18th century debate in Indian history
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Critically analyse the 18th century debate
1. 2003- Recent writing (revisionists) on the 18th century have considerably altered our understanding of the period. Elaborate. 2. 2005- In what ways have recent historical writings challenged the view that the 18th century was a “Dark age”? 3. 2010-Can the 18th century can be characterized as a “Dark Age”? Discuss with reference to some of the recent writings. INTRODUCTION:
British rule in India
The political, economic and social transitions witnessed in 18th century India have been subject to great historical debate. Most historians view this century as marked by two important transitions – (i) in the first half of the 18th century the decline of the Mughal empire and the rise of regional political orders and (ii) in the second half of the 18th century post the battle of Plassey (1757) and Buxar (1764) a transition in the society, economy and polity of India occurred, as the English East India Company began to assume political control in north India. The debate regarding the first half of the 18th century revolved around the reasons for decline of the Mughal Empire and the nature socio-economic change that followed. Two broad views can be outlined –(i) Dark Age view-the first and earliest view held that political collapse of the Mughal Empire in the early 18th century, initiated a process of economic and social decline across India, and thus the 18th century was a “Dark Age”. (ii)
The second view held by Revisionists historians, viewed the period on its own terms, looked at political turmoil in terms of regional assertiveness, due to economic prosperity noted by them in the 18th century. Thus they studied the rise of regional polities and regional economic prosperity to challenge the “Dark Age” view and the causal links it draws between political and economic decline. The debate regarding the second half of the 18th century revolved around whether colonial rule had roots in pre-colonial economy and society as Revisionists argue or if it marked a politico-economic break with pre- colonial India as historians who propose the ‘Dark Age view’ argue. DEBATE I- VIEW I- DARK AGE VIEW
The earliest views on reasons for Mughal Decline and the “Dark age” character of the 18th century were presented by historians, Jadunath Sarkar, William Irvine, Ishwari Prasad and Sri Ram Sharma. They held individual character of rulers and their administrative and religious policies as responsible for Mughal decline. Thus, Jadunath Sarkar held Aurangzeb’s religious policy and Deccan Campaigns responsible for imperial decline. He said that peasant rebellions of the 17th century were a “Hindu reaction’’ to Aurangzeb’s Muslim orthodoxy, destroyed the Mughal polity and caused the subsequent decline of Mughal economy, institutions and society. Prasad and Sharma held that the 18th century was an economically crisis-prone period. From the 1950s, Marxist historians explained Mughal decline in materialist terms. Some arguments revolved around the institutions of jagir(a territory assigned to a noble by the Mughal emperor for a limited period of time, from which he could extract revenue as his salary in lieu for his service as a noble)and mansab(the administrative rank a noble held, which corresponded to his jagir).
Thus Satish Chandra argued that structural flaws in the functioning of the Mughal institutions of jagir and mansab led to a fiscal crisis in the late 17th century. The efficiency of these institutions depended on availability, collection and distribution of revenue, when this began to falter from Aurangzeb’s time it led to and heralded imperial decline. M. Athar Ali holds that a shortage of jagirs caused by political expansion of the empire into less fertile tracts of the Deccan and also an increase in the number of nobles, without a proportionate increase in their jagirs led to administrative and economic decline. John. F. Richards critiqued Ali’s view with his study of Mughal administration in the Deccan he concluded that there was no shortage of usable jagirs in the region, and this couldn’t have led to an imperial crisis.
Satish Chandra revised his argument and put an economic spin on it. He like Ali held that jagirs became few and infertile. Yet he linked this to an economic argument that, few and infertile jagirs led to an increasing discrepancy in estimated revenue (jama) and actual revenue (hasil) which led to a decreased ability of state officials to collect revenue regularly, thus fuelling a fiscal crisis. Amongst the economic decline arguments Irfan Habib’s view is one of the strongest within the “Dark Century” conceptualization. Habib says that Mughal Empire was highly centralization, from Akbar’s time onwards.
