In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section East India Company and Hinduism

  • Introduction
  • East India Company
  • Hinduism
  • General Overview of East India Company and Hinduism
  • East India Company and Studies in Hinduism
  • East India Company and Hindu Law
  • East India Company and Hindu Social Reform
  • East India Company and Popular Hinduism
  • East India Company and Hindu Public Spaces

Hinduism East India Company and Hinduism
by
Upal Chakrabarti
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0282

Introduction

The British East India Company was a joint-stock trading corporation which took charge of revenue and civic governance in different parts of India over a century after it acquired the eastern Indian province of Bengal, defeating the erstwhile ruler of the region in the Battle of Plassey in 1757. The company ran a government in India until 1857, when the country’s governance was formally taken over by the British crown. In these hundred years the company had various encounters with the one of the dominant religious traditions of India, which had an enormous diversity of beliefs and practices, collectively known as Hinduism. The company’s interfaces with these beliefs and practices emerged out of its work of governance in different fields like law, education, economy, public order, social reform, and others. In these encounters, the company, as a carrier of modern European religious, economic, political, and moral visions, and as the bearer of governmental authority, crucially reshaped different aspects of Hinduism. Moreover, since Hinduism was inseparably interwoven with the moral order and quotidian practices of indigenous social life, these encounters went a long way in establishing the foundational tenets of a modern social order in India, which bore the imprints of this process. On the other side, this process also had a profound impact on the making of the imperial world, especially its perception of Indian religion.

East India Company

Although there is a vast scholarly literature on the British East India Company, the classic works are Chaudhuri 1978 and Marshall 1987. For more recent treatments, one can read Bowen 2006, and Stern 2011.

  • Bowen, H. V. The Business of Empire: The East India Company and Imperial Britain, 1756–1833. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    This is a work which locates the commercial structure of the company within the imperial world of the 18th century.

  • Chaudhuri, K. N. The Trading World of Asia and the English East India Company, 1660–1760. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511563263

    This book explores the commercial practices of the company in relation to the contemporary Asian economies.

  • Marshall, P. J. Bengal: The British Bridgehead, Eastern India 1740–1828. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

    This book focuses on the transition in governance from Mughal to British rule in eastern India, and the role of the company in it.

  • Stern, P. J. The Company-State: Corporate Sovereignty and the Early Modern Foundations of the British Empire in India. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195393736.001.0001

    In this novel approach, the company is analyzed from the perspective of early-modern conceptions of territorial sovereignty.

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