When Daniel Dravot and Peachey Carnehan set out to conquer Kafiristan, they carry with them twenty Martinis along with ammunition. These Marini-Henry rifles, which were standard issue for the British army at the time, symbolize the technological sophistication of “civilized” Europeans. In the first encounter with the inhabitants of Kafiristan, Dravot uses one of the rifles to pick them off “at all ranges,” whereas the locals fire “a footy little arrow” in return, emphasizing the technological disparity between colonizer and colonized. In addition, Dravot and Carnehan use their technological advantage to divide and conquer, offering the rifles to local leaders as a way to destroy their enemies. As Dravot’s ambitions grow, he says that the people of Kafiristan “only want the rifles and a little drilling” to become a force capable of building an empire; in other words, he believes that technological advancement is the only thing that separates the people of Kafiristan from the supposedly superior Europeans. Ironically, it is the introduction of “civilization” in the form of the Martini-Henry rifles that gives the locals the power to rebel, as they ultimately turn the guns on their colonizers. Kipling may be suggesting that in order to maintain order, it is necessary to insist on a greater distinction than mere technological advancement between the “civilized” colonizers and the “uncivilized” colonized.
Martini-Henry Rifles Quotes in The Man Who Would Be King
Then ten men with bows and arrows ran down that valley, chasing twenty men with bows and arrows, and the row was tremenjus. They was fair men—fairer than you or me—with yellow hair and remarkable well built. Says Dravot, unpacking the guns—“This is the beginning of the business. We’ll fight for the ten men,” and with that he fires two rifles at the twenty men, and drops one of them at two hundred yards from the rock where he was sitting. The other men began to run, but Carnehan and Dravot sits on the boxes picking them off at all ranges, up and down the valley. Then we goes up to the ten men that had run across the snow too, and they fires a footy little arrow at us. Dravot he shoots above their heads, and they all falls down flat. Then he walks over them and kicks them, and then he lifts them up and shakes hands all round to make them friendly like.
Dravot talked big about powder-shops and factories, walking up and down in the pine wood when the winter was coming on.
“I won’t make a Nation,” says he; “I’ll make an Empire! These men aren’t niggers; they’re English! Look at their eyes—look at their mouths. Look at the way they stand up. They sit on chairs in their own houses. They’re the Lost Tribes, or something like it, and they’ve grown to be English. I’ll take a census in the spring if the priests don’t get frightened. There must be a fair two million of ’em in these hills. The villages are full o’ little children. Two million people—two hundred and fifty thousand fighting men—and all English! They only want the rifles and a little drilling. Two hundred and fifty thousand men ready to cut in on Russia’s right flank when she tries for India! Peachey, man,” he says, chewing his beard in great hunks, “we shall be Emperors—Emperors of the Earth!”