This centralization was seen in the universal land tax, systematic revenue assessment and collection, with a share going to zamidars (local claimants) that operated, as well as highly uniform revenue assignment tenures and revenue collections from far away territories of the empire. Thus Habib says the administration was a dominant factor in the economy. Looking at the 18th century, Habib argues for economic decline. He says from the late 17th century as Francois Bernier observed there was a process of economic decay in India, due to unrestricted authority of the jagirdars who were assigned lands for unpredictably short tenures by the emperor. Accepting this view Habib argued there was an increased pressure for revenue by jagirdars, which led to a flight of peasants from land, peasant uprisings against the State and a breakdown in collaboration between jagirdars and zamidars, as the zamidars became leaders of peasant uprising. This led to an agrarian crisis and subsequent weakening of the political edifice.
The zamidars emerged powerful now and shaped local state formation. With regards to localization of power and administration Habib argues that administrative checks collapsed in the early 18th century, as seen by a passage from Khafi Khan (1731) which talks of sale of tax farms becoming a general practice. Regarding trade and urbanization, he says during the Mughal period there was a growth of urbanization and trade, with a large transfer of rural surplus to the towns and its conversion into craft commodities and services to meet the demands of an essentially town based ruling elite. There was also large availability of capital and a developed system of banking and credit. Habib argues that decline of any of these factors as the empire declined would have led to commercial and urban decline. He also cites Ashin Das Gupta’s study of the fall of the Guajarati port of Surat (significant for inland and overseas trade) which mirrored the decline of the empire and was caused by disruptions in the hinterland due to this imperial decline.
Das Gupta shows number of ships calling at Surat declined from 87 in 1693 to 19 by 1741. A similar situation was witnessed in Bengal shipping too, by him. Regarding inland trade Habib concedes there is limited material Francis Buchanan’s study from the 17th /18th century shows that interest rates seemed stable in Eastern India early 18th century onwards. Habib says this suggests a stagnation of capital supply but one can’t confirm this. Habib also discussed economic conditions present under local polities in India which he divided into two categories- (i) States created out of Mughal officials turning into local rulers-Jaipur, Bangash, Nizamates of Deccan, Awadh, Bengal- and (ii) States created by opponents to Mughal power- Marathas, Jats, Rohillas and Sikhs. For the Bengal Niazmate, Habib says there is no comprehensive economic study- based on James Grant’s study one can conclude that land revenue did not rise in correspondence with rise in prices caused by a silver influx, there was only a moderate inflow of revenue which managed to sustain considerable urbanization.
In Awadh he says Muzaffar Alam’s study of 18th century revenue figures, is limited even if it shows expansion of agriculture in Awadh, as these statistics are unadjusted to prices. Regarding the Marathas, he says the establishment of hereditary fiefs and offices (unlike in Mughal times) led to constant fiscal crisis and urban growth was limited to Pune. Regarding the Rohillas he says they seem to have reclaimed land and promoted agriculture. Yet Habib emphasises that the above studies, are limited in scope and cause doubts about any significant economic growth in the 18th century. Athar Ali locates Mughal decline in a cultural context. He argues that the decline was caused by the cultural failure of the ruling elite to respond to the superior technology and science that Europe developed between 1500-1700. He says those regional polities in India, such as Mysore and the Marathas which attempted to bridge this gap,failed. Haidar Ali and Mahadji Sindhia tried to organize their armies on modern lines with French help.
Later Tipu Sultan also tried to develop commerce and production. Yet Ali says within the intellectual sphere they failed as they didn’t establish schools or institutions to absorb western learning. Thus these regimes continued with the Mughal ideological apparatus. Looking at the economic context of the 18th century, Ali argued that the new regional polities preserved essential features of Mughal land revenue system yet combined possession of revenue rights with private zamidari rights. Thus the fundamental nature of the State was still remained that of a rent extracting one. This necessitated the association of rulers with merchants, to collect land revenue. Other continuities from Mughal times, we seen in maintenance of courts on a local scale, large armies, large proportion of agrarian surplus flowing into towns. Yet he notes a decline in urban centres such as Delhi and Agra, and the rise of new ones like Faizabad and Lucknow. Over all Ali concludes that there was resilience in the economy, but there was no real growth or new elements as revisionists like C.A. Bayly suggest.
