Colonial Administration and Social Developments in Middle India: The Central Provinces, 1861-1921

McEldowney, Philip F., Department of History, University of Virginia
Hauser, Walter, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Barnett, Richard, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia

This study examines society in a province of colonial India over six decades: the Central Provinces from 1861 to 1921. In order to assess the colonial administrative system three activities are highlighted--policy formation, implementation, and the changing influences of Indian actions and institutions. Specific case studies of Indian communities and their arenas of activities then follow.

The study consists of three Parts. In the first the character of earlier administrations and the filling in of the area's social frontier before 1861 are described using the concept of four sub-regions within the administrative region. The British administrators’ social setting of re-creating English enclaves is also analyzed as part of the background. The second Part stresses the limitations of British colonial rule because of its concentration on consolidative institutions, minimal expenditure on developmental and social service institutions, and its lack of control over economic forces and events. Especially reviewed are the way in which the introduction of Western education influenced different segments of the population, the types of local self-government institutions established and political developments, the efforts to provide health-care and demographic trends, and finally British land policies and Indian adjustments to them.

The last Part analyzes three case studies which reveal the differential effects of colonial rule. The first case study looks at the Marwari business family of Raja Gokuldas who benefited from their collaboration with the British during the Mutiny and afterwards. Gokuldas eventually built a commercial empire which, extended far beyond the confines of the province and included many banks, shops, markets,' landholdings, and several modern factories. Second, the Baiga tribe were threatened by the new rules and procedures of the British administration which confiscated much of their land for forest conservation and pursued a policy of transforming the Baigas from forest to regular field cultivators. The third case study is of the low-caste Chamars of Chhattisgarh. They attempted to improve their social status and their economic position. As they were a large proportion of the farmers in the area, they benefited from some of the new economic opportunities provided by the construction of the railway in the late nineteenth century. This also produced increased opposition by landlords toward some Chamars in their villages and further problems at times of economic crisis such as the famines of the late 1890s. They, like the Baigas, adopted several methods in order to survive these changing and difficult conditions.

The examination of the colonial administration generally and of these three case studies specifically indicates the different ways through which Indian society and the British administration interacted with each other over six decades.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
British colonial administration, social conditions, 19th century history, India
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