Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Phil Harling


The cultural venue of European exhibitions in the late-nineteenth century enabled the promotion of the modern nationhoods of imperial powers. This study examines the official attempts of Britain to project its imperial power and modern nationhood through exhibits of colonial Indian “tradition” in London. It traces the historical dynamics of such Indian displays in three exhibitions: the 1886 Colonial and Indian Exhibition, the 1908 Franco-British Exhibition, and the 1924 Empire Exhibition. The juxtaposition of Indian “tradition” and British “modernity” at the exhibitions denoted India’s inferior “difference” from Britain, and thus the necessity of imperial rule in India. The exhibitions also evidenced the tensions of such notions with those of Indian modernity, especially by the inter-war period. Chapter One examines how the spatial and architectural landscapes of the exhibitions made visible the hierarchies of British imperial rule in India. Chapter Two discusses exhibits of India’s supposedly pre-industrial socioeconomic conditions. Chapter Three assesses the ethnography of the exhibitions, and how they denoted the racial inferiority of Indian “natives” at the same time that they recognized the political power of Indian princes and middle-class elites.