By John R. McLane
Cambridge South Asian Studies
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year:1993
Online Publication Date:October 2009
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.