Royal Tourists, Colonial Subjects, and the Making of a British World,

Royal Tourists, Colonial Subjects, and the Making of a British World, 1860-1911 (Manchester University Press, 2016) examines the ritual space of nineteenth-century royal tours of empire and the diverse array of historical actors who participated in them. The book is a tale of royals who were ambivalent and bored partners in the project of empire; colonial administrators who used royal ceremonies to pursue a multiplicity of projects and interests or to imagine themselves as African chiefs or heirs to the Mughal emperors; local princes and chiefs who were bullied and bruised by the politics of the royal tour, even as some of them used the tour to symbolically appropriate or resist British cultural power; and settlers of European descent and people of color in the empire who made claims on the rights and responsibilities of imperial citizenship and as co-owners of Britain’s global empire. Royal Tourists, Colonial Subjects, and the Making of a British World suggests that the diverse responses to the royal tours of the nineteenth century demonstrate how a multi-centered British-imperial culture was forged in the empire and was constantly made and remade, appropriated and contested. In this context, subjects of empire provincialized the British Isles, centering the colonies in their political and cultural constructions of empire, Britishness, citizenship, and loyalty.

Available to all as a selection in the Knowledge Unlatched project, a grant-funded open-access project curated by a committee of librarians from 12 countries


“Reed describes the interplay of local, colonial and imperial identities in forging a connected British World. He tries to decentre explanations of imperial networks and favours the colony over Britain. While the royals stand out in this study, so does the emerging indigenous intelligentsia, which straddled both imperial and metropolitan worlds. In telling this story, Reed ably handles a large academic literature. Within the unfolding drama, readers are helped to understand the prehistory of today’s royal visits and how they connected, and still connect, overlapping transnational cultures that always owed more to Empire than to London.” – Donald M. MacRaild, Times Higher Education

“The book is timely in that it pursues a currently rich vein of interconnected, trans-imperial history writing… It shows that there is much to be gained by bringing the British monarchy more fully into the imperial historiography, and not just as symbols around which pro-imperialists could cohere… This is an original work which extends the so-called ‘new imperial history’ but also helps further an emerging agenda of combining its strengths with those of the more conventional historiography.” – Alan Lester, University of Sussex

“Through the medium of royal tours, he argues for the repositioning of cultural and political agency from the British metropole to a multiplicity of historical actors and peripheral imperial spheres… It marks a solid contribution to present historical understanding of how local and nationalist identities are adapted within the ritualised framework of royal tours, themselves increasingly prominent within concurrent and swiftly expanding spheres of inter-disciplinary scholarship on imperialism in all its guises.” – Laura Cook, Royal Studies Journal

“The book’s determination to to pursue [a contingent, local Britishness] beyond borders, with all the historiographical challenges this entails, is commendable. There is much to be gained by considering the empire as its subjects and rulers once did: as an amorphous yet connected entity, rather than as a series of separate colonies with discrete histories. Reed demonstrates the importance of the colonies in creating their own versions of Britishness, and the royal tour as an apt example of the types of networks that helped transmit imperial ideas at the same time as they helped build it together.” – Felicity Barnes, New Zealand Journal of History

“Reed provides deep and also wide-ranging scholarly coverage of the highly symbolic, planned, stage-managed and mediated official visits that were undertaken by members of the British monarchy to the Empire… during the period … and their reception by those visited.” – Philip E. Long, Journal of Tourism History

Table of Contents

Follow @royalsontour for history and book news!
Follow @royalsontour for history and book news!

Prologue: Chief Sandile Encounters the British Empire
1. British royals at home with empire
2. Naturalising British rule
3. Building New Jerusalems: Global Britishness and settler cultures in South Africa and New Zealand
4. “Positively cosmopolitan”: Britishness, respectability, and imperial citizenship
5. The empire comes home: colonial subjects and the appeal for imperial justice
Postscript and conclusion


The Victorian origins of Will and Kate in India

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at India Gate, a memorial to Indian service in the First World War, its foundation stone laid by the Duke of Connaught in 1921 Credit: @PARoyal
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at India Gate, a memorial to Indian service in the First World War, its foundation stone laid by the Duke of Connaught in 1921
Credit: @PARoyal

