HIS282Y1 Lecture Notes - Hindu Law, Chinese Tea, Triangular Trade

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Published on 1 Dec 2011
October 31st
Fixing and its double meaning- cementing, gluing, preserving vs. improvement. In
some way this is a lense in which to study colonial government, it wants to fix
indian society because when things are fixed and not moving they are easier to
govern. At the same time there is the idea of improving a savaged civilization, part
of the moral claims of the empire. They are in a kind of conflict because one type of
thinking is that traditions are being given back and preserved, looking backwards
into the ancient past of India. They see what Hindu law is and the jurisprudence, a
backward looking way. It is also a very selective process because also in some way
they are inventing what the traditions are, going through tons of information and
selecting which one to use. The other side of it is a forward looking project, the one
of improving. A project of benevolence which is a major part of the colonial project,
making the promise of helping but is it a gesture of help or power? The making of
Hindu law is the 2nd example, the 1st one is the law of property, the introduction of
private property in Bengal and elsewhere. Hindu and Muslim law is a project of new
east-India company, a performance of non-interference, an important way in which
colonial governance emerges. Is it non-interference though? The ism of Hindu
culture is a modern phenomenon though as in the ancient times one united religion
didn’t exist.
The use of Brahmins to pick out the most important parts already makes it a
selective process and then the choice of what to use makes it even more so. There
is a very developed tradition of common law in Britain, that we have to observe and
respect practices and customs should be respected, but also that they can change
over time.
What happens in India is that these customs and practices are transferred during
governing this society that is totally and completely new. It is understood as ancient
an unchanging which allows them to create a master script of what indigenous
traditions are, but like all manuals they bear a distant relation to what reality
actually is.
We need to look at economic material practices coercion but at the same time local
allies with the colonial authorities, many indigenous folk of different kind, so it is
beyond a simplistic colonial victim binary idea. We also have to look at resistance in
spite of alliances. The question then is how is resistance studied, in a place where
people act out resistance in ways that are different from what we expect? For
example under what conditions is mob violence a political vs. a criminal act.
The economy
1757 is the battle of placi, by 1793 British permanently in Bengal and use the
revenue to buy Indian luxury goods, starting the process of China and tea. Until
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