By Nicholas B Dirks

Many have instructed of the East India Company’s awesome excesses in eighteenth-century India, of the plunder that made its administrators fabulously prosperous and ready to purchase British land and titles, yet this can be just a fraction of the tale. whilst this sort of men—Warren Hastings—was wear trial by means of Edmund Burke, it introduced the Company’s exploits to the eye of the general public. during the trial and after, the British executive reworked public knowing of the Company’s corrupt activities by way of developing a picture of a susceptible India that wanted British counsel. Intrusive habit used to be recast as a civilizing undertaking. during this attention-grabbing, and devastating, account of the scandal that laid the root of the British Empire, Nicholas Dirks explains how this substitution of imperial authority for corporation rule helped erase the soiled origins of empire and justify the British presence in India. The Scandal of Empire unearths that the conquests and exploitations of the East India corporation have been serious to England’s improvement within the eighteenth century and past. We see how mercantile exchange used to be inextricably associated with imperial enterprise and scandalous extra and the way those 3 issues supplied the ideological foundation for far-flung British enlargement. during this powerfully written and trenchant critique, Dirks exhibits how the empire projected its personal scandalous habit onto India itself. by way of returning to the instant whilst the scandal of empire turned appropriate we achieve a brand new figuring out of the trendy tradition of the colonizer and the colonized and the manifold implications for Britain, India, and the realm. (20060213)

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That the new order led to almost immediate crisis no more diminishes the scale of transformation than it lessened the new, often extraordinary, opportunities for aggrandizement on the part of Company servants and investors alike. As it happened, a rather unpromising Company adventurer has been given much of the credit for this sea change in imperial history. 7 The son of lower-level gentry who lived beyond their means, he was sent to India at the age of seventeen with the hopes that his restlessness might be put to work to augment his family’s position.

Some books had been published, particularly by one Bolts and Mr. Dow, the first a man of bad character, the latter of a very fair one, which carried the accusations home to Lord Clive; and the former represented him as a monster in assassination, usurpation and extortion, with heavy accusations of his monopolizing in open defiance of the orders of the Company . . To such monopolies were imputed the late famine in Bengal and the loss of three millions of the inhabitants. 11 Such criticisms and scruples notwithstanding, Clive was still seen by many in Britain as the only man—whatever his moral charac15 Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College Scandal ter—with the courage and the vision to secure Company interests in India.

In holding Hastings accountable to Parliament, Burke believed that he was interrogating the duplicity of empire itself. The two principal charges concerned Hastings’s relations with Indian rulers. In the first charge, Burke argued that Hastings had deliberately violated the Company’s agreement with the raja of Benares, making a variety of unauthorized demands on him and ultimately provoking him to rebel, an act that led to the raja’s defeat and the annexation of Benares in 1781. In the second charge, Burke held that Hastings had also violated the Company’s guarantee in regard to the lands held as jaghires by the mother and grandmother of the nawab of Awadh (who were also known as the “begums of 19 Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College Scandal Awadh” because of their high rank).

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