King's College London
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Imperial designs: technology and empire in the 19th century

Imperial styles

Photographic illustration of the exterior of the Royal Courts of Justice, London at the end of the 19th century. The Royal Courts of Justice, London.The images shown here illustrate a number of British colonial buildings built in the Victorian era which are representative of styles of that period.

The legacy of British colonial rule is still evident in former cities of empire and the images below show administrative buildings that still function in India, Guyana, Australia and Canada.

Photographic illustrations of the exteriors of various law courts in India, Guyana, Australia and Canada at the end of the 19th century.Law courts in India, Guyana, Australia and Canada.While the London Royal Courts of Justice and the High Court of Calcutta buildings are broadly neo-Gothic in style, the Law Courts of Melbourne and Toronto demonstrate a neo-classical approach. The building in Georgetown, as the caption notes, is ‘the adaptation of an old English style of architecture to a tropical building’.

Large-scale industrialisation in the 19th century meant that sufficient materials could be mined and transported for grand building projects such as these. The analogous and continuing development of (often steam-powered) machinery to cut, lift and install buildings’ essential parts meant that ambitious structures were increasingly planned and realised.

The opinions of the anonymous author within the Queen’s empire are often forthright and critical with regard to events and situations, as can be observed in the captions to these images.

How he might view the situation on the ‘narrow and crowded streets’ outside the Royal Courts in 2013, as bicycles, motorbikes, cars, buses and pedestrians stream past, is perhaps too great an anachronism to consider.

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