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The Image Of The “Te-rain” in Rudyard Kipling's "Kim"

Hausarbeit 2005 8 Seiten

Geschichte Europa - Deutschland - 1848, Kaiserreich, Imperialismus



1. Introduction

2. A short overview of the history of the Indian Railway in the 19th century

3. Railways as a symbol of the British Imperialism

4. The “te-rain” as a location in Kipling‟s novel

5. The meaning of the train in the author‟s view of colonial India (Conclusion)

1. Introduction

There is no other institution in Rudyard Kipling‟s Kim, which has a comparable importance for the description of India than the railway. It serves not only as a location for the plot, but as a symbol for the power and the progress of the British Empire in India. On the following pages these roles of the “te-rain” will become investigated: After a view on the history of the railway in colonial India, its importance for the story and as a metaphor of the colonial Empire will be discussed. The conclusion will deal with the question how Kipling‟s introduction of the train in his novel fits together with his interpretation of Empire.

2. A short overview on the history of the Indian Railway in the 19th century

After the Mutiny of 1857/58, the economy of British-India was ruled in a typical imperial way: The British government controlled the economic development of India to gain raw materials (especially cotton and tea) for the home country, process them and sale the products on the colonial markets. In the eyes of the imperialists there no need to build up industries in India, which may become a competition to the factories in England. To improve the transport of raw materials out of the country it was necessary to found a railway system. The first railways had been built in 1849, under the rule of Marquess Dalhousie in the times of the British East India Company. The length of the tracks increased rapidly – India became possessor of the greatest railway system in Asia. After the Mutiny, in 1869, were already 4.000 miles of track in operation. It had been private engagement that made these advances possible, but the government guaranteed rates of investment interest about five percent, to help the private companies to raise the money for their investments.[1] As a quid pro quo the governmental help, the private companies agreed to transport British troops and mail for free and gave the government the right to control expenditure and operation. In 1870s the colonial government started to build its own railways in India, but gave up this project after it founded a more effective system of guarantee in 1880. Michael Edwardes rates the efficiency of the semi-private venture: “The mixture of state and private enterprise worked tolerably well, but it had major disadvantages, particularly in matters of control.”[2] The railways had a huge impact on the flow of trade. It also accelerated the decline of Indian production, the export of raw materials and the import of goods into the whole country. Until the end of the century the overseas trade had increased to five times to the time before the Mutiny.


[1] EDWARDES, MICHAEL: British India. 1772-1947. A survey of the nature and effects of alien rule. New York 1968, p. 223.

[2] See EDWARDES, MICHAEL (1968), p. 223.



Titel: The Image Of The “Te-rain” in Rudyard Kipling's "Kim"