Portrait of Emily Eden by Simon Jacques Rochard 1835 NPG 6495
In 1835 Emily Eden traveled to India. Arriving in 1836, she served as companion to her brother, the Governor General, for six years. As she toured the country, Eden wrote hundreds of letters home to family and friends in England. Filled with descriptions of palaces and princes, Eden’s letters also contain insights into her assumptions about, and attitudes towards, the Indian people.
Eden’s attitudes towards race are complex. As an aristocrat, and part of the British Empire’s colonizing force, Eden’s letters express the expected cultural attitudes of someone of her social standing concerning race and class. While Eden regarded Indians of rank with respect, Indians with no social standing did not warrant any consideration. However, the more time Eden spent travelling in India, the more her letters reveal a gradual shift in perceptions.
This mapping project focuses on how the physical act of travel influenced Eden’s relationship with the Indian people. By connecting her letters to where and when they were written on her journey, a picture of how Eden’s attitude towards Indian people evolved becomes clear.