Britain’s bored imperialists

From the viceroys of India drowning in tedious paperwork to soldiers with no one to fight, Jeffrey Auerbach describes the ennui that gripped Britons on the frontline of empire in the 19th century

British soldiers while away the hours in a photograph captioned "The long, long Burmese day", c1892. Many imperial troops went decades without firing a shot in anger. (Photo by National Media Museum/Royal Photographic Society/SSPL/Getty Images)

The British empire was the largest in the history of the world – one on which the sun never set. It was also a place of widespread and at times crushing monotony, as the empire grew larger and more bureaucratic with fewer opportunities to discover the unknown or interact with indigenous people.

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