As the Duke of Duchess of Cambridge visit south Asia this week, doing the sorts of things that royals are expected to do whilst abroad in the former empire – attend fancy social events, commemorate, inaugurate, and patronize, play cricket, and so on – the celebrity-obsessed global media has enthusiastically followed their every move. An even cursory glance at the tweets tagged #RoyalVisitIndia reveals the performative and visual character of the royal tour – so essential to its purpose since the first visits of the nineteenth century. William and Kate’s touring ancestors would find much familiar in their itineraries, the ceremony, the responses. It’s a quite odd thing, when we think about it, considering nearly seventy years of Indian independence from British rule. Of course, the present Queen’s dedication to the Commonwealth and maintaining the monarchy’s role in the former empire — as chronicled in Philip Murphy’s Monarchy and the End of Empire — explains much of it. But the Victorian history of the royal tour is of equal significance.

The first royal tours were the brainchild of Prince Albert. In 1860, he sent, at the invitation of the Canadian legislature, his older son Albert Edward the Prince of Wales to Canada to inaugurate the Victoria Bridge over the St. Lawrence River and, at the invitation of Sir George Grey soon-to-be (again) governor of the British Cape Colony, his second son Prince Alfred to tip the first truck of stone into Table Bay and symbolically commence the construction of the breakwater. While different tour architects attached different purposes and significance to the tours, the general motive was to encourage bonds of loyalty and attachment to the British monarchy on colonial subjects, to awe indigenous people into obedience, and to encourage young royals to learn to be useful. Both Albert Edward and Alfred traveled extensively in 1860, meeting dignitaries, greeting cheering crowds and, on occasion, protestors, and participating (sometimes invented) indigenous ceremonies.

Delhi Durbar of KIng George V, 1911 Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Delhi Durbar of KIng George V, 1911
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The first royal visit to India was by Alfred in 1869. The most dramatic was probably King George’s coronation durbar in 1911. But, here I want to highlight the Prince of Wales’ 1875-76 visit to India and idea of the royal tour of a contested space, where various historical actors — among them governors, settlers, indigenous rulers and activists —  staked claims on the meaning of the ritual and their relationship with empire and the monarchy. Even today, the royal tour is no stranger to protest or apathy. As one Twitter user so eloquently explained, in a response to the coverage of this week’s royal visit in Indian Express:

The 1875 tour was contentious from the beginning. Queen Victoria — reluctant to send her son and the heir to the throne abroad — complained that she heard little of the arrangements, though “the newspapers [were] full of them.”[1] The funding was hustled through the Commons by the Disraeli government with the support of William Gladstone. The republican Reynolds’s Newspaper complained of “the rattle of the royal begging box.”[2] In Trafalgar Square, Charles Murray stood on the edge of the fountain, forbidden by the police to speak from the lions at the bottom of Nelson’s Column, and cried out that “the working men had no objection to the Prince of Wales leaving England–(‘Let him go!’)–indeed, the whole royal family might go, ‘and never come back’–(cheers and laughter)–but he objected to their going at the people’s expense.”[3]

Prince of Wales in India, 1875 Credit: Library of Congress
Prince of Wales in India, 1875
Credit: Library of Congress

In India, local communities funded the festivities and tributes of the visit. The collection of voluntary subscriptions on part of local organizing associations to fund tributes to the prince were procured by “extortion and oppression” and demands for “minimum donations.”[4] According to several testimonies, voluntary subscriptions were cajoled out of everyone from the princes to the poorest Indians by bullying and force: “scores of poor clerks, who could ill afford it, had to come down handsomely or incur the displeasure of their chiefs.”[5] Moreover, the South Asian intelligentsia of the independent press questioned the costs of the tour on “this poor country,” as the taxed riches of India flowed out.[6] The native press criticized exorbitant spending by the government and the princes if not directed toward “some permanent institution” as a monument to the visit.[7] They argued that fixing roads and bridges, draining dirty, bacteria-infested water, and performing other improvements, even if only within the prince’s eyesight, would be far more useful than fireworks. Beyond the “profuse distribution of empty titles,” the authors of Native Opinion wondered, “has the prince to do nothing in return for the millions that will be spent in his honor, except the giving of a few paltry presents?”[8]

