Ideology and Empire in Eighteenth-Century India
Robert Travers’ analysis of British conquests in late eighteenth-centuryIndia shows how new ideas were formulated about the construction of empire. After the British East India Company conquered the vastprovince of Bengal, Britons confronted the apparent anomaly of aEuropean trading company acting as an Indian ruler. Responding to aprolonged crisis of imperial legitimacy, British officials in Bengal triedto build their authority on the basis of an ‘ancient constitution’,supposedly discovered among the remnants of the declining MughalEmpire. In the search for an indigenous constitution, British politicalconcepts were redeployed and redefined on the Indian frontier of empire, while stereotypes about ‘oriental despotism’ were challengedby the encounter with sophisticated Indian state forms. This highlyoriginal book uncovers a forgotten style of imperial state-buildingbased on constitutional restoration, and in the process opens up newpoints of connection between British, imperial and South Asianhistory.
is Assistant Professor in History at CornellUniversity. He has written articles in
Modern Asian Studies, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Past and Present