decorative initial Dressing in the clothing worn by inhabitants of the Middle East plays important roles, both legal and cultural, in the Kennedy case. After first denying that he had ever abandoned clothing appropriate to an English officer and gentleman, Kennedy admits that he had assumed native clothing so he could travel more cheaply back to India. He later also admits that he married a Muslim wife in Damascus, and then it turns out that he already had a Muslim wife in India! (Whatever happened to them? Are there multiple Madame Butterfly narratives associated with this incident, too?)

Why did the British Army look so askance at his wearing something else other than British-style clothing? After all, before and during this same period the English Pre-Raphaelite artist Holman Hunt and a host of other British travelers to the Syria, Palestine, and Eygpt wore native clothing, and they were so proud of having done so that they either painted themselves in Arab dress or had others paint such costume portraits! Furthermore, famous explorers and adventurers long before T. E. Lawrence served the British empire by casting off clothing "appropriate to an officer and a gentleman."

Did Kennedy's superiors look upon his assuming Arab dress as a form of cultural cross-dressing and hence as politically subversive behavior, or was it only that he lied about it, and the authorities assumed that someone who might lie about wearing Arab clothing could just as easily lie about political loyalties? Or was his abandoning British costume only a cover charge to punish him for apparently having become a Muslim and married a Muslim wife? Or was it that he had two wives?

Finally, other questions involving the historical context of this event: First, to what extent does his Irishness play a role in his treatment by the authorities? Second, were the military authorities especially worried about subversion in the mility because of the recent 1857 mutiny, one of the central events, as far as the British were concerned, in the history of colonial India? Third — and here's a good research project — where was Lt. Kennedy during the 1857 mutiny? India, the Afghan campaigns, or on sick leave in England?


Victorianism: An Overview History British Empire Next contents

Last modified 1998