British ideas of a Muslim menace to imperial security had a long life, and varying importance. They rarely stood in the first rank of imperial concerns, but sometimes in the second. Nor are these matters easy to assess. They involve the interaction between many actors and factors, such as rule in and rulers over India and Africa, or observation, intelligence, perception, learning, fear, ignorance and uncertainty. Causes and effects are hard to disentangle. The records are rife with strange reports, which often hold truth. Their study requires generalization, risking overgeneralization. Perceptions of Muslim peoples between 1840 and 1951 were influenced
The India Office Records Library (IORL), British Library, holds the papers of Lord Northbrook, Guy Fleetwood-Wilson, Broughton de Gyfford, Charles Wood, Lord Lytton and Lord Curzon, and the R and L/P&J series. The Middle East Centre Archive (MECA), Oxford, holds the papers of Lord Cromer and Robert Ryan, the British Library those of Arthur Balfour, while the David Lloyd George papers are at the House of Lords Record Office. Citations from these sources are made with permission of the copyright holders. The CAB, CO, FO and WO series, held at The National Archives United Kingdom (NAUK), are cited by
by many systems of ideas, both complementary and contradictory: imperial anthropology, racism, Orientalism, Whig paternalism, concepts of national characteristics, cultural ethnocentrism, and a model of the evolutionary modernization of all peoples on western (especially British) lines, including movement toward secularism and nationalism. These concepts are hard to handle as a whole, or individually. Thus, racism had simple effects at lower levels of decision making, but complex results at higher ones. The evidence is filled with language or logic which was, or can be seen as being, racist or Orientalist, but they must be treated as problems, not as self-evident. Decision makers held many opinions about Muslim peoples, who were not seen as one unchanging ‘other’. There always was a debate over these issues. Imperial knowledge altered over time. Often it simply was knowledge. These issues are an unknown part of the history for a matter with contemporary resonance. This paper will chart its coasts, but the continent remains to be surveyed.