Empires of Complaints: Mughal Law and the Making of British India, 1765-1793

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5:00 pm to 6:30 pm

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This paper, based on Prof. Travers' recently-published book (Cambridge, 2022), reinterprets the transition from Mughal to British rule in eighteenth-century eastern India, showing how colonial state-builders sought to expropriate and transform precolonial, Persianate routines for doing justice to petitioning subjects. Recasting the origins of the pivotal ‘Permanent Settlement’ of the Bengal revenues in 1793, it explores the gradual production of a new system of colonial taxation and civil law through the selective adaptation and reworking of Mughal norms and precedents. Drawing on English and Persian sources, Empires of Complaints reimagines the origins of British India by foregrounding the late Mughal context for colonial state-formation, and the ways that British rulers reinterpreted and reconstituted Persianate forms of statecraft to suit their new empire.

Professor Travers is a historian of Britain and the British empire with a particular focus on the history of the British empire in India in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His first book, Ideology and Empire in Eighteenth Century India, (Cambridge, 2007), examined the political thought of the first generation of British empire-builders in India. His research continues to focus on early modern encounters between European empires and South Asian forms of rule.

History Research Seminar Series

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Contact Shabnum Tejani (email: st40@soas.ac.uk) for further information on this series.