David Motadel

Berlin to Bombay

Age of Entanglement: German and Indian Intellectuals Across Empire


Harvard University Press 454pp £36.95 order from our bookshop

On 14 December 1910, at the height of British imperial power, the German crown prince, Friedrich Wilhelm, and his entourage entered colonial Bombay, where they were welcomed with great pomp by British officials. The prince, who was the Kaiser’s eldest son and a great-grandson of Queen Victoria, was on a tour of the Raj that also took him to Delhi, Hyderabad, Agra and Calcutta. On the surface, the journey was an ordinary imperial visit, involving military displays, tiger and leopard hunts and an extravagant cruise on the Ganges. For most contemporary observers, however, it was much more than that; for many Indians it was, above all, a German–Indian encounter, one that undermined imperial rule. Throughout the tour, the Prussian prince made a display of the achievements of German science, technology and intellectual power. At the great International Exhibition at Allahabad, he drove around in the latest Siemens automobile, which was awarded the prize for industrial elegance. Wherever he went, the Indian intellectual elite paid homage to German scholarship and scientific innovation. Bestowing upon the crown prince an honorary doctorate, the nationalist vice-chancellor of the University of Calcutta, Asutosh Mukherjee, described in his convocation address the visit as an encounter beyond empire, reminding his audience that his university sought relations with the non-British world. British imperial officials were furious.

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