The 'Second City of the Empire'?: A comparative study of public museum cultures in Glasgow and Calcutta c. 1858-1901

Murtezaoglu, Lydia Havva (2021) The 'Second City of the Empire'?: A comparative study of public museum cultures in Glasgow and Calcutta c. 1858-1901. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


This thesis studies the meaning of the term ‘second city of the Empire’ in the nineteenth century British Empire. London may have been the unchallenged first city of the Empire, but the question of which urban centre constituted the Empire’s second city was regularly and variously disputed by contemporaries, though importantly not, by historians. At a time of substantial urban expansion during the high point of British imperial power, Birmingham, Bombay, Calcutta, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, and Sydney were all, in a myriad of ways, said to be the ‘second city of the Empire.’ Whilst a study that draws together all the vying cities is long overdue, this thesis begins this extensive task and sets two of the most proponent claimants – Glasgow and Calcutta – as its protagonists. One was the colonial capital of India, the other a Scottish-British industrial and provincial city. Identical claims by such radically different cities pose questions about how major imperial cities related to each other, as well as how differences between them were articulated. These cities offer hugely different models for what exactly contemporaries understood the ‘second city of the Empire’ to be. Using newspapers, political debates, travelogues and travel guides, this thesis identifies four key attributes of second city status, namely: a substantial population, a significant administrative profile, a full spectrum economy and a noteworthy civic culture, which included an important public museum. All require further investigation, but the focus of this thesis is the understudied function of the public museum within the imperial network.

By charting the establishment and development of Calcutta’s Imperial Museum and Glasgow’s City Industrial Museum over the second half of the nineteenth-century, this thesis argues that public collections, and the buildings that housed them, were intimately and variously connected to their respective cities’ aspirations for civic and imperial status. In this context, cultural dynamics of civic confidence and defensiveness were integral to the emerging museums sector. Museums were key to negotiating the imperial space, in ways that were shaped by second city rhetoric, and, in return, shaped it. Moreover, relationships between imperial, national and provincial museums, all emergent during this period, reveal fresh perspectives on the competitive and collaborative nature of Empire. Scholars have tended to overlook the complexities underlying the concept of the ‘second city of the Empire’ and its implications for urban centres, instead just accepting the title as given. Whilst acknowledging that it is a rhetorical concept, this thesis argues that asserting and competing for such an elusive title provided very real motivation to create changes in individual cities. The dialectical engagement between imperial rhetoric and the history of museums raises further questions relevant to current efforts to decolonise museums, both in Britain and India.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Glasgow, Calcutta, Empire, Second city, civic, status, museums, collecting, networks, international exhibitions.
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Leask, Professor Nigel and Mackillop, Dr. Andrew
Date of Award: 2021
Embargo Date: 22 October 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82533
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2021 14:53
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2022 17:07
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82533

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year