Correlli Barnett has compared the India of the British Empire to a 'colossal mansion standing in the middle of a vast but ill cultivated estate: it conferred prestige, it made the owners feel grand, and, by the cost of its upkeep, threatened them with ruin'.1 If we extend this metaphor we find in the role of gardeners and estate keepers the employees of the Indian Public Works Department (IPWD). Their tasks were to irrigate, build bridges, roads, railways, canals and ports: to spread western technology over the face of the subcontinent in pursuit of the colonial enterprise. This paper deals with an attempt to meet the demand for civil engineers in the IPWD by the establishment of a College in England for that specific purpose. The Royal Indian Engineering College, which opened in 1871 at Cooper's Hill, in Egham, was a unique venture, both in terms of the model of engineering education found in it and also in terms of the element of state involvement concerned - which challenged the prevailing tradition of voluntarism in educational provision. The College was known colloquially as Cooper's Hill and it will be so referred to in the text.

  • 1. Correlli Barnett, The Collapse of British Power (London, 1972), 134.