Land and Local Kingship in Eighteenth-Century Bengal


Land and Local Kingship in Eighteenth-Century Bengal

This book examines the politics and culture of landholding in eastern India. Professor McLane explores the dual and sometimes conflicting roles of the zamindars, the landed chiefs, in eighteenth-century western Bengal during the decline of the Mughal empire and the rise of the British hegemony. He focuses on zamindari rent extraction, techniques of coercion, and the meaning of gift-giving and gift-receiving. He shows how the zamindars kept alive the rituals, patronage, and other traditions of normative Hindu kingship for their subjects in the villages while they extracted revenue from the peasantry and intermediate gentry for the government of the Mughals and then the English East India Company. He argues that the increased commercialization and efforts to maximize land revenues imposed severe strains on the paternalistic and gift-oriented culture of Bengal's huge landlords. This analysis is illustrated with a case study of Bengal's most important and controversial zamindari, the Burdwan raj.

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