Making Britain in Empire
: John Shore, nation and race in the Eighteenth-Century East India Company world

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis argues that a sense of nation and race emerged within a global, eighteenth century East India Company world. Taking as its starting point the premise that identity matrices formed and reacted in concert with each other across the globe, the thesis contends that the eighteenth-century Indo-Persian culture of Bengal acted upon the Company elite. With their multicultural lifestyles these Company men transgressed the norms of their homeland. At the same time, a belief in the moral superiority of British sovereignty as it manifested through Company rule, helped these Britons to distinguish themselves from both Europeans and Bengalis in South Asia. Using imperial biography as the vehicle, the thesis interrogates these global forces through the cultural symbols that one man, the East India Company servant and Governor General, John Shore, adopted and the codes of conduct that he followed. The thesis examines his public papers, Company minutes and private letters to triangulate the historical forces that made this Briton in empire. After 1785, with an evangelical conversion, marriage to an English wife, and the impeachment of Warren Hastings, Shore began to reacquaint himself with his nation of origin. At the same time, he started to reframe his Bengali identity, as something to condemn and expunge. When he rose to the Supreme Council in 1786 and then to Governor General in 1793, as a man of influence Shore returned his representations of nation and race back to Britain through his public writings and acts. This thesis contributes a person-centred methodology to the analysis of the global forces of history. It shows that by unravelling the meanings of the cultural signs that elite, imperial men seeded into their public and private writings, historians can dissect the mechanisms of colonial power.
Date of Award21 Jan 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorRobert Bickers (Supervisor) & Jonathan Saha (Supervisor)

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