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The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britainby Nicholas B. Dirks
Synopses & Reviews
Many have told of the East India Company's extraordinary excesses in eighteenth-century India, of the plunder that made its directors fabulously wealthy and able to buy British land and titles, but this is only a fraction of the story. When one of these men--Warren Hastings--was put on trial by Edmund Burke, it brought the Company's exploits to the attention of the public. Through the trial and after, the British government transformed public understanding of the Company's corrupt actions by creating an image of a vulnerable India that needed British assistance. Intrusive behavior was recast as a civilizing mission. In this fascinating, and devastating, account of the scandal that laid the foundation of the British Empire, Nicholas Dirks explains how this substitution of imperial authority for Company rule helped erase the dirty origins of empire and justify the British presence in India.
The Scandal of Empire reveals that the conquests and exploitations of the East India Company were critical to England's development in the eighteenth century and beyond. We see how mercantile trade was inextricably linked with imperial venture and scandalous excess and how these three things provided the ideological basis for far-flung British expansion. In this powerfully written and trenchant critique, Dirks shows how the empire projected its own scandalous behavior onto India itself. By returning to the moment when the scandal of empire became acceptable we gain a new understanding of the modern culture of the colonizer and the colonized and the manifold implications for Britain, India, and the world.
The Scandal of Empire reveals that the conquests and exploitations of the East India Company were critical to England's development in the eighteenth century and beyond. In this powerfully written critique, Nicholas Dirks shows how the empire projected its own scandalous behavior onto India itself. By returning to the moment when the scandal of empire became acceptable, we gain a new understanding of the modern culture of the colonizer and the colonized and the manifold implications for Britain, India, and the world.
A leading scholar in early twentieth-century India, Sir Jadunath Sarkar (18701958) was knighted in 1929 and became the first Indian historian to gain honorary membership in the American Historical Association. By the end of his lifetime, however, he had been marginalized by the Indian history establishment, as postcolonial historians embraced alternative approaches in the name of democracy and anti-colonialism. The Calling of History examines Sarkars career—and poignant obsolescence—as a way in to larger questions about the discipline of history and its public life.
Through close readings of more than twelve hundred letters to and from Sarkar along with other archival documents, Dipesh Chakrabarty demonstrates that historians in colonial India formulated the basic concepts and practices of the field via vigorous—and at times bitter and hurtful—debates in the public sphere. He furthermore shows that because of its non-technical nature, the discipline as a whole remains susceptible to pressure from both the public and the academy even today. Methodological debates and the changing reputations of scholars like Sarkar, he argues, must therefore be understood within the specific contexts in which particular histories are written.
Insightful and with far-reaching implications for all historians, The Calling of History offers a valuable look at the double life of history and how tensions between its public and private sides played out in a major scholars career.
About the Author
Nicholas B. Dirks is the Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and History, and Vice President for Arts and Sciences and Dean of the Faculty, at Columbia University.
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Map of India, 1792
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History and Social Science » Asia » India » Ancient and General