Indian Soldiers in World War I: Race and Representation in an Imperial War [Jarboe]

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More than one million Indian soldiers were deployed during World War I, serving in the Indian Army as part of Britain’s imperial war effort. These men fought in France and Belgium, Egypt and East Africa, and Gallipoli, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. 

In Indian Soldiers in World War I Andrew T. Jarboe  follows these Indian soldiers—or sepoys—across the battlefields, examining the contested representations British and Indian audiences drew from the soldiers’ wartime experiences and the impacts these representations had on the British Empire’s racial politics. Presenting overlooked or forgotten connections, Jarboe argues that Indian soldiers’ presence on battlefields across three continents contributed decisively to the British Empire’s final victory in the war. While the war and Indian soldiers’ involvement led to a hardening of the British Empire’s prewar racist ideologies and governing policies, the battlefield contributions of Indian soldiers fueled Indian national aspirations and calls for racial equality. When Indian soldiers participated in the brutal suppression of anti-government demonstrations in India at war’s end, they set the stage for the eventual end of British rule in South Asia.