Lawrence Military Asylums

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Henry Montgomery Lawrence proposed the establishment of a military-style boarding school in the Indian subcontinent highlands for the sons and daughters of British soldiers. Eventually four such schools, known as Lawrence Military Asylums[1] were established around Indian subcontinent, namely;

  1. Sanawar (in present day Himachal Pradesh) in 1847
  2. Mount Abu (in present day Rajasthan) in 1856
  3. Lovedale near Ootacamund (in present day Tamil Nadu) on 6 September 1858
  4. Ghora Gali in 1860.

History[edit]

In his book The Magic Mountains, historian Dane Kennedy states;[2]

The hill stations of colonial India functioned as sanctuaries for the British ruling race, forming enclaves of British culture in the mountains of the subcontinent. Anglican church spires, quaint Tudor-style cottages, and Victorian flower gardens lovingly evoked a distant homeland, giving hill stations a distinct British identity in the midst of a foreign environment.

Further excerpt from The Magic Mountains: Hill Stations and the British Raj

The Lawrence Military Asylum was the earliest and most influential institution established to redeem orphans and other poor white children by transferring them to the hills. Its founder was the famed imperial consul Henry Lawrence, whose Evangelical solicitude for barrack children's moral and social fate inspired him in 1845 to propose the establishment of a military-style boarding school in the Indian highlands for the sons and daughters of British soldiers. His aim, as he described it, was to create "an Asylum from the debilitating effects of the tropical climate, and the demoralizing influence of Barrack-life; wherein they may obtain the benefits of a bracing climate, a healthy moral atmosphere, and a plain, useful, and above all religious education, adapted to fit them for employment suited to their position in life." Although Anglo-Indian children could and did gain admittance, Lawrence insisted that preference be given to children of "pure European parentage" since they were "more likely to suffer from the climate of the plains." The first of these military asylums was opened at Sanawar near Simla in 1847, its construction financed by donations from fellow officers and a large grant from the maharaja of Kashmir. Subsequent branches appeared at Mount Abu in 1854, Ootacamund (later moved over a ridge to Lovedale) in 1858, and Murree in 1860, by which point the government had assumed responsibility for their finances.

The Lawrence Asylums offered an education that stressed discipline, obedience, piety, respectability, and acquiescence to a future of limited opportunity. Boys wore artillery uniforms, girls drab jackets and white bonnets, and both were divided into military-style companies that marched on parade grounds. They did not depend on Indian servants; they did most tasks themselves so that they would become "trained in industrial habits." Lawrence envisioned his wards taking up manual trades like carpentry and smithing, creating the nucleus for a British artisanal class in India.

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