Both Athar Ali and Irfan Habib, argue that regional polities specially the Marathas and Sikhs continued the exploitative tendencies seen under the Mughals. Their analysis explained regional political realignment within the framework of the Mughal “agrarian system” and focused on revenue structures. Yet Athar Ali, who is a proponent of decline like Habib, criticised Habib’s arguments also, saying that they represent an old simplistic historical view, that the decline of the Mughal Empire was a major socio-eco-political setback for India which enabled the British conquest to take place. VIEW II- The view that the 18th century was a “Dark Age” has been criticized by many historians, specially the Revisionists who present the second view on this debate. Revisionist works focused on the socio-economic functioning of regional polities and pioneered in depth studies on trade and mercantile activity. Historians Herman Goetz and Bernard Cohn focused on the society in the 18th century. Goetz analysed 18th century music and architecture and argued for the resilience of Mughal society, reflected in evolving music and architectural styles despite imperial decline.
Cohn studies Banaras and analysed efforts of Mughal zamidars and alimdars, who manipulated imperial and regional power to carve out independent areas of power for themselves. These works also critiqued Irfan Habib’s conception of the Mughal state as a centralized state as it is hard to conceive a centralized bureaucratic model of state when economic and social markers outlive political decay as pointed out above. Within factors for the decline of the Mughal empire and state formation of regional polities, (which few revisionists focus on) Muzaffar Alam’s study critiqued Irfan Habib’s view that zamidars led uprisings 0f oppressed peasants which were responsible for state formation. His study of Persian sources, to understand aspects of agrarian uprisings in north India, focused on three regions-(i) Moradabad-Bareilly,(ii) Awadh and (iii)Banaras region. He quotes the Ain-i-Akbari to show that various castes and communities held zamidari rights in these regions, e.g.- Rajputs (who were dominant), Jats, Brahmans, Muslims, Afghans, Kayasthas and Kumris.
Yet he says that not all these groups rose against the Mughals. He points out that due to caste, clan and territorial distinctions, zamidars were not unified in their rebellion against the Mughals, but were infact at war with one another. He says clan often faught against one e.g. in Chakla Etwah, Akhbarat report two out of four cases were inter clan rivalries, in which in fact the Mughal state came to the aid of some zamidars, and played clans off and overcome the danger they posed to the Mughal State. Alam also mentions that there were intra clan clashes- eg: in Moradabad Madar Singh a Rajput fought against Debi Chand a fellow Rajput. Finally critiquing Habib, Alam points out that zamidars who led raids expressed the anger of local ruling classes, who had their military contingents and were rising in a context of local economic prosperity. He also says at times, peasants resisted zamidars, since rural populations was a victim of zamidar revolts. Alam also argues for a context of local economic prosperity which led to zamidar ascendency.
In his study of Awadh-He says villages and zamidars had great availability of money. Agrarian prosperity can be seen due to brisk trade carried out by Banjaras between Awadh and Bihar, as they carried goods worth 4,00,000 at times. New towns came up, indicating expansion of trade networks. He says Banaras in early 18th century witnessed the rise of 3new market centres- Azamgarh, Bhadohi and Mirzapur and new ganjs or grains markets aorse, pointing to rise in commercialized agriculture. Banaras was the most prosperous city by the 1740s in the region, as it was the main entrepot for long distance trade which led to a rise of local industries. The Ain-i-Akbari showed an 85% percent rise in agricultural revenue collected from Awadh in early 18th century, indicating agrarian prosperity. Thus Alam contests the economic decline model. However Alam’s study has been critiqued from within the revisionist camp by John. F.Richards and V.Narayana Rao who like Alam himself, point out his exclusive use of Persian sources which may hamper evidence of resistance against Mughal rule found in vernacular sources. Athar Ali critiques him for comparing Ain-i-Akbari’s jamadani figures with that of 18th century revenue figures, which show a rise without adjusting them to the rise in prices in 18th century.