The Indian press also attended to the treatment of the Indian princes. In spite having been “wronged, robbed, and degraded,” they argued, the South Asian princes remained loyal to the British Crown.[9] This was hardly Ornamentalism. In exchange for their loyalty, princely elites were treated with contempt and abuse. They were pushed and prodded by colonial officials during the royal tour (the Prince of Wales famously complained to his mother about the treatment of Indian princes by their British handlers). In the book, I examine the experiences of two young princes — the sickly Nizam of Hyderabad, who was excused from participation after extensive bullying from the British government in India, and the Maharaja Gaekwad of Baroda, whose predecessor had been sacked by the British government after he was accused of poisoning the British resident’s sherbet (As Laura Benton amusingly notes, “Reading [the resident’s] correspondence, one begins to suspect that there were others besides the Baroda ruler who took pleasure in imagining him dead”).

While protest and contestation were features of the Victorian royal tour, other responses were in fact more common. The most curious to the modern mind are claims on imperial belonging and citizenship. Of course, actual citizenship did not exist in the nineteenth-century empire. But the Indian press  challenged the mercantilist suppression of Indian industry; the “despotism” of British magistrates and the police; the inaction of the British government to widespread famine; and, the heavy burden of taxation.[10] During the tour, they challenged the costs and purposes of the events and defended the Indian princely elite, who they saw as victimized by the visit. Despite this contestation, they generally expressed a loyalty to the empire and a hope that the queen’s son would convey India’s plight to his great mother and to the British people. They did not challenge the empire but envisioned a better and most just future within it.

9780719097010Charles V. Reed is an Assistant Professor of History at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. He is also the managing editor of H-Empire. Royal Tourists, Colonial Subjects, and the Making of a British World, 1860-1911 was published by Manchester University Press in February; it is available from Oxford University Press in the Americas.


[1] Queen Victoria to Lord Salisbury, May 27, 1875, Prince of Wales in India, 1875-6, vol. 1, 1875, RA VIC/MAIN/Z/468/11.

[2] Reynolds’ Newspaper, July 11, 1875.

[3] Reynolds’s Newspaper, July 18, 1875.

[4] Native Opinion, August 29, 1875.

[5] Native Opinion, December 12, 1875.

[6] Hindu Hitoishiní (Decca), August 7, 1875, Report on Native Papers, no. 33 of 1875, 5; Som Prákash (Changripottah), August 9, 1875, no. 33 of 1875, 6; Sáptahik Samáchár (Ranaghat), Report on Native Papers, no. 33 of 1875, 7.

[7] Native Opinion, October 17, 1875; Hindu Ranjiká, August 18, 1875, Report on Native Papers, no. 35 of 1875, 1.

[8] Native Opinion, October 17, 1875.

[9] Native Opinion, October 17, 1875.

[10] These sentiments were most clearly articulated by the Calcutta-based Amrita Banar Patrika on the eve of the royal visit. Amrita Banar Patrika, August 5, 1875, Report on Native Papers, no. 33 of 1875, 4.


Library as Information Commons

In-house resources

ECSU G.R. Little Library

Wordcat aka UNC Library Express

Subject vs. keyword search

ECSU Archives

Interlibrary Loan

History databases

Journal finder


Online Collections and Databases

Digital NC

Documenting the American South

Going to the Show (Elizabeth City page)

Google Books

Google Scholar

North Carolina ECHO (NC digital archives aggregator)

North Carolina State Archives

Nines — nineteenth-century resources

Project Gutenberg


Research Tools and Coding Resources

CartoDB (maps)


Code Academy

Timeline Builder


Useful Websites

Center for History & New Media at George Mason University






Introduction to Historical Thinking

GE survey

Intro to Historical Thinking

Lunchrooom Fight

Evaluating Sources

Holocaust “Source”


Research Trails II


Research Trails 2 due electronically by Wednesday 18 September 2013.

