Contested Statues: The Clive Memorial Fund, Imperial Heroes, and the Reimaginings of Indian History

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Abstract

This article considers the Clive Memorial Fund and the campaigns surrounding proposed statues to Robert Clive in London and Calcutta between 1907 and 1912. The author argues that this campaign was an attempt to glorify Clive's actions, focused on the battle of Plassey and its aftermath, as foundation stones for the Indian Empire. The statues were an anxious attempt to situate Britain as a natural part of Indian history, but the campaign instead provoked a developing Indian counternarrative around resistance to colonial rule, particularly from newspapers in Bengal. Although the fund garnered support in Britain, it was greeted in India with official irritation and widespread Indian opposition, highlighting the importance of considering imperial statues in their imperial frame. This reaction, demonizing Clive's treachery and praising his opponent, Siraj-ud-Daula, the nawab of Bengal, was indicative of the place of history in both Bengali nationalism and imperial self-identity. Using newspapers in Britain and Bengal and the correspondence of the Clive Memorial Committee, the author examines the competing narratives of history that emerged in the campaigns around the fund.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of British Studies
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2024

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