Case Study

Julie Haldane’s Memoir on the Indian Uprising: An Accurate Interpretation?
Merna Tadross
Professor Jessica Clark
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Julie Haldane’s Memoir on the Indian Uprising: An Accurate Interpretation?
The Story of Our Escape from Delhi in 1857 is a memoir written by Julie Haldane in
1888 describing the obstacles Haldane’s family faced as they fled Delhi during the Indian
Uprising. Along their journey, Haldane’s family encountered different groups of Indians, as well
as other Europeans trying to escape. Interestingly, Haldane offers a first hand account of the
violence of the Uprising and the difficulties her family faced on their journey out of Delhi, even
though she was only a child in 1857. Haldane’s text demonstrates the relationship between
Indians and British settlers during the Uprising, as she often encounters different types of Indians
and states the difficulty they had determining whom to trust. In addition, there is a sense of
community between Europeans trying to escape, as Haldane describes them as relieved to see
each other and they help one another during this difficult time. Although her stepfather is a wellknown man amongst the British, her mother mediates the relationships with the Indians, as she
understands the language better. Her mother ultimately takes on a larger role in executing the
escape and protecting her family than the stepfather, who is perceived in British society as the
head of the family. Through analyzing the portrayal of Indians, British women, and Anglo-Indian
relationships, this paper will argue that Julie Haldane’s memoir is a clear depiction of New
Imperialism and the New Woman in the late nineteenth century. From a historical perspective, it
will be argued that her memoir can be useful to gain insight on the Indian Uprising that occurred
thirty years prior, but it is imperative to remember the bias of such ideas that influence Haldane’s
The British living in India in 1850 demonstrated the ideology of the white man’s burden,
as they thought it was their duty to guide the Indians on the path of spiritual wellbeing, industrial
success, and establish law and order in their country.1 Over the next seven years, the resentment
increased and led to the natives defying British rule during the 1857 Uprising. 2 The mutual
hatred of the British and the Indians stemmed from the British ideology of assimilating Indians
into proper behaviour while the Indians resented the belittling of their culture and history in their
own country. However, the foundation of the movement did not stem from resentment only, but
rather from the hope of Indians to construct their own future without the oppression of the British
Empire controlling their ways of life.3 Throughout her memoir, Haldane portrays the Indians as
untrustworthy savages who are unsympathetically murdering British people. She never mentions
the cause for the Uprising or whether she thinks the British imperial actions in India influenced
the commotion, but her depiction of the natives makes her opinion obvious.
At the beginning of her story about her family’s journey out of Delhi, Haldane refers to
her mother’s distrust of the Indians in their company stating that they must remove themselves
from “such an unreliable and treacherous support” because the men they were relying on were
simply waiting for the right time to kill them.4 Haldane reinforces this negative association of
Indians being mistrustful as she recalls a Brahmin man promising protection of her family and
her mother was reluctant to confide in him, with good reason since she heard his conversation
with other natives stating his plan to make them “sleep well”. 5 In addition, the Indians were not
merely portrayed as untrustworthy, but also as murderous, uncivilized beings that are not very
bright. Haldane explains a group of villagers named Jats who were known thieves and wanted to
kill them while not harming their carriage or horses, which they intended to keep. She
Heathorn, Lori Sunderman. "The Ladies of Lucknow and Others: Anglo-indian Life and Mutiny
Survival." Masters Abstracts International 41 (2003): 7, accessed March 12, 2016.
Heathorn, “The Ladies of Lucknow and Others”, 8.
Ibid., 227.
Haldane, Julie. The Story of Our Escape From Delhi in 1857. Empire Online, 1888, p. 8, accessed January
20, 2016.
Haldane, The Story of Our Escape From Delhi in 1857, p. 19.
emphasizes their lack of intelligence when she states that they could have simply cut the rein of
their carriage which would have made the horses stop and caused them to fall, yet they did not
think of doing so and their attempts were a failure.6 There was a strong aspect of othering in
Haldane’s memoir, as she distinctly states that the Indians were not their friends, which stands in
high contrast to her depictions of their interactions with other Britons feeling the mutiny.
