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Beyond the Frame highlights the many ways in which South Asians have contributed and influenced Britain's cultural, economic, political and social life, from 1858 to 1950

Beyond the Frame: Indian British Connections follows on from the major 3-year AHRC-funded cross-institutional interdisciplinary research project ‘Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Abroad’ (2007-2010). The project extends the public reach and international impact of ‘Making Britain’.

Drawing on the proven success of the UK exhibition (2010-12), this follow-on project has delivered a diverse range of new activities to generate further dissemination of Making Britain’s findings in India and Britain. A revised and expanded exhibition ‘Beyond the Frame: India in Britain, 1858-1950’ for Indian audiences swivelled the lens to focus on India in Britain. This expanded exhibition was supported by a dedicated educational online web-space, developed concurrently on the award-winning British Library Learning website. Highlighting significant sites of Asian-British engagement, these resources focus on literature, arts and culture, intellectual life, sports and leisure, the World Wars, politics and activism. This collaborative follow-on project further highlights South Asian participation in intellectual and literary networks, art movements, and activist groupings during this under-explored period of Britain’s multicultural history. The profiling of this layered history, spanning almost ten decades from Queen Victoria’s 1858 Proclamation to the better-known era of migration post-World War II, underlines the lateral, transverse and often hidden traces of encounter which took place on British soil and their wider relevance in India and Britain which resonates to this day.

Featuring rich visual evidence as a powerful conduit to provoke dialogue on a history that has largely existed outside orthodox frames, we highlight new pathways to examine India’s role within Britain (rather than Britain’s well documented imperial influence in India). This expanded exhibition for audiences in India has traced a transverse lineage of Indian-British interactions across divisions of race, class and gender to draw public attention to the complex realities of both countries’ intertwined histories. The impact of the 12-panel display was enhanced further by a free catalogue, talks, workshops and learning materials. These activities have directed attention to the depth of research underpinning the project and the many stories of political, social and cultural consequence that Making Britain uncovered.

By its focus on specific Indian-British interactions which illustrate how these early South Asians shaped Britain’s cultural, political and economic life, Beyond the Frame complicates and adds graphic depth to contemporary understandings of ‘diaspora’ and ‘migration’

The research team has established professional affiliations with the British Council (India), British Museum, National Archives of India, RCUK (India), Southbank Centre (London) and Victoria and Albert Museum. The project also links a large network of internationally distinguished scholars, educationalists and curators, bringing new perspectives and insights to this material. For more on our established links, see Collaborations. Our aim is to fill a major gap in public knowledge of the significant contribution this population made to the formation of the UK’s long multicultural history and the makings of present-day post-colonial India and Britain.

Key Objectives

  • To maximise public impact and legacy through a 7-city tour of a reconceived and expanded collaborative British Library/British Museum/Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition to India, enhancing outreach and Knowledge Transfer/international partnerships.
  • To add value by widening public access to the cultural history of South Asian Britain, 1858-1950.
  • Develop strategic and innovative knowledge exchange partnerships in India (Research Council UK (India Office), British Council in India, National Archives of India) and Britain (OU, British Library, British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, Southbank Centre, Asia House).
  • Through creative development of learning materials in print (teacher’s packs/worksheets) and online (award-winning British Library ‘Timelines’ & ‘Asians in Britain’ Learning website), it will respond to education sector demand for accessible teaching aids, potentially influencing the future direction of the history curriculum in Britain and India.
  • The impact will be further extended among non-academic audiences through the compilation of Asian Britain: A Photograph History (Susheila Nasta with Florian Stadtler), published by the Westbourne Press in partnership with Getty Images and the British Library, linking visual sources from Indian and British archives.

The project has opened up new interpretative frames, and continues to generate on going international platforms for interdisciplinary dialogue and debate between Britain and India across academic/non-academic audiences. Through a wide variety of public engagement activities designed to enhance access to South Asian cultural, intellectual and political history in Britain, the project continues its mission to highlight vital historic antecedents which remain crucially relevant to present-day relations between and within both countries.

Beyond the Frame: Indian British Connections was funded by the AHRC (2011-12)

Arts & Humanities Research Council
The British Library
British Council

Lascar photo

Head Lascar posing on the deck of the SS Strathnaver c. 1920.

© British Library Board [Photo 472/25(110)]

Dadabhai Naoroji plaque, Finsbury

Plaque on Finsbury Town Hall commemorating Dadabhai Naoroji

Tea Advert

Advertisement for the tea company Lipton. Illustrated London News (1892).

© British Library Board [P.P.7611.]

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Arts Making Britain