Liberty & Co. Display, November 1885

01 Nov 1885
Event location: 

Albert Palace, Battersea Park, London


In November 1885, Arthur Lasenby Liberty, owner of Liberty & Co, a department store in London, brought forty-two villagers from India to stage a living village of Indian artisans. Liberty's specialized in Oriental goods, in particular imported Indian silks, and the aim of the display was to generate both publicity and sales for the store. However, it was a disaster commercially and publicly, with concern about the way the villagers were put on display.

Arthur Lasenby Liberty

Illustrated London News, November 1885

The Indian Mirror, January - April 1886

Secondary works: 

Mathur, Saloni, India by Design: Colonial History and Cultural Display (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007)

Tags for Making Britain: 

Colonial and Indian Exhibition, 1886

04 May 1886
Event location: 

South Kensington, London


In Autumn 1884, the Prince of Wales assumed the Presidency of the Royal Commission for the projected Colonial and Indian Exhibition. The Indian Court relied upon the assistance and involvement of the India Office in London and Indian Government, with work beginning in early 1885 to design the exhibition space and procure goods for display.

'India' took up roughly one third of the exhibition space in 1886. 103,000 square feet were dedicated within the exhibition buildings to India at a cost of £22,000. The Indian Government contributed £10,000 to this, with the rest of the money coming from the Royal Commission and various grants. Apart from the financial contributions needed, exhibits had to be procured, and in this the Indian princes and Indian states were intimately involved, donating a range of goods.

The Indian exhibits included art, architecture, economic goods, silks and anthropological studies. Art-wares were organized by Indian provinces - marking a break from previous exhibitions where displays had been ordered by juries on their rankings. The Indian Court was received well by the press and the Royal Family. The Gateways in particular attracted much attention. (The Jaipur Gate, paid for by the Maharaja of Jaipur, has stood in the grounds of the Hove Museum and Art Gallery since 1926.) The exhibition included a display of 'native artisans' - thirty-four men from Agra demonstrating various crafts and professions, from sweetmeat maker to potter to carpet weaver. These men were in fact inmates from Agra Jail who had arrived in Britain on 20 April 1886 with Dr J. W. Tyler, superintendent of Agra Jail. They were all invited to a reception at Windsor Castle to meet Queen Victoria in July 1886.

The exhibition was open for 164 days and welcomed 5,559,745 visitors.

Prince of Wales and Royal Commission
People involved: 

Mancherjee Merwanjee Bhownaggree (Commissioner for H. H. the Thakur Sahib of Bhawnagar), B. J. Bose (Administration Court), Edward C. Buck (Commissioner for the Government of India), Philip Cunliffe-Owen (Executive Commissioner), B. A. Gupta (Silk Culture and Bombay Art Ware Courts), E. B. Havell (part of Madras committee), T. N. Mukharji (in charge of the commercial enquiry office), C. Purdon Clarke (Honorary Architect), J. R. Royle (Official Agent for the Government of India), Thomas Wardle (arranged silk collection).

Published works: 

Colonial and Indian Exhibition, 1886. Empire of India: Special Catalogue of Exhibits by the Government of India and Private Exhibitors (London: William Clowes & Sons., 1886)

Report of the Royal Commission for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition (London: William Clowes & Sons, 1887)

Royle, J. R., Report on the Indian Section of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition 1886 (London: William Clowes & Sons, 1887)



The Colonial and Indian Exhibition 1886: Supplement to the Art Journal (1886) 

Pall Mall Gazette, 4 May 1886

Illustrated London News, 17 July 1886 and 24 July 1886

Primrose Record 2, 1886

Various reports in the daily press including illustrations in the Graphic and the Penny Illustrated Paper

Cundall, Frank, Reminiscences of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition, illustrated by Thomas Riley (London: William Clowes & Sons, 1886)

E. V. B., A London Sparrow at the Colinderies (London: Sampson Low, 1887)

Mukharji, T. N., A Visit to Europe (Calcutta: W. Newman, 1889)

Secondary works: 

Barringer, Tim and Flynn, Tom, Colonialism and the Object: Empire, Material Culture, and the Museum (London: Routledge, 1998)

Burton, Antoinette, 'Making a Spectacle of Empire: Indian Travellers in Fin-de-siecle London', History Workshop Journal, 42 (1996), pp. 127-46

Dutta, Arindam, 'The Politics of Display: India 1886 and 1986', Journal of Arts and Ideas 30-1 (1997), pp. 115-45

Greenhalgh, Paul, Ephemeral Vistas: The Expositions Universelles, Great Exhibitions and World's Fairs, 1851-1939 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988) 

Hoffenberg, Peter H., An Empire on Display: English, Indian, and Australian Exhibitions from the Crystal Palace to the Great War (London: University of California Press, 2001)

King, Brenda M., Silk and Empire (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005)

Mathur, Saloni, India by Design: Colonial History and Cultural Display (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007)

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