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Title: The Anglo-Dutch 'imperial meridian' in the Indian Ocean world, 1795-1820
Author: Wilson, James David
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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What happened when the Dutch and British empires overlapped across the Indian Ocean in the late eighteenth century? Histories of these empires generally focus on their early modern rivalry through patterns of war and trade that subsided after Britain's invasion of Dutch colonies during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815). Instead, this thesis unearths the relationship between Britain's capture of three Dutch Indian Ocean colonies - Ceylon, Java, and the Cape Colony - and the rise of the modern state-building enterprises of the British empire. It traces a collection of Anglo-Dutch epistemic exchanges initiated in littoral spaces amid occupation, comprised of political ideas, such as liberalism and autocracy; policies of settlement and work; and cultural information tied to gender and status. These exchanges generated epistemic interdependencies between British and Dutch colonists, establishing new and intrusive ruling practices that shaped British governance while recycling models of colonialism and revolutionary change from the Dutch empire. I chart this history through contingent life histories describing people who travelled between the Cape, Java, and Ceylon. These include a Dutch teacher, whose involvement in republicanism and anti-slavery reveals that Dutch liberalism was used by Britain's despots to extend their powers. I follow Chinese migrants who show how engagements between Chinese and British and Dutch colonists determined British policies of landholding and labour. I trace Dutch and British ruling elites who reveal that officials created migration regulations tied to Dutch notions of status. This is the period of C.A. Bayly's 'imperial meridian', which describes the British empire's transformation into garrison states in the Indian Ocean in answer to a global age of revolutions. Conversely, this thesis maps the rise of Britain's empire over an Anglo-Dutch faultline linking the early modern and modern eras, revolutionary and counter-revolutionary practices, and the connections and conflicts of an Indian Ocean world.
Supervisor: Sivasundaram, Sujit Sponsor: Cambridge Home and EU Scholarship Scheme ; Prince Consort Fund ; Smuts Memorial Fund ; Cambridge History Faculty
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Indian Ocean ; British Empire ; Dutch Empire ; Global History ; Nineteenth Century