by mattpThe East India Company at Home: Domestic Interiors, Public Histories and Material Cultures Margot Finn (University College London) Franco-British History seminar 28 February 2013
Abstract: The East India Company at Home, Domestic Interiors, Public Histories & Material Cultures’ discusses the context and preliminary findings of a 3-year collaborative research project based in the History Department at University College London. In recent decades, the Georgian country house has featured in films, television, tourism and history as an icon of ‘Englishness’ (and, to a lesser extent, of Scottish, Welsh and British identities). This project contrasts this narrowly national representation of the Georgian country house to the increasingly ‘global’ forces that shaped country house construction, purchasing and furnishing in the Georgian era. Its focus is on both ‘Oriental’ luxury objects and the significance of the country home and its furnishings for the families of the English East India Company. How did the aspiration for an ‘English’ home sustain Company men’s participation in colonialism in India? How (and why) were Indian fortunes domesticated through the purchase of country houses in Britain? What role did Chinese, Indian and Japanese luxuries play in building effective country houses? Addressing these issues has involved the East India Company at Home team in new forms of collaboration, new forms of public history, aimed at illuminating the global underpinnings of British national identities.