What truths are available in imperial archives for non-colonial subjects? Tibet was never colonized by the British, and yet was drawn into the British imperial domain in ways that impacted both political history and historiography. In the 1940s, Tibetan intellectual Rapga Pangdatsang based his Tibetan Improvement Party in Kalimpong, India where he soon ran afoul of colonial officials who thought he was a Chinese spy. By drawing on multiple archival, ethnographic, and historic sources, I show how the story of Rapga Pangdatsang and the first Tibetan political party enables a recalibrating of both Tibetan and British imperial history. It also opens up a consideration of empire beyond the colonial, and speaks more broadly to a consideration of the non-colonial as a thus-far overlooked aspect of empire.
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