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What was colonialism?

Today’s take-home message: Colonialism is both a way of talking about a specific chronological time period as well as a way of understanding a set of relationships of power. In this sense, it functions both as a chronological category as well as an analytic category.


Background reading—Jalal and Bose, Modern South Asia

Arranging film screenings for Week 5


1. Colonialism-as-Development: Some glosses

Colonialism as exploration

Colonialism as extraction

Colonialism as cultivation

Colonialism as “civilizing mission”

Colonial development

International development

Colonialism as a project: institutions, discourses, practices, actors


2. Colonialism in India: What happened?

Names and dates!! For ‘Company Raj’: 1757-1857

East India Company, est. 1600 (monopoly on trading until 1813)

The Court of Directors, based in London

Indigo, spices

Persian (-1835) (the Mughul empire 1526-1707)

1757: Battle of Plassey

Presidency system: Bengal (1765), Calcutta (1699) Madras (1611), Bombay (1668)

The impeachment of Warren Hastings (First Governor-General of the East India Company), 1770s. The question of legitimacy.

The Permanent Settlement (Cornwallis,1793), Zamindars

Institutions: The Army (‘sepoys’)

The Orientalists

The Utilitarians

Macauley’s Minute

1857: The Mutiny; The Crown


3. A word on “factoids”: history and interpretation, What’s at stake in doing history, history-writing and the act of representation



James Mill, The History of British India (1818).


Bipan Chandra, The Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India: Economic Policies of Indian National Leadership, 1880-1905 (Delhi, 1966).

Cambridge School

Chris Bayly, Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars (1983)

Subaltern Studies

Subaltern Studies Editorial Collective (1982-2000; 11 volumes)

Ranajit Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India (1983).