Modern Asian Studies

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Modern Asian Studies (2010), 44:1115-1145 Cambridge University Press
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

Research Article

The Transportation of Narain Sing: Punishment, Honour and Identity from the Anglo–Sikh Wars to the Great Revolt1


a1 Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, Coventry CV 4 7AL, UK Email:
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anderson c [Google Scholar]


This paper examines fragments from the life of Narain Sing as a means of exploring punishment, labour, society and social transformation in the aftermath of the Anglo–Sikh Wars (1845–1846, 1848–1849). Narain Sing was a famous military general who the British convicted of treason and sentenced to transportation overseas after the annexation of the Panjab in 1849. He was shipped as a convict to one of the East India Company's penal settlements in Burma where, in 1861, he was appointed head police constable of Moulmein. Narain Sing's experiences of military service, conviction, transportation and penal work give us a unique insight into questions of loyalty, treachery, honour, masculinity and status. When his life history is placed within the broader context of continuing agitation against the expansion of British authority in the Panjab, we also glimpse something of the changing nature of identity and the development of Anglo–Sikh relations more broadly between the wars of the 1840s and the Great Indian Revolt of 1857–1858.

(Online publication December 23 2009)


1 I carried out the research for this paper as Sackler–Caird Senior Research Fellow at the National Maritime Museum. I would like to thank the Museum for its support of my work, and staff at the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections (APAC) of the British Library; Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge (CSAS); and Tamil Nadu State Archives, Chennai (TNSA).