Indigenous society, the political economy, and colonial education in Patna District : a history of social change from 1811 to 1951 in Gangetic North India

Hagen, James Ray, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia

This is an unusually comprehensive study which aims at examining a specific but generalized historical problem, within a holistic and interdisciplinary analysis of one locale (Patna District, Bihar Province/State) between 1811 and 1951. The historical problem is the consensual assumption that British colonial education played a largely positive role in India during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as it was considered constituting the intro¬ duction of "modern education" to the subcontinent. To reassess this assumption, this study analyzes the total society, within practical limits, of Patna District in the year 1811 (Part I), and then follows the same compre¬ hensive categories over the period 1811 to 1951 (Part II), thus allowing the experience of colonial education after 1335 to be interpreted. The categories used to approx¬ imate the total society are (1) the spatial distribution of persons and their cultural patterns, (2) the inter¬ connections among persons, and (3) the occupational structure/economic conditions of Patna District. With comparatively fewer uses and cultural compulsions for literacy after the eclipse of Buddhism in the twelfth century, than many other agrarian societies (China, Japan), the 1811 patterns of indigenous education were smallscale schools and domestic tutoring. The cultural character of this 1811 pattern was profoundly influenced by the Hindu tradition of renunciation, of which the act of studentship (brahmacarya) was a symbolic version. Teachers, as representatives of renunciation, carried a moral authority that could confer political legitimacy and reproduce traditional values in the political economy. The political economy, or raja-praja system, was undermined after 1793 by the act of formalizing hitherto customary land-use rights. This caused long-term interference, real and perceived, in the local authority spheres of land controllers (patrons), exploding in the 1930s with increased client assertiveness. This role and cultural meaning of indigenous education was severely affected by the spread of colonial education which bureaucratized thereby crystalizing preindustrial, literary education by 1854, henceforth becoming increasingly tied to the imbalanced colonial economy. It was clearly the long-term trend of increasing client assertiveness, accelerated after the 1870s, that propelled the expansion of colonial education and literacy (4 percent in 1811 to 10 percent in 1921, and 26 pecent in 1951) . In a dialectical manner, patrons both supported colonial education as ritual adoption of colonial rule and opposed it as undermining local authority; they also both favored indigenous education as it reproduced traditional values in the political economy and opposed its expansion because it also undermined local authority. With this dialectical neutralization of patrons, the increasing a_s_S-e r.tiveness of clients, who supported both kinds of education, propelled the expansion of literacy. This study concludes that the experience of colonial education was enormously negative in nearly every respect. Among these as the most negative was the effect of overloading the "cultural metabolism" of society, creating an educational enterprise defined from without the society using a Western cultural model. This was both disjunctive and destructive of the potential continuity for the meaning of education in an indigenously modernizing context.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Education -- India -- Patna District, India -- Social conditions, India -- History -- British occupation, 1765-1947

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-02-19 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:32:58.

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