Ali says it’s incorrect to use this as evidence for agrarian prosperity. Other revisionists such as Ashin Das Gupta, B.R. Grover and Karen Leonard focus on regional shift of trade and banking institutions, which earlier studies of Habib and Ali ignored. Das Gupta argued that inland trade increased, even in a period of some decline, and corporate mercantile institutions survived. He says though former ports like Surat and Masulipatinam declined with low international trade, new colonial ports-Madras Bombay and Calcutta arose. B.R.Grover looked at rural commercial production, found new provincial markets rose to absorb rural commercial production, thus compensating the loss in foreign trade. Karen argues that merchant activity shifted from Delhi to regional territories and led to local economic buoyancy. Frank Perlin’s study of the Maratha state argued that the characteristic feature of Maratha state building was high commercialization, which was not a function of state demand alone. He also says that the new political orders arose due to an interrelationship between two force-(i)centralizing state building and (ii)Local communal forces.
Thus he says the administrative forms adopted by the “great households” which controlled these States was of amassing lands under hereditary control through acquisition of prebendal rights and former resumeable rights. This process was accompanied by the rise of an accounting/record keeping class that served these households to enhance their familistic administration. This also led to tension between this centralizing tendency of the state and older rights of peasants. Peasants local assemblies (gota) to protect their interests. Yet paradoxically, there was a linking of communal and prebendal properties of the peasant and royal court respectively as the great households controlled economic power in the state. Thus these households benefitted from development of regional and international trade. Perlin critiques the view that political decline led to economic decline. He argues instead that political decentralization and localization of power went hand in hand and this was seen in rise of new political orders (Marathas, Nizam’s in Hyderabad) which went along with socio-eco reconfigurations.
This was seen in transfer of small lordly courts and urban functions to small towns and villages in the countryside. He also argues that manufacture and cash cropping for distant markets at a local level was part of a “rurban” (rural-urban) economy that he argues for. Perlin has been critiqued by M.Athar Ali who argues that Perlin discounts the influence of the Mughal Empire on Indian society and that Perlin and just looking at grassroots polity and social groups like Perlin and C.A.Bayly do, it is easy to see no decline in the economy. He says these revisionists easily dismiss the significance of the imperial economy. One of the most important revisionist views was provided by C.A.Bayly. Bayly argues against the Dark Age position. He argues that certain regions like Awadh and Banaras witnessed urbanization and agricultural expansion. Regional centres like Bengal and Lucknow grew and so did the textile industry. He also argues that indigenous capital didn’t shrink but was engaged in internal bulk and luxury trade along new routes and in financing military and revenue machineries. He also points out Mysore, southern Malabar, Hyderabad and Maratha territories also were nodes of agricultural stability and state formation.
Yet he doesn’t postulate a universal economic growth in the 18th century. Some areas of decline existed. He also critiques the views of Habib and Ali who ascribe decline only to political factors and don’t explore ecological and economic forces. He also questions Habib’s assumption that the Mughal state and economy was highly centralized. He said that was not a condition for the economic growth witnessed in the 17th century. Secondly he critiques the Habib’s assumption that universal economic decline was due to rising zamidar power at the expense of the State. Bayly says the interesting facet of the 18th century was that the zamidars and intermediaries established a closer control of the peasantry and artisans than under Mughal hegemony, and the mechanisms of control differed in various kingdoms. He also critiques the view that the British assumption of diwani rights destroyed all socio-economic forces unleashed in the 18th century-i.e. wiped out a possibility of British rule building upon a pre colonial past.