a) Locating Books
Task (a): Using the WorldCat catalog, identify six (6) books that you think might be useful to your project. You may use books you located during your work on Research Trail I. For each:
1) Give the proper bibliographic citation for each (refer to Purdue OWL’s guide to Chicago Manual Style). Remember to correctly alphabetize the citations as you would a formal bibliography.
2) Find out whether each book is available at G.R. Little Library? Through another library in the University of North Carolina system? If G.R. Little owns it, is it available, or will you have to recall it? (You will have to use the ECSU Library catalog for this step.)
3) If it is not in the UNC system, find at least one library that possesses it, and explain how you would go about requesting it.
4) Check out what you can, and recall/request what is not immediately available.
5) For the books that you can check out: skim through two of them and explain in two or three sentences how they might be useful to your research. Remember that the most efficient way to assess the value of a book is to read through its introduction.

(b) Using Journal Articles
Scholarly journals are collections of articles and reviews regularly published by professional organizations and/or academic presses (for instance, The Journal of British Studies is published by the North American Conference on British Studies).

Journals you find in ECSU’s journal finder are considered “scholarly” journals. Their articles are written by scholars (usually, scholars have an academic affiliation e.g. Elizabeth City State University). Their articles have footnotes or endnotes. Popular magazines (e.g. Smithsonian or National Geographic) are not scholarly journals.

Task (b): Locate two (2) journal articles (you may use any articles you found during your work on Research Trail I) and, for each,
1) Give a correct bibliographic citation.
2) Skim each article, and explain in two or three sentences how it might be useful to your research.

c) Assessing Primary Sources
You should be working regularly in your project’s primary sources.

Task (c): Provide a description of the research you have done thus far: which primary sources have you looked at? Which have you determined to be useful? Why? You are expected to describe at least two (2) primary sources you have consulted.

d) Revising Your Research Questions

Task (d): Revisit your research questions from Research Trail I. Now, think about how your work in this research trail reshaped your research questions (maybe it hasn’t, but hopefully it has). Revise your questions based on your work in this research trail. Do you have any new questions? Do any of your questions now seem more or less important?

e) Reading Secondary Literature

Task (e): Using one (1) of the books or journal articles from above: read the introductions of the book and the article in its entirety. For each:

1) Briefly research the author and her/his background. What is his or her training? When did she or he write this article? What about their background and other work can help you make sense of their point-of-view?
2) Write a brief summary that includes the author’s main arguments, the types of sources the author uses, and how the author approaches her or his topic (in other words, how do she frame her arguments and her plan to prove them)?
3) How does this work either help you reframe or focus your research questions, or what about these works helped you decide that a different source might be better?


HIST 200 Library Lab / Research Trails 1

Lab in class on Wednesday 4 September 2013. Research Trails 1 due electronically by Wednesday 11 September 2013.

Selecting a topic and crafting research questions

Rationale, significance

Primary vs. secondary vs. tertiary source


Keyword vs. subject search

Identifying arguments/thesis statements

Research Trails 1

a) Topic

Task (a). Briefly describe your tentative topic (150-200 words). Remember that it can be very broad at this moment, but you will have to narrow (chronologically, geographically, and/or conceptually) as we moved toward the final project. Be sure to think aloud, as it were, about the different trajectories the project could take; what research questions you have in mind as of this moment; and why you find this topic to be compelling. Remember that it should relate (somehow!) to our theme of Colonial Encounters and the Making of the Modern World, 1550-1900.

b) Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, and Reference Materials

Reference books are useful for background material on most topics.  You are probably familiar with general knowledge encyclopedias, such as Encyclopedia Britannica or Wikipedia.  These are often useful for basic background information.  Specialist encyclopedias and dictionaries are more narrowly focused volumes with articles written by experts in their fields.  They often include brief bibliographies that can lead you to other books, articles, and archival collections. Some sample specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias are listed below to get you start; as you develop your topic, you may want to seek out others.

Visit the reference section at G.R. Little Library (on the second floor). You can search the ECSU reference collection by using the online library catalog and selecting “ECSU Reference Collection” as the collection. You will begin your research by looking for background information on your topic. Browse the indexes, and read a few articles. Look at their bibliographies. If you cannot find any articles on your specific topic, look for more general ones.

Task (b).  Locate two subject encyclopedias or dictionaries. Record their bibliographic information and call numbers. Look up one entry that you think might be relevant to your proposed topic in EACH encyclopedia/dictionary, and then summarize them.  You should have two summaries.     

