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Photo Essay: British India


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George Curzon, Viceroy of India
Photo of George Curzon, former Viceroy of India

George Curzon, Baron of Kedleston and Viceroy of India. This photo dates to after his time in India, c. 1910-1915

Bain News / Library of Congress Prints and Photos Collection

George Curzon, Baron of Kedleston, served as the British Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905. Curzon was a polarizing figure - people either loved or hated him. He traveled extensively throughout Asia, and was an expert on the Great Game, Britain's competition with Russia for influence in Central Asia.

Curzon's arrival in India coincided with the Indian Famine of 1899-1900, in which at least 6 million people died. The total death toll may have been as high as 9 million. As viceroy, Curzon was concerned that the people of India might become dependent on charity if he allowed them too much aid, so he was not over-generous in helping the starving.

Lord Curzon also oversaw the Partition of Bengal in 1905, which proved wildly unpopular. For administrative purposes, the viceroy separated the primarily-Hindu western section of Bengal from the mainly-Muslim east. Indians protested vociferously against this "divide and rule" tactic, and the partition was repealed in 1911.

In a much more successful move, Curzon also funded the restoration of the Taj Mahal, which was finished in 1908. The Taj, constructed for the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, had fallen into disrepair under British rule.

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