Haldane often sates the number of Britons that were in their company, instilling a sense
of unity even with people they did not know very well. This is evident when she explains the
collective agreement to go to Mr. Murphy’s house where they “found some other friends... and
were now fourteen in number”.7 There was significant distinction between the ways in which she
discussed the British and the Indians; she describes some of the people in her company as brave
Englishmen who volunteered to get European troops from Meerut died on their course. In
addition, Haldane demonstrates the generosity and selflessness of the British when she describes
an encounter with some friends where Mr. Le Bas heard that her baby sister had nothing to eat
for around twenty eight hours, so he gave the baby some of the small piece of bread he had left.8
Near the end of her memoir, Haldane explains the English troops’ arrival from Umballa and how
the first time they had a sound sleep was when the soldiers were guarding their doors.9 Overall,
Haldane’s bias towards the Indians is prominent when she portrays them in her memoir in such
negative ways, in contrast to the British who she depicts as friendly, kind, trustworthy, and their
guardians. In this way, Haldane demonstrates aspects of British nationalism and superiority,
which can be linked to aspects of New Imperialism during the time she wrote her memoir.
Ibid., 13.
Ibid., 20.
Ibid., 23.
Haldane constantly instilled the sense of community between fellow Britons in her
writings. This is important to note as Haldane states in the beginning of her journal that she was
under a lot of pressure to write this testament of her experiences. Often times, her journal entry
sounds like propaganda, portraying the Indians as violent and untrustworthy and the Europeans
as heroes who lend a helping hand. Haldane also reinforces imperialistic ideologies, which was
present when her mother asked a native to send a man to help her and he refused; she told him
there would be consequences for refusing to follow orders. The man laughed and said that there
was no government now and no one to punish him. Haldane’s mother replied saying, “for a short
time they might do as they pleased, but for every European or Christian life they would pay back
ten fold and that if we were killed, our four lives would lie at his door and he would suffer for
them.”10 Thus, exploring the imperialistic views of the late nineteenth century, when her memoir
was written, is particularly noteworthy.
European imperialist attempts were heightened between 1880 to 1900 as each nation
toiled to assert their dominance through acquiring colonies around the globe. Such rivalry was
felt outside of Europe, however if they were to fail, a decline political aspiration would be most
prominent at home.11 Therefore, the correlation between national survival and imperial
expansion was undeniable; such was the context of New Imperialism. Public support from the
nation was considered important for New Imperialism, which resulted in pressure to strengthen
the nation’s control on the beliefs of the citizens. This derived from the fear that working class
citizens would not support the military and naval powers because of their expenses and result in
a weakened imperial status in this time of intensified European competition. It also originated
Haldane, The Story of Our Escape From Delhi in 1857, p. 20.
Darwin, John, "Nationalism and Imperialism, c.1880–1940" Oxford Handbooks Online.25 (2013): 3.
from problems in social and economic state building, which was of strong importance and
concern to the masses. 12
Increased education, literacy, public politics, entertainment, advertising, and print culture
made the increase of popular enthusiasm significantly more attainable.13 Due to this, New
Journalism naturally arose along with New Imperialism, as improved print culture relied on the
same technological advancements as industrialisation and communication that developed in the
nineteenth century.14 Newspapers presented new opportunities to the imperial aims of European
powers, where the government can advertise its aims and ideologies to a wider audience. The
media constantly printed stories that would be entertaining to the masses as they incorporate
tragedy, heroism, comradeship, and acts of selflessness, but most importantly, they would
promote feelings of collective identity and patriotism.15 Imperialistic notions became the
foundation of New Journalism by the end of the century, as battles that were far from home were
not too upsetting, but rather effectively generated support and nationalism.16
Similar to the print culture, the British women living in India, also known as memsahibs,
were also used as a form of propaganda as their reputation was transformed in the mid nineteenth
century. They symbolized empire and embodied all the good traits of England, and when the
Uprising occurred in 1857, they became the saviours and martyrs of the British Empire.17 The
memsahibs represented purity, Christianity, and were the symbol of British heroism. Historians
studied this transition of British women’s roles in India through the many journals that were
written by survivors of the Uprising, and Haldane’s memoir confirms such ideologies. Thus, the
Darwin, “Nationalism and Imperialism”, 10.