Nicholas Canny, The Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic World, c.1450-c.1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). D210 .O94 2011

Peter C. Mancall, Envisioning America : English Plans for the Colonization of North America, 1580-1640 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995). E127 .E59 1995

Peter Ripley, The Black Abolitionist Papers (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985). E449 .B624 1985 248581

Adolphus Ward, The Cambridge History of British Foreign Policy (New York: Octagon Books, 1970). DA45 .W35 1970 V.1-3

Online: World History in Context; Dictionary of North Carolina Biography; Encyclopedia of North Carolina

c) Search Terms

Task (c):  Based on your reading in the specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias, come up with a minimum of seven (7) of keywords, subjects, or search terms for your project. Continue to update and revise them as you work through the other components of this activity. Crafting relevant and specific keywords will help you more easily locate the most useful sources for your project. Remember that searching is a process of trial and error. Broaden or narrow your focus. Look at library catalog entries for helpful examples. Familiarize yourself with how materials are categorized in different databases and catalogs. Start with our library catalog: , and experiment with subject and keyword searches (To see the difference, try to enter “Great Britain – emigration and immigration” as “subject starts with.” Then try a “keyword search” using “British” and “immigration”).

Example: If I was researching the British Cape Colony during the 19th century, I might try to enter terms such as: Cape Colony, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Town, South Africa, Xhosa, Zulu, Khoesan (Khoi, San), nineteenth century immigration, (Great) Britain, British Empire.

Try using proper nouns (people, places, etc.), periods/centuries, and themes.

Write down your seven search terms.  Draw on them for this next step and note which ones get you to useful sources and which do not.

d) Finding Sources

Task (d): Using the search terms you have developed, find one source relevant to your research project from each of the following catalogs/databases, and cite it using the correct bibliographic form (refer to Purdue OWL’s guide to Chicago Manual Style). One (1) of the sources must be a primary source (for a quick review of the difference between primary and secondary sources, refer to URL: Note the search term you used (and whether you were doing a keyword or subject search).  Also write down any search terms you used but did not find any relevant sources.  If you revised any of your searches and were successful, make a note of that.

Remember that sources (particularly secondary ones) that are not specifically on the subject of your research can still help you conceptualize and better understand your own topic. For example, books about colonial empires/encounters elsewhere might help you make sense of your subjects’ own encounter with empire.

Access History-specific databases available to ECSU students. Most resources are available off-campus using your ECSU email name and password.

Access ECSU’s useful LibGuide for historical research.

Access ECSU’s journal finder (search for American Historical Review).

Access ECSU’s Interlibrary Loan Request form. Also be aware that Distance Learning students can request that books be mailed to them using this form.

Locate a relevant source in each of the following databases:

1. ECSU G.R. Little Library Catalog (URL:

2. WorldCat/Library Express (URL:
Locate a book or resource that ECSU does not own. Note that books in the University of North Carolina system are readily available for lending. Other institutions are often willing to loan books and sometimes microfilm. Use the ILL form to request.

3. Academic Search Complete (Use History-specific databases)

4. ArchiveGrid (Use History-specific databases)

5. DigitalNC (Use History-specific databases)

6. Google Books (URL: or Google Scholar (URL:

7. (URL:

e. Crafting Research Questions

Task (e): Define three questions you hope to answer through your research. Try to be as specific and detailed as possible. Remember that the more precise your research questions are, the more manageable and well-crafted your paper will be. It is very early in the research process, and your questions very well may change!

Sample: How did the African-American educational experience in the 19th century compare to that of other “colonized” peoples (e.g. South Africa, New Zealand)? In what ways were the stakeholders, goals, and experiences similar and/or different? Is a comparison a useful one, or are the particular circumstances and contexts too different?

f) Primary Source

Task (f). Bring (a copy of) one textual primary source you found to class. It might be a a diary entry or letter from a published collection, a newspaper article, etc. E-mail me if you have trouble locating a relevant primary source. You should come to class prepared to discuss your primary source: how you would evaluate it as a historical source and how it might be useful to your research project.

Mastodon Mastodon