Learned communities and British educational experiments in North India : 1780-1830

Gabriel, Ruth, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Barnett, Richard, Department of History, University of Virginia
Hauser, Walter, Department of History, University of Virginia
Osheim, Duane, Department of History, University of Virginia

The overarching problem explored in the dissertation is the development of a cultural policy in British North India, formulated to gain the cooperation and allegiance of learned Indians. Such a policy was developed out of the necessity to learn more about the peoples the British ruled, and to provide the British administration with allies from the respected communities traditionally associated with the preservation and transmission of indigenous Great Traditions. In carrying out such a policy, the legitimacy of British rule was enhanced, as it was necessary for the British to assume many roles expected of indigenous kings. The British developed patronage of learned men into an extensive, bureaucratized system of education with specific aims.

The primary focus of the dissertation is the growth of educational experiments in North India as a means of gaining Indian cooperation. The nature of indigenous education, the concept of cultural centers, and the impact of British administration on the Hindu cultural arenas of Banaras, Nadia, and Tirhut, and the Muslim cultural centers of Delhi and Agra are presented. British educational experiments are divided into three periods, i.e. 1780-1811, 1811-23, and 1823-30, demonstrating increasing control, bureaucratization and standardization in government sponsored education. Examples. taken from the development of the Banaras Sanskrit College, Calcutta Madrassa, Agra College, Calcutta Sanskrit College, and several smaller schools document the progress of educational planning.

A related focus explored here is the attempt to produce Indian law officers to aid in administration and further provide claims for the legitimacy of British rule in North India. The development of a standard system of examination for law officer candidates illustrates the processes of formalization occurring, as well as the combination of indigenous education with Western ideals of education, leading to a totally new type of educated Indian.

The relationship of Orientalists and Indian learned men, primarily at the College of Fort William, is considered as a special patronage situation. Here we find a network of Orientalists throughout India developed a pool of known pandits and maulvis who were directed to the British cultural center of Calcutta, particularly to the Fort William College.

In an analysis of the formulation and implementation of British educational experiments, we utilize the typology developed by the French sociologist, Louis Dumont. We consider the British-learned men interaction in three categories, i.e., British (king) with learned men, learned men with British (king), and British plus learned men with the rest of society. While the relationship between the British and learned men was one of interdependent patronage and support, the combination of British and learned men represented legitimacy of authority to those being ruled. Learned men performed the crucial function of intermediaries of legitimacy. The alliance of British with Indian scholars had a powerful symbolic effect, and recognition of these relationships clarifies the motivations behind the actions of both British administrators and learned communities.

The material presented in this dissertation demonstrates the importance of the learned communities to the process of ruling early modern North India. British comprehension and employment of the symbolic and functional roles played by pandits and maulvis was a major factor in the stabilization of their administration in the pre-1830 period.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Education -- India -- History, India -- Politics and government -- 19th century
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