City resident Vijay Pinch will present an interesting talk tomorrow.
April 2 @ 6PM
Daniel Family Commons
Usdan University Center
All are welcome. Below is the notice from the Center for Humanities.
This paper examines the practice of "blowing men from cannon, a peculiarly British mode of battlefield punishment for indiscipline, insubordination, and mutiny in the "Bengal Army" (1764-1858).
As became gruesomely evident in 1857, "blowing from the guns" served as a didactic spectacle of violence during the suppression of the Sepoy Mutiny (a.k.a. Great Rebellion, a.k.a. First War of Indian Independence). As it turns out, there was considerable precedent for this. While the origins of the practice are obscure, what is not in doubt is the fact that it had become a oft-resorted to mode of battlefield punishment over the course of the previous seven decades, particularly for insubordinate troops—and particularly if those troops were Indian.
While the paper begins and ends in 1857, the main focus is on the first recorded use of the punishment in the Company Army in the late eighteenth century, during the prelude to the Battle of Buxar in 1764 (a conflict that cemented Company power in north India). Of particular note are the multiple first-hand accounts of Buxar and the evolution of the "Buxar narrative" as it becomes inscribed in institutional history (and myth) during the course of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
The historiographical shadow of Buxar plays an outsized role, I suggest, in the informal embrace of "blowing from cannon" by Company authorities in the nineteenth century, even as the practice is being increasingly described in British sources as "an old Mughal punishment."