Potter, Simon "Jingoism, Public Opinion, And The New Imperialism."Media History 20 (2014): 34.
Potter, “Jingoism, Public Opinion, And The New Imperialism”, 34.
Ibid., 35.
Ibid., 69.
roles that women, specifically Haldane’s mother, take on in her memoir are going to be explored,
as they are a product of the new dogmas that arose in this period.
At the start of her account, Haldane describes her stepfather, Mr. Wagentreiber, preparing
to have a private meeting with one of the princes in Delhi, but the prince was going to come
veiled at night to keep his identity unknown. However, her mother would not let Mr.
Wagentreiber meet with him alone and insisted on sitting in on the conversation as an interpreter
so she could be near him in case unforeseen circumstances arose. She was suspicious that
something was going to happen and frequently mentioned it before the mutiny began.18 Thus,
Haldane’s mother was portrayed as an intuitive and assertive woman from the beginning. In
addition, Haldane redundantly states that her mother was guiding all their decisions that night
that they fled Delhi, and she was clearly knowledgeable as every choice was beneficial to their
mission. Haldane states, “My stepfather was guided entirely by her judgment, for he knew she
was better able to understand the natives, and he trusted her steady determined manner of dealing
with them.”19 Truly, her mother was the leader of their voyage.
This is again evident when they sought refuge at a house, her mother told Haldane and
her stepfather to take their child and hide at the top of the house while she stayed to keep an eye
on the native man in case he betrays them. Haldane’s mother did so because she understands the
native’s language well and would not let him out of her sight; she took on the role as the
guardian of the family.20 Furthermore, Haldane’s mother’s position of power also stemmed from
her gender, as a man who was helping them advised her to sit in the front of the carriage and put
Haldane, The Story of Our Escape From Delhi in 1857, p. 2.
Ibid., 8.
Ibid., 9.
her husband in the back, as the rebels are most angry with the men.21 Evidently, her mother’s
role is not traditional and embodies feminist ideologies about the New Woman of the late
nineteenth century.
In the mid nineteenth century, feminists were seen as a danger to the survival of the
British race as they defied traditional roles, which was problematic because women were the
reproducers of society. Due to this, suffragists near the end of the century transformed the New
Woman into a feminist woman who is also the mother of the national race. Feminists had to
assure males that they also had imperialist interests, in particular to the expansion of Empire, the
civilizing mission, and the continuation of the British race. The New Woman still demanded
education and the right to vote, but rather than it appearing to be for selfish purposes, it was in
order for women to be able to run the nation and empire for the benefit of the race.22 This
depiction was of significance to the notions of imperialism because the territories of the New
World were considered the last chance for the Empire, until the reinvention of the New Woman
emerged.23 Therefore, the ideologies of New Imperialism and the New Woman are intertwined.24
In addition, women were held to high standards as they were portrayed to be morally
superior to men. This was claimed to be because women are naturally more prone towards doing
the right thing and maintaining good rapports. Their position in the domestic sphere was also a
factor as it ensured they were not exposed to temptation and remained pure.25 The reconstructed
idea of the New Woman is essential in understanding the correlation between imperialism and
feminism at the end of the nineteenth century. It is noteworthy that the term “suffrage feminism”
Ibid., 19.
Devereux. “New Woman, New World,” 178.
Devereux, Cecily. "New Woman, New World. Maternal Feminism And The New Imperialism In The
White Settler Colonies." Women's Studies International Forum 22, (January 1, 1999): 175.
