This postdoctoral project “Princely education in India in the age of imperialism” aims to establish that the making of princely education in India was a complex process shaped by actors with often conflicting interests. My project as an ICAS:MP fellow explores one of the most crucial developments in this process: the construction of gendered spaces for princely education.
In the first place, the project examines royal women’s participation in (and withdrawal from) princely education. Before settling on a particular language of instruction or curriculum, British administrators in the states aimed to intervene in the spaces of princely education. Should young princes be removed from the court and the zenana, educational sites where mothers and other royal and non-royal women exercised considerable influence in the upbringing of young rulers? Should princes be educated instead in new schools run by male British educators? From the 1870s, the answer was a resounding “yes”, as growing British encroachment led to the abandonment of the court and the zenana as sites of princely schooling and to the birth of new educational spaces.
The foundation of new institutions created new questions: should these be small schools within a given state, where the prince could be educated close to the court along with a handful of carefully selected pupils, or larger boarding schools where young rulers would grow up away from their states but with their princely peers? The late nineteenth century saw a constant experimentation with the two models, from small in-court schools such as the Prince’s School in Baroda to boarding schools such as Rajkumar College, Rajkot.
In the second place, the project investigates the performance of masculinity in the new sites of princely education. In-court schools and boarding schools posed difficult questions about Indian royal and British upper class masculinity. Could British educators teach princes not just arithmetics, but also the gentlemanly qualities that defined upper class British masculinity? Since the transmission of such qualities involved close contact between educator and pupil, could it give birth ties of affection that endangered the colonial enterprise? In the sports fields that stood outside most of these schools, what physical exercises should young princes practice to become men? Through the social, cultural and bodily practices involved in these questions, the spaces of princely education became contested arenas where gender was articulated and performed.
This study of the gendered dimension of princely education in India will deepen our understanding of the concerns and anxieties of British rule, balancing its power with its precariousness in the face of local responses. In this way, it will demonstrate that princely education played a crucial yet hitherto unacknowledged role in reshaping gender in India and the British empire.
Teresa Segura-Garcia has completed her PhD in History at the University of Cambridge, where she has specialised in modern South Asian history under the supervision of Prof. C. A. Bayly and Prof. Joya Chatterji. Her PhD dissertation, ‘Baroda, the British empire and the world, c. 1875–1939’, examines the links of people, ideas and resources that linked Baroda ¾ the foremost princely state of western India ¾ with the rest of India, the British empire and the world during the long reign of Maharaja Sayaji Rao III (r. 1875–1939). She holds a BA in Humanities and a Master’s Degree in World History from Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, and an MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies from the University of Cambridge. She has received awards and fellowships from, among other institutions, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Institute of Historical Research, London.
Additional infos: https://cambridge.academia.edu/TeresaSeguraGarcia