For the first century-and-a-half of its nearly 275 year existence, the English East India Company remained ostensibly a mercantile enterprise, satisfied to simply trade, competing with other European traders. In the middle of the eighteenth century, as a response to French expansion in India, the East India Company redefined itself, becoming an active participant in India’s ‘game of thrones’. Through the use of its military might, only tentatively supported by the English Crown and Parliament, the Company dominated trade, became a king-maker, and ultimately a colonial administrator over much of the Indian Subcontinent. The Company had become a state in the guise of a merchant. The Company consolidated its position in Bengal, then began to exert its power by toppling local potentates and absorbing one princely state after another. Confronted with a land system that was built on custom and tradition, and not law, with no tradition of land ownership, the British were forced to formulate a new land tenure and revenue system for India, one based on British principles of property. Permanent Settlement was the new government’s first attempt at creating a new revenue system. Through its creation, for the first time, private property rights were conferred on the formerly non-landowning zamindars. Which, as this authoritative volume notes in turn, created a land market, destabilizing the political and social structure of India irretrievably.
The Cambridge Economic History of India, published in two volumes, aims at tracing the changes in the economy of India from the thirteenth to the middle of the present century and beyond. The second volume covers the period 1757â€“1970, from the establishment of British rule to its termination, with epilogues on the post-Independence period. Part I opens with a broad description of the economy in the middle of the eighteenth century, then describes general economic trends in four main regions up to the middle of the nineteenth century, and includes a discussion of changes in the agrarian structure up to the end of 1947. Part II takes up various themes for the economy as a whole, while Part III deals with post-Independence developments in India and Pakistan. The Cambridge Economic History of India will be widely accepted as the standard work of reference on the subject, and the volumes will be of relevance to fields other than economic history, being the first major collaborative work of its kind to explore the shift of an advanced Asian civilization from pre-colonial times to independence.
Ranging from studies on sport and national education and pulp fiction to infanticide, psychiatric therapy and religion, these essays on the various forms, expressions and consequences of the British 'civilizing mission' in South Asia shed light on a topic that even today continues to be an important factor in South Asian politics.