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This chapter shows how the judicial reforms of Governor Warren Hastings in 1772 attempted to recentre sovereign authority in the British settlement of Calcutta by co-opting and recasting late Mughal venues and practices of petitioning and dispute resolution. It explores how Hastings attempted to found the Company's legal system, not just on 'religious' forms of Muslim and Hindu law, but on Mughal practices of revenue administration. Even after 1772, the chief revenue office in Calcutta (khalisa sharifa or ‘khalsa’) – retained an important role as a site for investigating disputes over land and revenues, and for discovering a new form of ‘civil law’ based on the Company’s interpretations of late Mughal precedents.
Chapter 10 begins with discussion of Burke’s critique of Warren Hastings’s rule in Eleventh Report of Select Committee. Under Hastings, the East India Company fueled bribery, extortion, and fraudulence, which eroded the bond of trust between England and Indian natives. I then discuss Speech on Fox’s India Bill, one of Burke’s most illustrious speeches in which he outlined his plan to reform the maladministration of the Company. I explain why Burke both defended the prescriptive legitimacy of the Company and argued that the corporation should return to being a commercial institution, rather than continue to operate in the capacity of a public administrator. I also explore the six mercantile principles Burke proffers in the speech that he believed were necessary maxims of ethical and effectual commercial activity. Additionally, I demonstrate that Burke’s rebuke of the Company’s violation of Indian property rights disclosed his broader belief in the importance of private property in establishing a strong landed aristocracy and vibrant commercial culture. I conclude that Burke’s attack on the Company underlined his steadfast opposition to the concentration of political and economic power.
Chapter 9 explores Burke’s economic critique of Britain’s East India Company in India. I first outline Burke’s general approval of government trading monopolies, which he defended for opening up new trade routes and promoting commerce in distant lands. I then transition to discussing the Select Committee report that detailed the Company’s pattern of abuse in India, Ninth Report of Select Committee, of which Burke was its primary author. Burke condemned the firm for disrupting the supply and demand laws of the local Indian economy and manipulating the competitive price system. He also criticized the company for using surplus revenue as a means to stimulate trade, rather than use trade as a means to increase revenue. Similarly, I elaborate on Ninth Report’s criticisms of the Company’s monopoly on opium, saltpeter, and salt, which produced destructive economic and social consequences and further exposed the firm’s gross misconduct in India.
This bibliography presents a list of titles that help the reader to understand the role of Indians in the politics and economics of early colonialism. The early history of European expansion in maritime India is one of the best covered areas of Indian history. Treatments of British expansion have concentrated on the commercial, particularly private commercial motivations and on the period of Robert Clive and Warren Hastings. A modern treatment of the Cornwallis and Wellesley period is still lacking, and there is little which discusses analytically the structure of the Company state or its ruling ideologies. The British revenue systems have generated an enormous and largely indigestible literature. Works on change in religion and mentalities are heavily concentrated on issues connected with the 'Bengal renaissance. There have been several attempts at overviews of Indian resistance in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
The establishment of British predominance in eastern India was a gradual and protracted process, beginning before 1757. This chapter discusses many different aspects of the British presence in Bengal during the first sixty years of colonial rule. In theory the settlement of 1765 had not established a British Bengal. The Nawabs would still be Nazims, holding court at Murshidabad, from where they would direct the defence of the provinces and the ordering of their internal peace and justice. The dispersal of the Nawab's army had eliminated the main rival to the East India Company's military supremacy. Warren Hastings, Governor, and the first Governor General from 1772 to 1785, embodied the mingling of old practices and new ideals. The period down to 1828 had seen the creation of a largely autonomous British-Indian state that was rather loosely connected with imperial Britain and pursued its own purposes of 'safety' and consolidation.
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