By K. Wagner

Established mostly on new fabric, this e-book examines thuggee as one of those banditry, rising in a particular socio-economic and geographic context. The British often defined the thugs as enthusiast assassins and Kali-worshippers, but Wagner argues that the background of thuggee desire not be restricted to the research of its illustration.

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Additional resources for Thuggee: Banditry and the British in Early Nineteenth-Century India

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In Part II: Chapters 6–9 I reinterpret the phenomenon of thuggee as it emerged as an institutionalised type of banditry. Chapter 6 describes the topography and history of the area in order to understand what gave rise to thuggee, and Chapter 7 gives a detailed account of the practice of thuggee, the constitution of the gangs, their modus operandi and so on. In Chapter 8, I discuss the existence of an itinerant underworld in connection with thuggee, while Chapter 9 is an attempt to describe and explain the mental outlook of the thugs: their sense of honour and religious beliefs.

Muir and Ruggiero1 The first and most immediate obstacle that faces the historian of thuggee is the fact that the thugs did not leave us any written sources of their own. They did not have any religious texts, iconography or artefacts that related specifically to thuggee and which would allow us to examine their practices independently. 2 However, the primary sources on thuggee offer a rare insight into parts of Indian society and history about which we otherwise know very little. 3 In the process the British also gathered a huge amount of information not directly pertaining to thuggee, thereby documenting a vast range of socio-economic and religious issues and aspects of Indian rural life.

14 The Superintendent of Police was to be Magistrate of the 24 parganas in eastern Bengal where dacoity was especially prevalent, and his task was to collect information from different parts of the country and thereby organise the apprehension of public offenders. Similar positions in other districts were established soon after. This rash of legal innovations during 1808 reveals how serious the extent of violent crime was considered by the authorities. The sequence of events suggests that it was the report on heinous crimes in the Ceded and Conquered Provinces that was the direct, if not only, reason for the implementation of the regulations.

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