Finally Burton Stein another revisionist, focused on formation of south Indian polity of Mysore, presented a different view for the rise of this state. He attributed it to “military fiscalism” and the subsequent thrust towards centralization, which resulted in the state being freed from control of the local aristocracy and putting together an extensive tax base and a state organised around war. He asserts that the 18th century had a dynamic economy was there was a relocation and restoration of high economic production even in war torn economy. He agrees with Bayly on the developments of new economic relations- commercialization of rights, investment of capital in new areas, coercion of labour by intermediaries. The various views on the 18th century help us to conclude, that even though the “Dark Age” view has been critiqued extensively and doesn’t seem to hold in light of Revisionist studies which pioneered work on regional polities, local economies and social reconfigurations it is also important to note value earlier works which explored the impact of Mughal decline on the 18th century and their economic data, which some revisionists tend to negate.
The debate regarding the second half of the 18th century mainly revolved around the question of whether colonial rule constituted a critical break from the past or whether it marked continuity with the economy and society of indigenous societies. To put it simply-whether colonial economy, society and polity had indigenous origins. This debate unfolded along some basic parameters which are explored for continuity and change, these are- the agrarian economy, trade and non-agrarian production, revenue settlements , agrarian capitalism and governance. In this debate, most historians who argue for a “Dark Age” previously hold that the Colonial State marked a distinct break from the past, while Revisionists who see prosperity in the early 18th century argue for continuities, with the Mughal past. Regarding the agrarian economy amongst the views on change or break with the past, one of the earliest views was by R.C. Dutt and Dadabhai Naoroji who viewed the colonial economy and polity as break from the past. Irfan Habib focused on Bengal arguing for a break in the economy, he held that English Company’s trading operations dislocated indigenous economies as the Company State was located external to society and exploitative in nature.
The company acquired Diwani rights (revenue rights) of Bengal in 1765, which reduced the flow of bullion into India, causing inflation and intensified the drain of wealth from Bengal post 1813. He says there was a clear decline in the Indian economy and unfavourable balance of payments, as India was forced to export much more than British exports of treasure into India. Thus there was a rise in revenue demand from Bengal from 2.2million pounds (1766) to 3.38 million pounds by (1779) and estimated annual tribute to Britain was Rs.4 cores (1780-90) and above this Bengal also funded the Company’s China trade by using Bengal silver. These economic changes caused large deindustrialization reflected in widespread artisanal and service sector unemployment and put pressure on the peasantry. The pressure on the peasantry, who bore the brunt of increased revenue extraction extended to Mysore and Awadh which were soon annexed and began to pay annual tribute too. Economic effects of tribute affected non-annexed regions too, as a deflation was caused due to decline of silver replenishments.
Trade and towns decayed in Punjab and Delhi after 1770s. Thus Habib says that there was no evidence for indigenous origins of the colonial economy, as the Company rule changed the prevailing economic and revenue arrangements in Bengal which impacted other regions too. Regarding new revenue settlements and introduction of agrarian capitalism by the EEIC, historians have made various arguments for change. Ranajit Guha, held that the introduction of the Permanent Settlement in Bengal, changed the earlier revenue structure and the ill practice of revenue farming, as it introduced private property, created a land market, a landed estates and new zamindars who invested capital to purchase land and helped develop a system of rural credit. He also points out that the settlement drew on various foreign intellectual influences but was largely shaped by French Physiocratic notions. Eric Stokes argues in a similar vein and says the Settlement was shaped by Whig notions of recognizing private property as a basic principle of governance thus marking a break, as absolute private property and a large land market didn’t really exist previously.
Historians B.B. Chaudhury and Sabyasachi Bhattacharya argue along similar lines. For them the Permanent Settlement in 1793 began a process of institutional innovation. In the agrarian sector, there was an increase in rural credit, a land market developed as lands of defaulting zamindars were sold off and the composition/functioning of agrarian labour changed, as labour earlier composed of low caste and victims of debt, but now it included impoverished sections of small peasantry and people who suffered loss of land. Similarly Neeladari Bhattacharya looks at social impact of British revenue settlements and says that they changed the social fabric of India. According to him this agrarian transition was shaped by active ‘social intervention’ by indigenous classes since the nature of indigenous response defined the limits within with the Colonial state could implement policies , thus Colonial revenue settlements introduced changes shaped by an Indian response. Regarding the second view point which presents a case for continuities with the pre colonial past, Ratnalekh Ray on the basis of local records from Rajshahi says that there was no major change brought about by British revenue settlements as changes were confined to the upper crust of rural society yet at the village level both landholdings and agricultural base remained unaltered.
