonial governance British India. This talk is part of a new project on colonial monuments and their postcolonial afterlives. She is the author of Sex and the Family in Colonial India: the making of empire (Cambridge University Press, 2006), and Gentlemanly Terrorists: Political Violence and the Colonial State in India, 1919-1947 (Cambridge University Press, 2017), as well as a number of articles.