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Title: Writing indigenous women's lives in the Bay of Bengal : Cultures of Empire in the Andaman Islands, 1789-1906
Authors: Anderson, Clare
First Published: 1-Dec-2011
Publisher: Oxford University Press (OUP)
Citation: Journal of Social History, 2011, 45 (2), pp. 480-496
Abstract: This article centers on the lives of two indigenous women of the Andaman Islands, both of whom were known by the British as “Topsy.” The East India Company established a settlement in the Andamans archipelago in the Bay of Bengal in 1789, but abandoned it within a decade in the face of devastating rates of disease. The British were more successful in 1858, when they settled the Islands as a penal colony for rebels and mutineers convicted during the great Indian revolt of 1857. At the time, there were four main population clusters of islanders, totaling around 6500 souls, and they had a reputation as fierce cannibals (which they were not.) In the years before the Indian revolt, islanders had made a series of attacks on shipwrecked or distressed vessels, and the British became concerned with their “pacification,” and the protection of trade routes. In this context, the revolt was the catalyst for rather than the initial spur to colonization. During the early 1860s, a woman who the British called “Topsy” became an important cultural intermediary in the Andamans, moving with great skill between the penal colony and the Islands' indigenous peoples. She was even taken on a tour of Calcutta. I will use the few traces of Topsy's life that have been left in the archives to suggest the importance of taking an indigenous, and Writing Indigenous Women's Lives in the Bay of Bengal. [Taken from Introduction]
DOI Link: 10.1093/jsh/shr054
ISSN: 0022-4529
eISSN: 1527-1897
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. Deposited with reference to the publisher’s archiving policy available on the SHERPA/RoMEO website.
Description: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Social History following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Journal of Social History, 2011, 45 (2), pp. 480-496 is available online at:
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, School of Historical Studies

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