Even amongst the elite in rural society, minor changes were affected as land didn’t usually change hand but perpetual rights in revenue management changed. Property ownership rights may have been conferred upon Zamidars, yet this was only a formality as they already held rights over revenue collection and land, thus arguing for continuities. N. Mukherji and R.E. Frykenberg emphasised continuity in the agrarian order in regions under Ryotwari Settlement in South India. They say direct dealings with ryots may have been interrupted initially, but soon old social balance was restored as the Company, restored traditional privileges of mirsardars, kadims and ulkudis, like under regional polities. Regarding the introduction of agrarian capitalism and change, Irfan Habib argues that in pre colonial India there was no evidence of capitalist accumulation in agriculture. He says the payment of Kharaj or land tax, led to growth of merchant capital but it remained confined to the urban sectors and was not invested in the agricultural industry, as the parasitic relationship between towns and rural areas prevented this. Furthermore merchant capital dried up by the late 17th century due to an agrarian crisis.
Revisionists C.A. Bayly and Laxmi Subramaniam challenge Habib’s view and locate the rudimentary beginnings of agrarian capitalism in the economies of the pre-colonial regional polities (Mysore, Marathas etc) which emerged in the early 18th century. The revisionists have argued that in the early 18th century the main problem with the Mughal state was a gap between jama(estimated revenue) and hasil(collected revenue).Regional polities rectified this problem by greater control of peasantry, artisans and inferior trading groups, for this they indulged in revenue farming, giving collection rights to local intermediaries (merchants, zamindars, bankers), who amassed money through this. The local economy was prospering in this period according to Revisionists, as internal and luxury trade increased and grew along new routes. In such a situation trading and merchant classes that emerged as a new intermediary class, had a lot of capital accumulating and rulers who needed money to finance their trade and wars borrowed money from this class, giving them prebendal rights, which these intermediaries slowly converted into hereditary entitlements.
Thus C.A. Bayly says the ‘new gentry’ and portfolio capitalists that emerged, broke earlier norms by extending the notion of private inheritable wealth and began the process of capitalism. Subramaniam and Bayly suggest that agrarian capitalism developed as a result of interaction between the new indigenous capitalist relations and more powerful colonial capitalism. Regarding trade and non agrarian production and the economy, historians who argue for changes, such as Habib point out that the economy was in a state of decline in the 18th century. Similarly Bhattacharya points out as the Company established monopoly rights over salt, opium and saltpetre and sidelined middlemen in the textile industry also. It assumed Diwani rights of Bengal thus marking a change in Bengals econmu as it’s revenue was used to purchase export goods by the British. This change confined Indian capital to internal trade, unorganized banking and petty commodity production.
Thus the British rule changed the nature of Indian trade and subordinated it, thus marking a break with the past. Revisionist historians who focus on regional studies and trade argue contrary to this, they see links between the pre colonial and colonial economy as historians such as C.A. Bayly, Burton Stein, Marshall and Ashin Das Gupta argue that Company rule grafter it’s self onto networks of indigenous economy and infrastructure. Ashin Das Gupta says that when Colonial rule was established the intermediary classes(bankers, traders, portofolio-capitalists) that emerged powerful in the regional polities drifted towards the Company as traditional trade centres declined and new trade centres emerged under company rule (Calcutta, Madras, Bombay). In these new centres these intermediaries collaborated with the English, thus stressing continuity. Bayly argued for continuities as well, he explores the “rise of intermediary class” of merchants and service communities in the regional polities and how colonial state used them.
