Centre for Research and Enterprise in Art, Design and Media

Interiors of Empire: objects, space and identity within the Indian Subcontinent, c. 1800-1947 |

Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York 2007

Edited by Alison Welsby

Interiors R Jones

In this book I describe and explain the development of colonial domesticity. It discusses the place of domestic objects and interiors in the affirmation of national and cultural identity, both British and local, within the Indian subcontinent during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The work challenges recent accounts of the role of colonial domestic space by contrasting representations of that space within contemporary discourse with analysis of historical evidence, the varying ways in which such space was used and the social practices there engendered. The book uses the methods of design history and material culture studies to problematize the analysis of the domestic and public spaces of the British and local middle class during the heyday of the Raj. It assesses the role of domestic objects and space in the evocation of sense memories of the homeland and as materializations of human behaviour. Through a detailed discussion of texts, spaces, objects and practices, the domestic interiors and public spaces of empire are incorporated into the history of British colonization of India: such spaces are discussed as influential, but hitherto neglected, zones where colonial culture was produced.

Furnished in English style’: Anglicization of local elite domestic interiors in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), c. 1850-1910’

Published by the Society for South Asian Studies (20), British Academy, London 2004

Edited by Adam Hardy

ISSN 0266 6030

Robin Jones English Style

In this article I analyse the gradual adoption that took place during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, of Western furniture by members of the local elite in Ceylon. I use a design history approach to assess the cultural assimilation of Western consumer goods, especially furnishings, into the lifestyles of the local middle class. Evidence of the adoption of Western clothes and styles of building has been described in the secondary literature. However, non-documentary or material evidence for the cultural transformation of this elite, especially in the form of furnishings, has only received passing mention in the literature. The article addresses this neglect and discusses the place of Western-style furniture in the cultural transformation of a colonial society. It focuses on an important site for this transformation, namely the Ceylonese domestic interior and the furnishing of that space as a location that engendered and supported the production of Western lifestyles on the island. 

'Furniture of plain but substantial kind' at the British governors’ houses in Ceylon, c. 1830-60,

Published by The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture, New York, 2003

Edited by Sarah B. Sherrill

ISSN 1069 8825

Robin Jones Apollo

The article builds on earlier doctoral research using unpublished correspondence from the British Colonial Office, contemporary accounts, photographs and plans of buildings, to interpret Ceylonese furniture of the nineteenth century. It offers an analysis of the furnishing of the British governors' official houses on the island from 1830 to 1860, which makes it possible to set the documented furniture within the colonial society that commissioned, manufactured and used it. The article also discusses such furniture as reflecting the British government's conflicting needs: to support a Western lifestyle and patterns of socialization and to spend money on display and ritual, but also to exercise financial restraint, revealing what may be termed the economics of symbolism. This article contributes to the secondary literature by exploring a number of themes in relation to colonial material culture and design including: pertinent British cultural practices brought to Asia including those of display and ritual; local furnishings as expressions of the longstanding notion of Ceylon (and Asia more generally) as a storehouse of natural riches; British reproduction of the lifestyles of home within a colonial context. 

Introductory essay 'Ceylon (Sri Lanka)' and catalogue entries for Ceylonese furniture in Furniture from British India and Ceylon: Catalogue of the collections in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum

Author - Amin Jaffer

V & A Publications, London 2001

ISBN 1 85 177 3185

Furniture British India Ceylon Jones

The catalogue presents and discusses the two most significant public collections of Anglo-Indian furniture in the world. In my introductory essay on Ceylonese furniture, based on doctoral research, I describe and explain the principal centres of Western-style furniture production in Ceylon, the impact of Western colonization on the material culture of the island, techniques of production, the cultural context in which local furniture makers operated, sources of design and incorporation of local decorative devices into surface decoration. The consumption of furniture is also discussed, including the various ways in which it could be acquired by both the British and local elites. The catalogue entries for Ceylonese furniture and related objects, use documentary evidence from primary sources to situate each item of furniture within its cultural context. This is the most extensively researched catalogue that is currently available on this subject. The entries provide definitive assessments of Ceylonese furniture in the V & A Museum, London and the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Massachusetts, the two major collections of such furniture in existence.