University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History > Soldiers-intellectuals, Colonial Knowledge and Military Despotism in India, 1800-1858

Soldiers-intellectuals, Colonial Knowledge and Military Despotism in India, 1800-1858

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Historians seeking to explain the dramatic success of the British empire have long recognized the formative role that warfare played in the expansion of the empire. Yet, until recently, however, they have tended to neglect studying the military as a serious way of examining the evolution of British rule in colonial India, focusing predominantly on battles and campaigns rather than the military’s institutional and intellectual impact. This seems to be a vast oversight indeed, as military officers occupied key positions as both soldiers and administrators in India, which enabled them to exert a profound influence not only on policy, but also on the various perceptions and interpretations of Indian culture and society upon which those policies were informed and premised. The intent of this paper, therefore, is to shed some light on the processes by which colonial knowledge of India was generated, transmitted, and translated into policies of governance by military officials. Though by no means a homogeneous process, this paper will examine how certain forms of knowledge were mediated through the coercive structure of the military and subsequently transformed into a specifically militarized theory of colonial rule known as “military despotism.”

This talk is part of the Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History series.

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