Myths and Massacres in 1919: Jalianwallah Bagh between Empire and Nation

In the spring of 1919, 379 people were killed by British imperial forces at Jalianwallah Bagh, an enclosed garden in the city of Amritsar in India. Official records held by the British Empire show 379 deaths and thousands injured, though the actual numbers are likely to be much higher. As 1919 marked a turning point in imperial, and indeed global, history of empires and rising nationalisms, this presentation tells the story of why and how Gorkha, Rajput, and Baluchi regiments led by General Reginald Dyer fired over 1000 bullets into crowds gathered at the garden on 13 April 1919. In addition to the raw facts of the case, this presentation will also briefly explore the military, political, and cultural significance of the event as well as the effects this event had on key revolutionaries of the time period, including Bhagat Singh and Udham Singh. Some of the subsequent popular understandings of the event are wrapped into myths, yet the massacre itself marked the beginning of the end of the British Empire’s rule over India.