Social Policy and Social Change in Western India, 1817-1830

Social Policy and Social Change in Western India, 1817-1830

Social Policy and Social Change in Western India, 1817-1830

Social Policy and Social Change in Western India, 1817-1830

Excerpt

Social history has been called history with the politics left out, but a change of government may involve great social changes. When it happens, groups associated with the old government may lose wealth, power, influence, and prestige, while those associated with the new may gain correspondingly. I have tried to analyse, first, the extent to which this type of social change took place when the British conquered the Peshwa's territories in Western India.

Besides the immediate changes which thus resulted from the overthrow of the Maratha Government and the establishment of the British in its place, the different administrative methods of the British affected the social structure and social institutions of the whole country, lowering the status of the village headmen, enfeebling the vigour of the village committees, and producing many other slow, insidious, and inordinate mutations.

Moreover, the British at this time were in a reforming mood. Stimulated by the Evangelical and Utilitarian movements, they were attempting social reforms in all their Indian possessions-- encouraging education and discouraging customs like the suicide of widows. I have tried to examine the effects of such reforming zeal in Western India.

I have traced these developments in the light of the career of the Hon. Mountstuart Elphinstone. Before the outbreak of war he held the post of Resident at the Peshwa's Court. After it he was appointed Commissioner to settle the Deccan territories conquered from the Peshwa. The first part of this book deals with the time when he was setting up a provisional system of government there. When he became Governor of Bombay the Deccan was annexed to the Bombay Presidency, and in the second part of this book the prospect widens to include the whole of the territories under that government. By way of epilogue the third part is a brief survey of the ways in which the policies and tendencies which began under Elphinstone continued under his friend Sir John Malcolm who succeeded him as Governor of Bombay. I am making a fuller study of Malcolm in a separate book.

Elphinstone often disclaimed any intention of making big changes. He sometimes said that all he wanted to do was to remedy any serious abuses that might appear in the existing system. During . . .

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