Colonial India

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Colonial India in 1947- Here we can see the religious composition of colonial India. Credit: WorldLitNet.

"The historiography of Indian nationalism has for a long time been dominated by elitism— colonialist elitism [from the time of colonial India] and bourgeois-nationalist elitism.1"[1]

"Both originated as the ideological product of British rule in India, but have survived the transfer of power and been assimilated to neo-colonialist and neo-nationalist forms of discourse in Britain and India respectively."[1]



  1. a "settlement of emigrants who move to a new place, but remain culturally tied to their original place of origin",[2]
  2. a region "or governmental unit created by another country and generally ruled by another country",[2] or
  3. a "group of people with the same interests or ethnic origin concentrated in a particular geographic area"[2]

is called a colony.

Def. a "colonial domination policy" or a "colonial system"[3] is called colonialism.


"[C]olonialism in India produced new forms of civil society which have been represented as traditional forms; chief among these is caste itself (1987)."[4]

"Caste continues to be the central social fact for South Asia and social history remains implicated in many of the same theoretical and methodological problematics as anthropology. The regnant importance of scholars such as Dumont (1980) and Heesterman (1985) suggests that the ghost of colonial sociology still haunts us; anthropologists still write about the need for a sociology of India and historians still borrow what they need to know about Indian society from Weber and Dumont before proceeding to do social history. Anthropologists of India have themselves remained so firmly wedded to a Dumontian position (even in dissent) that India has become marginalized as the land of caste."[4]

"Dumont's general views, and the fact that Dumont has occupied a hegemonic position in the field of Indian anthropology, reveal important aspects of the implication of comparative sociology in colonial structures and legacies. Weber, Marx, Maine, and now Dumont have all held that in India, in marked contrast to China, the state was epiphenomenal. Instead, caste, not the state, was what held society - - with its constituent village republics and communities--together. In a more general sense, caste is seen as the foundation and core of Indian civilization; it is responsible for the transmission and reproduction of society in India. And caste, like India itself, has been seen as based on religious rather than political principles."[4]

Until "the emergence of British colonial rule in southern India the crown was not so hollow as it has generally been made out to be in Indian history, anthropology, and comparative sociology in general. Kings were not inferior to Brahmans; the political domain was not encompassed by a religious domain. State forms, while not fully assimilable to western categories of the state, were powerful components in Indian civilization. Indian society, indeed caste itself, was shaped by political struggles and processes."[4]

"I stressed the political both to redress the previous emphasis on "religion" and to underscore the social fact that caste structure, ritual form, and political process were all dependent on relations of power. These relations were constituted in and through history; and these relations were culturally constructed. But most recently this cultural construction took place in the context of British colonial rule, in which caste was constructed as the religious basis of Indian society, a cultural form that became viewed as a specifically Indian form of civil society."[4]

"Paradoxically, colonialism seems to have created much of what is now accepted as Indian "tradition," including an autonomous caste structure with the Brahman clearly and unambiguously at the head, village based systems of exchange, isolated ceremonial residues of the old regime state, and fetishistic competition for ritual goods that no longer played a vital role in the political system."[4]

"It was not merely convenient for the British to detach caste from politics; it was necessary for them to do so in order to rule an immensely complex society by a variety of indirect means. But caste--now disembodied from its former political contexts--lived on. In this dissociated form it was appropriated, and reconstructed, by the British. Paradoxically, they were able to change caste only because caste in fact continued to be permeable to political influence."[4]


"The colonial experience of developing countries provides valuable evidence regarding the impact of legal and institutional innovations on economic growth."[5]

"Drawing on historical records and a formal analysis of the credit market, [...] the reform led to increased competition among lenders. [This] reduced lenders' incentives to subsidize farmers' investments in times of crisis, leaving them more vulnerable in bad times."[5]


Main source: Laws

"Perhaps the most intransigent problem in the recent history of Indian society remains an adequate understanding of the processes of social change which took place under colonialism. As the continunig controversies within, as much as between, the traditions of modernization theory, Marxism, and the underdevelopment theory make plain, the Indian historical record is peculiarly difficult to grasp with conventional sociological concepts. In the study of Western European society, a focus on the evolution of legal ideas and institutions has proved a useful entry point to social history.The law may be seen to represent a set of general principles through which political authority and the state (however constituted) attempt to legitimize the social institutions and norms of conduct which they find valuable. As such, its history reflects the struggle in society to assume, control or resist this authority."[6]


Main source: Medicine
The image appears on the cover of the book: "Leprosy in Colonial South India: Medicine and Confinement" by Jane Buckingham. Credit: Unknown, Jane Buckingham.

"The historiography of disease and medicine in colonial India has tended to concentrate on epidemic diseases and particularly those that have produced the greatest political upheavals."[7]

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ranajit Guha (2005). Gaurav Gajanan Desai, Supriya Nair. ed. On some aspects of the historiography of colonial India, In: Postcolonialisms: An Anthology of Cultural Theory and Criticism. Rutgers University Press. pp. 403-9. ISBN 0813535522. Retrieved 2015-09-11. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1 at line 3505: bad argument #1 to 'pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  3. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1 at line 3505: bad argument #1 to 'pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Nicholas B. Dirks (September 1989). "The Invention of Caste: Civil Society in Colonial India". Social Analysis: The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice 17 (25): 42-52. Retrieved 2015-09-11. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Rachel E. Kranton and Anand V. Swamy (February 1999). "The hazards of piecemeal reform: british civil courts and the credit market in colonial India". Journal of Development Economics 58 (1): 1-24. Retrieved 2015-09-11. 
  6. D. A. Washbrook (July 1981). "Law, State and Agrarian Society in Colonial India". Modern Asian Studies 15 (03): 649-721. doi:10.1017/S0026749X00008714. Retrieved 2015-09-11. 
  7. Jane Buckingham (20 March 2002). Leprosy in Colonial South India: Medicine and Confinement. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 236. ISBN 0333926226. Retrieved 2015-09-11. 

External links[edit]

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