Indirect Rule in India: Residents and the Residency System, 1764-1858

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Oxford University Press, 1991 - Colonial administrators - 516 pages
More than any other imperial power, the British in India developed techniques of indirect rule. They used Residents who were posted to each major Indian state. This book concentrates on the origins, growth, and functioning of the Residency system on a pan-Indian scale between 1764 and 1857. Based on their experience in India, the British later deliberately deployed indirect rule in South East Asia and Africa. This study examines the Residency system as a whole, and in particular the composition and roles of three groups within it: British Residents, Indian rulers, and the Indian staff of the residencies. Out of the body of British civil servants and military officers of the East India Company, there gradually emerged a core of "politicals" men who specialized in creating the system of indirect rule. These were men like Charles Metcalfe, John Malcolm, and Thomas Munro. By studying the entire body of Residents and Political Agents - their backgrounds, careers, strategies and tactics - this book enables us to understand the men who carried out indirect rule over the major portion of India. As their states came under British influence, Indian rulers faced new conditions. While some rulers lost their thrones, hundreds of others managed (by policy or fortune) to preserve some measure of authority under indirect rule. As ambiguously sovereign rulers over states which ranged in size from a few square miles to regions the size of European nations, and over populations from a few thousand to over ten million, these Indian rulers gradually worked out their relations under indirect rule. The actions of these Indian rulers and their officials determined to a considerable degree the shape of theBritish empire. For the Indian service elite, the British presence presented a vast range of new challenges and opportunities. Some members of families with traditions of administration adjusted themselves to these new circumstances and rose in service to the Residents. Those courtiers and officials who threw their lot with the British form a particularly intriguing group. By studying Indians who worked in the residencies, this book examines indirect rule from the inside, from the perspective of those who implemented it, both serving and guiding the British Resident. Thus, this volume delves into the actual working of the Residency system and provides a comprehensive view of this essential element in the creation of the British empire in India. It will be essential reading for all who are interested in imperialism, Indian history, and the development and functioning of British colonialism.

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