What are you looking for?

Erica L Wald

Erica L Wald

NIAS fellow

Project title

Everyday Empire: Social Life Spare Time and Rule in Colonial India

Research question

How did practices and understandings of ‘leisure’ and spare time shape colonial rule and understandings of India? How did shared leisure and segregated activities influence colonial rule?

Project description

Over the course of the long nineteenth century, spare time and leisure in colonial India was radically transformed, reflecting both political and social trends.

In the late eighteenth century, European officers frequently attended the nautch performances held in the ornate Calcutta homes of the Indian elite or played Holi with their sepoy troops. However, by the early decades of the twentieth century, these shared activities had been almost completely replaced by ones which were more strictly segregated, whether visits to the European playhouse or a hunt picnic organised by the tent club.

Erica Wald explores the ways in which leisure was central to empire – from informing understandings of India, to connecting its colonial servants. She suggests that a clearer understanding of the unofficial, everyday activities of those involved in the functioning of the empire is invaluable in developing our understanding of its operation.

Selected publications

  • ‘Reading Social Spaces: the Life of the Bombay Theatre, 1770-1843,’ in Prashant Kidambi, Manjiri Kamat and Rachel Dwyer (eds.), Bombay Before Mumbai: Essays in Honour of Jim Masselos (London: Hurst, 2019 and Delhi: Penguin, 2019)
  • ‘Governing the Bottle: Alcohol, Race and Class in Nineteenth-Century India,’ The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History (2018)
  • Vice in the Barracks: Medicine, the Military and the Making of Colonial India, 1780-1868 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)