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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: August 2014



The image of a European man and a native woman living in familial harmony has long been an enduring vision of colonial societies. In early colonial British India, creolization, conjugality, and cooperation between men and women of different cultural backgrounds created the image of a golden age in which racial hierarchies and boundaries were unimportant. By many accounts, the ideal eighteenth-century East India Company man was one who learned local languages, participated in native customs, such as hooka-smoking, and lived intimately and had a family with a local woman. A collaborative Raj was phased out by a coercive Raj, and native female companions were replaced by the influx of white women from Europe. By 1857, when Indian soldiers rose up against their British masters and gave Britons cause to establish more rigid racial hierarchies, an age of many kinds of partnership between Britons and those they ruled on the Indian subcontinent came to an abrupt end.

Sex and the Family in Colonial India goes beyond this conventional narrative about the progressive racializing of British colonialism on the Indian subcontinent to closely examine the familial dynamics of interracial sexual contact for native women and European men who participated in these relationships. Comprised of European fathers, indigenous mothers, and their mixed-race children, such colonial families formed a constitutive part of Anglo-Indian colonial society in its formative years, endangering the whiteness of British rule, and potentially undermining its political authority.