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Whitcombe, E. M. (1968) Agrarian conditions in the North-West Provinces and Oudh, 1860-1900: An enquiry into the extent of their transformation under British rule. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The period 1860-1900 was, for the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, one of intense activity on the part of Government, culminating in a range of visible achievements in a wide variety of fields: public works, export trading, a reformed judicial system, a modernized administration - incorporating the principles of enlightened, if despotic, rule approved in the abstract by leading theorists and considered applicable to India. India, however, was no tabula rasa. The Crown administration succeeded, in 1858, to an inheritance of precedent in most fields bequeathed to it by the East India Company. The reformed institutions which resulted from the new Government's drive for modernization were, moreover, superimposed on a country as large as Great Britain and more densely populated than any contemporary European state, with old-established complex social forms, thriving political activity, and an agricultural pattern skilfully adapted to the variations in local conditions. The source of wealth was, almost exclusively, the land. The development of agricultural resources inspired by British enterprise and the need for land revenue implied no radical transformation of local farming techniques, but merely the superimposition of large-scale works on land long farmed in small, highly diversified holdings. The result was distortion in traditional patterns, which Government had not the means to relieve. Its action was ruled essentially by its revenue needs. This meant a rigid demand, calculated on the basis of abstract principles, was distributed among the revenue-paying 'proprietors', many of whom meanwhile had suffered a sudden and sizeable curtailment of income on the abrupt cessation of service with the Company and the Nawab of Oudh. The indirect pressures induced by the revenue demand within local society, as the zamindars sought to increase their exactions or compelled by new commitments, exposed the most vulnerable elements. At the same time, the revenue demand, especially its timing, dictated the expansion of local credit systems - which were also stimulated to greater activity by developments in the trading pattern and the rise of an export market. Cultivators' indebtedness remained pernicious condition, deplored by the administrators but accepted as inevitable. Zamindars' indebtedness, however, posed more complicated problems due to the reform of debt and alienation laws which were fundamentally inconsistent with the requirements of political expediency. The administration itself, from its position as overseer, could do little more than observe the situation. Its upper, European and incorruptible strata was poorly co-ordinated with its subordinate establishments, poorly paid and eminently corruptible, whilst the persistent lack of means made inefficiency inevitable. The costs of innovation were headed charges for administrative establishments; they included also, under a wider term of reference, the distortions which had arisen within society in its physical, economic and political environment.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:13

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