|The research assesses the acquisition, use, meaning and circulation of personal possessions by propertied Britons in India, c. 1780-1850. Quantitative data from wills and a unique collection of inventories was collected to underpin qualitative analysis of changing consumer preferences within the Anglo-Indian community, and the social and familial functions of British consumer behaviour in a cross-cultural and colonial context. The research addressed key historiographical debates such as the impact of the colonial encounter upon consumption and the development of a consumer culture; the interaction of race, class and legitimacy in the formation of British identities in India; and the shift from Orientalism to Anglicisation among the Anglo-Indian community. Wills were studied to establish the typical patterns of bequests among the European population on the subcontinent, focussing especially upon the treatment of illegitimacy and concubinage, and the treatment of servants and slaves. Inventories yielded information about the rich material culture of British India, with a range of consumer goods, from enemas to telescopes, being recorded; where possible, information was also taken upon the purchasers of these items. Particularly valuable is the database's information on book ownership and exchange, an area of historical enquiry bedevilled by limited source information.
The resource consists of a database, made up of 17 tables, recording information taken from the wills and inventories: decedent details; possession of a variety of items (including books, hygiene items, and clothing); details of purchasers for these items; bequest details from wills, including both detailed information on the recipients of individual bequests and a more general coding of the bequest-pattern adopted by the decedent, and information on the treatment of slaves and servants within the wills. A user guide giving information as to the structure of the database and the decisions made about recording information in the database is also provided. A map giving geographical information as to the extent of the three Presidencies that produced the records used in this sample may be found at http://www.bl.uk/collections/oiocfamilyhistory/familyindiamap.html
[Viewed on 24/11/2005]