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The Empire

King's was a leader in the teaching of Imperial history, culminating in the establishment of the Rhodes Chair of Imperial History in 1919. It also provided candidates for the Indian Civil Service and its medics took up posts at numerous Indian hospitals, so it was unsurprising that many Indians, Canadians and Australians should seek to study there.

At the outbreak of war in 1914, nearly 2000 Indian students were studying in the United Kingdom and dozens made their home at King's. The Government acknowledged that Indian students faced 'special difficulties' on their arrival in the country and set up the Students' Department to ease their transition into English life and discourage any prejudice that might lead universities to close their doors to new recruits.

'Hospitality committees' were set up in regional centres such as Bournemouth, Brighton and Lowestoft to offer the new arrivals a friendly reception. The London centre was based in the Cromwell Road and was empowered to appoint Local Advisers to act as formal guardians that oversaw the finances of individual students and helped locate suitable lodgings.

Careful attention was paid to integrating these students so that they might return home with a favourable impression of the Imperial capital.

The Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, reminded universities that, 'it is our duty and part of our responsibility for the good government of India to welcome and to help our Indian fellow subjects' and he suggested that, 'a little kindness shown to these young men would repay itself a thousand fold by the spread in India of a warmer spirit of loyalty and devotion to the Empire'.

Government reports cite loneliness and homesickness as the main problems among visiting students and urged English people to offer the hand of friendship, for example by providing vacation accommodation during the summer period.

The budget cuts of the 1920s and 30s brought their own difficulties for Indian students at King's as the value of scholarships was reduced, but this did not deter enthusiastic recruits.

The build up to war in 1939 saw some Indian students at King's on their own initiative set up an Indian Territorial Unit in London. King's even played its part in Indian independence following World War Two: the first woman President of the Indian National Congress and close friend of Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu, had been a student at King's College Ladies' Department in the 1890s.

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