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By J. Wilson

Supplying an incredible new interpretation of the transformation of political proposal and perform in colonial India, The Domination of Strangers strains the origins of contemporary principles concerning the country and Indian civil society to the sensible interplay among the British and their south Asian topics.

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Extra resources for The Domination of Strangers: Modern Governance in Eastern India, 1780–1835

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There is nothing in the logic of historical narrative that forces it to be the story of the actions of a single subject, indeed quite the reverse: where scholars attribute social or political change to over-simplified abstract forces, the necessarily complex character of narrative writing is denied. Narrative forms of history-writing do not need to celebrate the supposed self-present rationality of a subject of history such as the ‘Indian nation’ or ‘the colonial state’. Historical narratives can tell stories that are tragic as well as successful, illustrating the wide gap that often exists between consciousness and action, and the inability of agents to control events, in particular how historical actors usually fail when they attempt to insist that social change is the effect of a single subject.

A king is a king because of his subjects (praja) as well as because of sacrifice and birth and deeds. 11 This notion of earthly, reciprocal duty was present throughout different strands of early modern Indian thought. 12 In the same way, the early modern tellers of the Hindu parable of Harishchandra argued that duty to subjects could be more important than divine obligation. A generation ago, scholars traced an Indian concern with the ‘duties’ or dharma of the monarch to a pre-colonial Indian belief in a static, theological cosmic order that defined roles rigidly, and left no room for the individual activity of the ruler or subject.

K. 9 But in the story as it was told in Bengal in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Harishchandra’s public political skill mattered more than his private morality. The text emphasised the king’s practical duty towards his subjects; renunciation was not the most important part of the story as it was told before the late eighteenth century. 10 At the close of the narrative, the king refused to go to heaven unless his subjects came with him too. ‘A king is a king because of his subjects (praja) as well as because of sacrifice and birth and deeds.

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