The Making of the Raj: India under the East India Company

The Making of the Raj: India under the East India Company

The Making of the Raj: India under the East India Company

The Making of the Raj: India under the East India Company

Synopsis

Most traditional Raj histories deal with the actions, motives, and thoughts of the British who occupied, governed, and administered the subcontinent. "The Making of the Raj: India under the East India Company" flips the focus and tells not of the rulers but concentrates on the Indian workers--the farmers, the millhands, the servants, and the gardeners. The book uncovers the untold and priceless tales of the individuals who were subjected to the rule of the British during the Raj, describing the impacts upon the lives of Indians themselves.

The book traces the history of British interactions with India from their beginnings in the early 1600s, through to the establishment of Raj in the wake of the Indian Mutiny of 1857. The first part provides a narrative of the transformation of the East Indian company from trading enterprise to governing authority. The second portion of the text considers the effects of these developments thematically, examining issues such as the organization of agriculture, the development of the caste system, and the myriad changes in cultural and religious life.

Excerpt

The story of the rise and fulfillment of British rule has been told often and this book does not seek to add another volume to this already well-stocked shelf. What it aims to supply is something complimentary yet altogether different. It seeks to trace the effects of the expanding British presence in India upon the lived experience of the Indians themselves. What, exactly, did the British assumption of hegemony in India mean for the people who actually inhabited the sub-continent? How were their lives affected? What differences, if any, did the fact of British rule make to the Indian way of life? Obviously, any worthwhile assessment of the consequences of British dominion in India must be contingent upon answers to questions such as these. Yet the issues at stake run far deeper than some imperial balance sheet. For what took place in India in the 18th and early 19th centuries was a decisive moment in the history of globalization. Two complex civilizations came into contact, each with a rich and sophisticated cultural history, and each embodying assumptions and ways of conducting affairs which, if sufficiently similar to allow elements of fruitful interaction, were also so different as to lead to numerous cases of incomprehension, misunderstanding, resentment, and exploitation. Those British merchants who first journeyed to India under the auspices of the East India Company did so with a view to utilizing India as a base for commercial operations, at first with the wider Far East, then increasingly within India itself. The idea that they should seek to reconfigure the society they encountered was simply beyond the range of their expectations or their imaginations. Yet as they found themselves interacting with . . .

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