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Schwartzberg Atlas, v. , p. 210.

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VII The Contest for Power and the Establishment of British Supremacy, 1707–1857 INTRODUCTION

The century and a half from the death of Aurangzīb in 1707 to the outbreak of the Indian Revolt in 1857 witnessed a complete transformation in the political map of South Asia. At the outset of that period the Mughal Empire had just passed its zenith, and there was little reason to suspect it might not again attain the heights of power that characterized it under Akbar and his successors. The period closed, however, with the legal extinction of the lingering myth of that very empire, which for all practical purposes had expired several generations before, and found its British successors approaching their own imperial apogee.

The dramatic expansion of the British to the limits of the Indian subcontinent (traced in plates VII.A. 1–3) was not a planned process. The primary interest of the East India Company, under whose aegis that expansion took place, was trade, not territory. Yet, to protect their merchants from foreign competition and from what seemed to them the unreasonable demands of certain Indian rulers, and to ob- tain ever more favorable conditions under which to carry on their activities, they resorted repeatedly to the expedient of conquest.

The period that saw the firm implantation of the British in the Northern Circars and Bengal (accomplished by 1765) was one of great political turbulence. As Mughal power waned in the face of internal insurrection and external military pres- sures, numerous independent or semi-independent principalities arose, each first seeking hegemony within its own quarter of South Asia, often a sūbah of the Mughal realm, then looking to conquests farther afield. In a sense the British, too, whatever their intentions may have been, could be regarded as but another such contender for ascendancy in an overcrowded field. Among the indigenous powers that arose, none was more formidable than the Maratha Confederacy, and for a time it appeared that they would seize the mantle of Mughal supremacy. A neigh- boring aspirant to that role was the Nizam, heir to the Mughal subahdarship of the Deccan, where a perennial struggle to counter Maratha expansionism had become an established fact of political life. In the northwest loomed yet another major political presence, the newly unified Afghan kingdom, whose arms on several oc- casions forcefully altered the course of 18th century Indian history. Other states to be reckoned with for a time were Mysore, Nepal, Burma (which, though situated beyond the subcontinent, expanded into it briefly), and the Sikh kingdom.

The insinuation of European influence into the political affairs of India took several forms. One of these was diplomatic. For a time it appeared that French diplomacy would gain for them a position of preeminence in peninsular India, and it took no small military effort by the British to thwart that ambition. Apart from their protracted struggle with the French, the British found themselves drawn with increasing frequency into the ceaseless intrigues that characterized intra- and inter- state political relations in the interludes between periods of overt combat. (Each party to such intrigues sought, of course, to use the other for its own gain; the British simply gained the most.) By no means were all the interventions of Euro- peans into the affairs of South Asia sanctioned by the states from which they came. Soldiers of fortune swarmed to the courts of Indian princes who were anxious to avail themselves of European military skills, and not a few European mercenaries achieved positions of considerable importance. Such individuals, along with ven- turesome traders and others who preceded the advance of the British flag, acted as two-way conduits of information between South Asia and Europe, whetting the appetite of each region for what the other possessed. (For a map depicting the stages in the advance of European knowledge about areas beyond the frontiers of India, see plate VIII.A.1.) In the one case it was supplied largely by trade, in the other by trade crowned by conquest.

The systematic amassing, processing, and utilization of knowledge of South Asia formed no small part of the key to British success in subduing that region and in bringing to it an orderly and, on the whole, successful administration. Among their outstanding achievements in that regard were those in cartography and geographic intelligence. Plates VII.A.4–6 document the development in these fields, begin- ning with the monumental work of James Rennell, the father of Indian geography, in the late 18th century and extending through the mid-19th century. Apart from its obvious military utility, British mapping provided a basis for imposing on their newly won domains a system of discrete administrative boundaries marking off internal jurisdictions among British provinces and districts, between British terri- tory and princely states, and among the princely states themselves. Plate VII.B.1 depicts these boundaries as of 1857. Thus, mapping not only served the needs of war, but also helped cement the Pax Britannica that came in war's wake. Because of the British concern with more or less precise political boundaries, their conse- quent efforts at establishing them in and around their own territorial domains, and their propensity to portray boundaries (more properly "frontiers") on maps relat- ing to polities beyond their control, we are ourselves able to portray boundaries in this atlas, from section VII forward, based on the critical examination of contempo- rary primary sources. (This represents a marked departure from our practice in the historical sections III through VI. For additional details on boundary repre- sentation see the last paragraph of the text for plate VII.A.2.)

As early as 1740, the indefatigable Robert Orme began the task of compiling the two hundred folios of descriptive and statistical data on Madras that were to engage him for the next three decades; in so doing he provided a model for Francis Buchanan in Bengal, who initiated the writing of comprehensive district gazetteers, later to become indispensable guides for British civil administrators throughout India. Also of great use to administrators was the knowledge they gained of Indian law, the compilation of which was commissioned to Sanskrit pandits by Warren Hastings in 1776. For some of the landmark accomplishments in the steady devel- opment of British knowledge in both a practical and a humanistic vein, the reader may consult the end cover "Chronology of South Asia"; for further details on gazetteers and topographic mapping, plates XIII.C.1 and 2 and the relevant text will prove useful.

Though the maps in section VII focus mainly on the political expansion of the British in South Asia, the social, cultural, and economic consequences of that ex- pansion must also be noted. The key events are indicated on the aforementioned "Chronology of South Asia," and only a few will be recalled below. Much of the early innovation, naturally, was concentrated in the three presidency towns, Cal- cutta (Fort William), Bombay, and Madras (Fort St. George), particularly in the first, which served as the predominant seat of British administration till 1912. Among the more important agents for change were the schools and universities instituted by the British; Fort William College was founded in 1800, and universi- ties were established in the three presidencies in 1856 (see plate X.B.5). Of special significance was the promulgation in 1835 of Macaulay's famous Minute on edu- cation, which instituted Western education in India through the medium of English; in the same year English was made the official language of the government and of the courts, and the civil service was opened up to Indians with—among other quali- fications—a sufficient command of the English language. The press, too, was a powerful vehicle for change (see plate X.B.6). The ferment introduced into Indian society by the British presence inevitably produced a response. As early as 1816 Ram Mohan Roy helped found Hindu College in Calcutta, and 1818 saw the estab- lishment in that city of India's first vernacular newspaper. By 1853, with the found- ing of the Hindoo Patriot, also in Calcutta, the country had its first newspaper with a distinctly nationalist stamp. The first Indian political organization was established, predictably, in Calcutta, in 1837. (For a detailed map of Calcutta in the mid-19th century, on which are indicated many of the then important cultural landmarks, see plate XII.B.1.)

For many decades the East India Company resisted the urgings of missionary societies to propagate the gospel within its domains. In 1813, however, in Parlia- ment's renewal of the company's charter, the way was opened to them. The in- vidious comparisons that the emissaries of Christianity thereafter drew between the "superior" civilization of the West and the "debased" culture of India served to reinforce in many Indians a growing sense of inferiority generated by the condi- tions of their subjection to foreign rule. Yet, for all their insensitivity, the mission- aries did carry out good works in India, and these evoked a positive Indian re- sponse, which took different forms in different provinces. Much of this response may be traced on atlas plate VIII.C.1, "Religious Revival and Reform Move- ments," beginning with the founding of the Brahmo Samaj in Calcutta in 1888 and carrying through the entire pre-independence period.

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