‘greengrocer, Tailor and Champion Wrestler’: The Transnational Career and Times of buttan Singh, c.1900–1914

19.03.2019, Seminar, DHI London

Prashant Kidambi (Leicester)

This paper examines the extraordinary career of Buttan Singh, a Sikh wrestler who became the national wrestling champion of Australia in the early 1900s. Later in that decade, he travelled to Britain and Australia. The paper considers Buttan’s transnational peregrinations within three discrete historical contexts. First, it places his story into the broader streams of Sikh migration within the British Empire. Second, it shows how Buttan’s story became entangled in the making of a frontier society in Western Australia. Finally, the paper relates Buttan’s career to that of other peripatetic sportsmen who breached the ‘colour line’ before the First World War.

Prashant Kidambi is Associate Professor of Colonial Urban History at the University of Leicester. He is the author of The Making of an Indian Metropolis: Colonial Governance and Public Culture in Bombay, 1890–1920 (2007; 2016), and is currently completing Cricket Country, a book on the making of the first Indian cricket team.

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