Journal Name: Modern Asian Studies: Volume 38 - Issue 03 - July 2004
Print ISSN: 0026-749X Online ISSN: 1469-8099
The Colonial Transition: South Asia, 1780–1840 (pp469-478)
IAN J. BARROW (Middlebury College and Dartmouth College) and DOUGLAS E. HAYNES (Middlebury College and Dartmouth College)
The seven papers in this special issue focus primarily on the development of British colonial rule between the 1780s and the 1840s. Over the course of these decades, the East India Company extended and consolidated its political and military control throughout much of the Indian subcontinent. Many of the crucial developments in the formation of the colonial state occurred during this period. These include the conquest of Mysore and the defeat of the Marathas, the implementation of the Permanent Settlement, the reforms undertaken during the Viceroyalty of Lord Bentinck, the introduction of Utilitarianism and missionary activity, the establishment of the Trigonometrical Survey, the development of the systems of control based upon indirect rule in the 'princely states', the emergence of new concepts of 'race' and social hierarchy, and the reshaping of British social life in South Asia. Outside of India, Ceylon's maritime provinces were captured from the Dutch and, in 1815, the interior Kandyan kingdom was annexed, paving the way for the island's transformation into a Crown colony focused on plantation production. In Britain, too, there was a growing interest among the public in the British territorial possessions in South Asia and an increasing awareness that this empire helped to define Britain as a great national power within Europe. For these reasons alone, this period, which begins when the Company was seeking to entrench itself as the de facto ruler of Bengal and ends shortly before the 1857 rebellions and the formal end of the Company rule, requires serious attention by historians.
South India 1770–1840: The Colonial Transition (pp479-516)
DAVID WASHBROOK (St Antony's College, Oxford)
Readers in the historiography of colonial south India have every reason to feel puzzled by the answers available to even the most straightforward of questions. Was the colonial conquest achieved through the imposition of 'superior' European arms, technology and ideology or was it more in the nature of an internal subversion of the pre-existing Indian state system? Did British rule fundamentally alter the structures of South Indian society or did it rest lightly on top of pre-existing structures and serve to sustain established elites? Did it undermine the hold of 'indigenous' cultures on society or did it merely scratch their surface or even did it promote their revival?
'The Real Value of the Lands': The Nawabs, the British and the Land Tax in Eighteenth-Century Bengal (pp517-558)
T. R. TRAVERS (Harvard University)
Ever since the late eighteenth century, no subject has been more prominent in histories of 'the transition to colonialism' in south Asia, than the issue of taxation. In particular, the complex system of agrarian taxation that was developed under the Mughal empire, and further elaborated by various post-Mughal regimes, has often been seen as the defining institution of both the pre-colonial and colonial states. What the British called 'land revenues', which included taxes on land proper (mal) and taxes on trade and markets (sair), were the main source of income for both Indian and British rulers. Assessments of the impact of colonial rule have often depended on supposed changes in the tax regime. Since the nineteenth century historians have tended to focus their attention on the relationship between the land tax and structures of agrarian property. They have generally argued that British rule both substantially increased the tax burden, and modified structures of agrarian tenure by splicing together rights of revenue collection and private property in land. But they have focused much more on early colonial policies with regard to private landed property, and less on the issue of the actual tax assessment. This paper takes up the issue of the land tax demand (known as jama in the terminology of Mughal and post-Mughal administration) tracing British debates about tax assessments through the first three decades of colonial rule in Bengal.
Gosain Tawaif: Slaves, Sex, and Ascetics in Rasdhan, ca. 1800–1857 (pp559-597)
VIJAY PINCH (Wesleyan University)
In the center of the clearing, an aging warrior tries to draw his sword, fury etched upon his face. He faces two young warriors with raised swords who are racing to attack. A distraught old woman restrains the old warrior, while two younger men attempt to calm his attackers. A young boy holding a bow, arrows tucked in his waistband, dashes toward the combatants, in hopes of intervening. In the flash of a moment, perhaps as a result of a misspoken word or a perceived affront, harmony has given way to fracture. The anger on some faces, and despair on others, suggests an earlier time of friendship and love. Only one person is unperturbed. In the foreground a placid young woman observes the unfolding battle while tending a crying newborn. A young boy by her side also looks upon the scene, but with an expression of horror on his face. She, by contrast, seems utterly unconcerned. Indeed, she almost appears to enjoy the collapse of the social world around her. This is a hint, perhaps, about the nature of the conflict, namely, that it somehow revolves around her.