Beetham, Margaret. "The Reinvention of the English Domestic Woman: Class and “Race” in the 1890s’
Woman’s Magazine" Women's Studies International Forum 21 (1998): 228.
Beetham, “The Reinvention of the English Domestic Woman”, 226.
is interchangeably used with the term “imperial feminism”.26 It is evident the reconstruction of
the New Woman into the mother of the race, as well as and the transformation of the colonial
New World were motivated by imperial concepts of British supremacy.27
Correspondingly, such ideological transformations that occurred in the period that
Haldane wrote her memoir influenced her motives of writing it, as well as the content that she
reported. Her mother subverts traditional gender roles by taking control of the situation over her
stepfather, which depicts that ideas of the New Woman are informing Haldane’s account of
female bravery in the face of danger. This is portrayed when she describes natives attacking their
carriage while they tried to escape, throwing sticks, stones, and spears at them. Haldane states
that her mother was hit in her right arm with an iron club as she is driving the carriage, and
another time her leg that left a large bruise, yet she did not make a sound expressing her pain.28
Haldane also credits her mother with her family’s lives, as she explains that the attacks startled
the horses wild, but since her mother was an excellent driver and the horses were comfortable
with her, she regained control of the carriage and they managed to escape with their lives.
Overall, Haldane’s memoir has proven to be useful in understanding some of the events
that occurred during the Indian Uprising of 1857, but the bias of the new ideas that emerged in
the late nineteenth century certainly impacted her writings. Firstly, the majority of Haldane’s
account was praising her mother as she demonstrated the dominant role that her mother acquired,
specifically in comparison to her stepfather. The examples from the text that have been discussed
make it evident that feminist ideologies deriving from the New Woman were highly influencing
Haldane’s writing. Secondly, she suggests that her memoir is a first hand account of the violence
Devereux, "New Woman, New World", 177.
Ibid., 14.
of the Uprising, yet she was only a child during the events. Yes, Haldane’s text does demonstrate
the relationship between Indians and British settlers during the Uprising. However, the examples
of her encounters with the natives are more often than not embedded with notions of AngloSaxon hegemony, as she instills a sense of community between the British and depicts them as
selfless and brave next to barbaric and untrustworthy Indians. Thus leading to the final point; the
bias of New Imperialism in Haldane’s memoir. As previously discussed, with the heightened
competition in acquiring imperial holdings in the nineteenth century, public support from the
nation in British imperialism was imperative. The British powers utilized print culture as a form
of propaganda to achieve their imperial aims. Similarly to the stories that were release in the late
nineteenth century by newspapers, Haldane’s memoir also incorporated tragedy, depicted the
heroism, comradeship, and acts of selflessness of the British people, as well as promoting a sense
of collective identity and nationalism. Nonetheless, Haldane’s text can be a useful reference
when analyzing the Indian Uprising of 1857, but it is very much a product of its time that is
loaded with bias. It should be studied in combination with other historical sources that are not as
subjective to outside influence.
Beetham, Margaret. "The Reinvention of the English Domestic Woman: Class and “Race” in the
1890s’ Woman’s Magazine" Women's Studies International Forum 21, no. 3 (May 1998):
Darwin, John. "Nationalism and Imperialism, c.1880–1940." Oxford Handbooks Online.25
(May 2013): 1-22.
Devereux, Cecily. "New Woman, New World. Maternal Feminism And The New Imperialism In
The White Settler Colonies." Women's Studies International Forum 22, (January 1,
1999): 175-184.
Haldane, Julie. The Story of Our Escape From Delhi in 1857. S. Brown & Sons, 1888, p. 1-25.
Accessed January 20, 2016. Empire Online.
Heathorn, Lori Sunderman. "The Ladies of Lucknow and Others: Anglo-indian Life and Mutiny
Survival." Masters Abstracts International 41, no. 03 (June 2003): 211.
Potter, Simon J. "Jingoism, Public Opinion, And The New Imperialism."Media History 20, no. 1
(January 2014): 34-50.