The Durbars were occasions marking the formal coronations of English monarchs as empress and emperors of India: Victoria in 1877, Edward VII in 1903 and George V in 1911. Instituted by the Viceroys of India-Lytton, Curzon and Hardinge-the Durbars were the first examples of the inscription of the Raj in a celebratory history that served to legitimate colonial presence. Lasting several weeks, each lavish occasion was imaged and described in photographs (cartes-de-visite as well as private, popular and commissioned photos), paintings, press illustrations, illustrated souvenirs, memoirs, photo albums and films.
The book focuses on photographs made for those who attended the Delhi Durbars and for a global audience who did not attend. It features vital photographs that were commissioned from the foremost British and Indian photographers such as Raja Deen Dayal & Sons, Vernon &Co., and Bourne & Shepherd, as well as those shot by amateur photographers.
The essays in this volume focus on semiotics of image and the role of Durbar photographs in visually rendering the complexities of colonial logic, the scopic regimes of surveillance and spectacle, and the pivotal ideologies and hyperbolic fantasies of a subjugated ‘Orient’ promoted by the imperial administrations to justify British rule in India.