Edges of Empire

KNW 2399: Edges of Empire

Indian Men Hard at Work Taking a Break


This photograph was taken in Bombay during the mid 1800s by William Johnson and William Henderson. It is an interesting shot that displays several men that seem to be taking a break from hard manual labor. These men seem to be in the cotton picking, gathering, weighing business which would make sense as India happened to be the world leader in cotton trade and production. I believe that this picture is attempting to represent India as the top producer of cotton, yet they don’t necessarily reap all of the benefits though they ultimately are completing most of the hard work. The British colonized India and made financial gains of the Indian’s cotton prowess and this picture represents hard working laborers whom probably deserve a lot of that financial gain that the British were wrongfully taking. Taxation, violence, judgment, etc. were all apart of the nasty traits that the British thrust upon India throughout their colonization and though we don’t see any of this directly in this photograph it can inevitably be implied that these men see much of this mistreatment every day. My main question that I gathered from this photograph is – were these men mistreated by the British? Were they under British supervision? Was this staged by the East India Company or is this picture a real depiction of the working labor force in India at the time?Teddy Richardson

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