He says that as the new regional polities emerged since as large zamindars built up primary land holdings, as the Mughals lost control. These new polities founded by leading regional families, patronized merchants and service class (Brahmans)e.g. Jagath Seths of Bengal, in their territories in return for information, credit and legitimacy. Thus intermediaries groups rose in society. Merchants had access to political power as they loaned capital to the State, funded its wars and took on revenue farming functions in regional polities. Thus there was a commercialization of State power and the State emerged as a military fiscal State. In the 1760s Bayly says an economic downturn was witnessed in these new polities due to famine and war, in which period the Company used these intermediaries to establish its power. This being continuity as even regional polities used these intermediaries in their rise to political power. He says that as the military fiscal states emerged (Indian regional polities and later British), revenue pressure increased which enhanced the role of moneylender and trader and scribal expertise. After 1780 when the company took over he argues that the British used these intermediary groups and their functions, by delegating business of local control to them and also involving them in new cash crop trade.
Thus British rule drew upon extant groups to establish its colonial power. While looking at the relationship between intermediary groups and non elites (labour, artisans and workmen) Bayly argues that 18th century saw the subordination and oppression of non elites, as intermediary groups extracted revenue from non-elites. In the Colonial State when the Company began to collaborate with these intermediary groups, Rajat Datta, P.J.Marshall and Bayly point out that these intermediary groups(e.g. Bengali Traders) increased their control over the peasantry and economy as a result of revenue squeeze imposed by the company. Thus the rise of the intermediary classes who prospered in the 18th century was closely connected to peasantisization and subordination of labour, and the Company’s collaboration with intermediaries from regional kingdoms shows continuity between the pre-colonial and colonial period as well. Burton Stein too emphasises similar continuities, and collaboration between British and certain pre-colonial groups.
Take for instance the company’s military and political collaboration with surplus extracting bureaucratic elite and traders. Athar Ali critiques the views of Burton Stein and C.A.Bayly who accept, that British rule continued the traditional institutions and policies of former regional states, or even the view that English power was dependent on compromise and collaboration with certain indigenous groups. Ali delineates two types of collaboration-(i) Where two powers collaborate on an equal footing (which is rare) and (ii) Where one power is dominant and the other collaborates because this is his only means of survival or profit. Ali says that the collaboration with Indian merchants in the Permanent Settlement was of the second type. This collaboration was only due to the company’s profit aim, as in the case of merchants and bankers because they helped in revenue collection.
There was no collaboration with zamidars as Ali points out and Subsidiary Alliance was one sided as Awadh was compelled to pay 50laikh annual tribute till 1801, and loose half its territory. Thus Ali concludes that colonialism marked a break from all previous political regimes of India, in its nature and objective. Revisionists also argue for continuities in the area of law, administration, the military and society. Bernard Cohn and Burton Stein regarding social structures have both argued for the resilience of the clan-holding structures in North India, and segmentary systems of south India respectively, well into the British period. Cohn also argued that the new administrative and fiscal networks built in regional polities were the base upon which English rule later structured itself, thus arguing for continuity. Anand Yang’s study demonstrates the persistence of local power holders during early colonial expansion, while Frykenburg’s study of Guntur proposed that in outlying districts of Madras between 1770 and 1830, British rule was supported by old district officials, as such officials were in return patronized by the British. C.A. Bayly also argues that company drew on an indigenous network of support from the vibrant Indian information order- the scribes and informers.
Regarding military cultures, and the building of the Company State as a “garrison” or military state Peers says, this new State monopolized the pre colonial practice of military fiscalism seen in regional polities, while Seema Alvi and Dirk Kollf’s study focus on the Company State drawing upon indigenous military labour market and the military state’s sustenance due to their relationship with the native ‘sepoys’ respectively. With regards to the legal sphere and the Company’s rise to political power, Singha argues that the Company drew upon indigenous normative codes- of rule, rank, status and gender even though it reshaped these to its own advantage. In conclusion the recent revisionist arguments that comprise bulk of new literature on the debates surrounding the 18th century, give us a nuanced understanding of the 18th century. It is important to note that Revisionists writings may argue for continuities, but they also recognize the changes that colonial rule brought in within political, social and economic spheres, rather than a black and white understanding of the century as one in decline with the pre colonial order being completely uprooted and suddenly replaced by colonial rule as older writings seem to suggest.