At Ease, Soldier: Social Life in the Cantonment

Wald, Erica. 2017. At Ease, Soldier: Social Life in the Cantonment. In: Kaushik Roy and Gavin Rand, eds. Culture, Conflict and the Military in Colonial South Asia. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 85-103. ISBN 9781138206724 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

While European solders were seen to be essential to maintaining Company rule in India, much of their time was spent within the fixed boundaries of a cantonment. The heat of the Indian summer dictated a daily routine for Europeans that meant that most of their time was spent indoors, as commanding officers and surgeons sought to avoid any unnecessary exposure to anything that might sap their energies. This shifted many of the physical demands of the army to the shoulders of Indian soldiers, with European troops ‘reserved’ for certain operations. How then, did the European rank-and-file spend these many ‘leisure’ hours? For much of the century, the Company and Crown only supported a very limited number of social outlets for the European soldier - those which were believed to reflect the men’s class and character. But what of other activities which emerged in stations with ‘forward-thinking’ commanding officers? This chapter illustrates how, for much of the century, those commanding officers who supported facilities such as soldier’s libraries and coffee shops were in the minority, standing against those who believed that such activities were not only unnecessary, but disruptive to good discipline. This chapter suggests the ways in which official understanding of the European troops was reflected in the activities that were sanctioned for them.

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25 August 2017Published

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13 Dec 2017 16:29

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01 Dec 2020 16:33


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