Household Crimes and Domestic Order: Keeping the Peace in Colonial Calcutta, c. 1770–c. 1840 (pp599-623)
DURBA GHOSH (Mount Holyoke College)
During the early years of British expansion in Bengal, from the 1770s to the 1840s, British courts ruled on at least three dozen domestic violence cases. In the process of ruling on crimes in which native women were victims of burglary, rape, and murder at the hands of European men, judges on the Supreme Court of Calcutta became intimately involved with enforcing domestic peace and containing the social threat posed by interracial conjugal relationships between lower-class European soldiers and merchants and the native women with whom they cohabited or married. While high-ranking, upper-class men may have also physically abused native women with whom they were intimate, these relationships were rarely the subject of judicial scrutiny. Through criminal trials of domestic crimes or 'intimate violence', British judges and magistrates, who were among the highest status positions in the civil service, managed the sexual and familial transgressions of lower-ranking European soldiers, merchants and civil employees, thereby 'making empire respectable,' while simultaneously enabling lower-ranking men to enjoy continued sexual access to local women.
Early British Rule and Social Classification in Lanka (pp625-647)
JOHN D. ROGERS (Tufts University)
Recent scholarship has put forward two distinct interpretations of the origins of modern national and communal identity in South Asia. One sees colonial modernity as a radical epistemological break and judges the content of pre-colonial pasts irrelevant for understanding modern politics. According to this view, modern identities are responses to colonial constructions of Asian 'tradition'. The other approach sees continuities between the late pre-colonial and early colonial periods. For these writers, the origins of modern national and communal identities lie not only in colonial interventions, but also in non-colonial eighteenth-century social formations and in early colonial interaction between the British and South Asians.
Indian Political Representations in Britain during the Transition to Colonialism (pp649-675)
MICHAEL H. FISHER (Oberlin College)
During the transition to colonialism, over thirty Indian political missions ventured to London. Representing the interests of Indian royalty directly in British public discourse, these Indian diplomats strove to reshape colonial policies. They also gathered first-hand intelligence, unmediated by Britons, for their Indian audiences; some later Indian diplomats evidently learned from their precursors. Nonetheless, they increasingly struggled against spreading British colonialism, with its expanding surveillance and control over political communication, growing colonial archives, ever more dominant military force, and cultural assertions. Nor did their relatively isolated efforts accumulate into unified Indian policies. The dynamics of these unequal contests reveal how multi-centered, conflicted, and contingent was political intercourse over this period, in Britain and in India. This article analyzes these Indian missions, concentrating on two: one from early in the transition to colonialism when all parties were exploring the nature of such interactions, and the other late in that process when some Indian diplomats and, even more so, the Company's Directors, had learned to deploy more sophisticated tactics against each other. The 1857 conflict, which ended the Company's rule and established British royal authority over India, altered imperial relations with India's 'princes' profoundly, ushering in high colonial rule.
India for the Working Classes: The Maps of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (pp677-702)
IAN J. BARROW (Middlebury College)
This paper examines the maps of India published under the supervision of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK) during the 1830s and 1840s. The Society was established in London in late 1826 to educate poor adults and the working classes in a variety of intellectual and practical subjects. It published an encyclopaedia, a magazine and a series of monographs, including a book on The Hindoos. But it also published, in instalments, an atlas that featured India in twelve sheets together with a detailed map of Calcutta. The maps were first issued in the 1830s and reissued a decade later. The India maps of the SDUK are the first multi-sheet maps that were sold explicitly for non-elite British audiences and, as such, are of great interest. Moreover, they were among the most detailed, well-drawn maps generally available, and were sometimes eagerly sought-after. A close examination of the maps – their symbols, names, regions and perspectives – reveals how the Company's Indian empire was depicted, described, taught and made 'useful' to the working classes.
Imagining 'Greater India': French and Indian Visions of Colonialism in the Indic Mode (pp703-744)
SUSAN BAYLY (University of Cambridge)
This article explores both Western and Asian imaginings of national histories beyond the boundaries of the nation. It seeks to contribute to the history of Asian modernities, and to the anthropological study of nationalism. Its focus is on thinkers and political actors whose visions of both the colonising and decolonising processes were translocal, rather than narrowly territorial in scope.
Modern Asian Studies (2004)
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