Rulers, reconstructions and responses : Kumaon from the Gorkhalis to the British.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts (Hons)
This thesis examines the social and economic changes which took place in the Kumaon Division of the North-Western Provinces of India, from the time it was annexed to the possessions of the East India Company after the so-called "Nepal War" in 1815, unti11921. It recognizes the conditions which prevailed in the area at the time of annexation (when the previous administration had forced an unusual balance between the elites and the labour force) and the importance of the physical environment within which change occurred. The reasons for British interest in the area, and the motivation of the East India Company administrators, in particular, are discussed. The different understanding of the British administrators and the Kumaoni people of the way in which land rights and the social hierarchy were related illuminates the conflict which occurred in the British attempts to make commercial gains from the territory, particularly from its forest resource. This is examined in the light of the theory of the "moral economy of the peasant", first formulated by E. P. Thompson and developed by James Scott. On the other hand, Kumaonis withheld information from land administration officials, while some groups took advantage of the British emphasis on recording historical and demographic information to “verify” desirable social status for themselves. The study takes account of discussions of nineteenth century colonialist philosophy, its effects on colonized peoples, and of peasant resistance movements. The primary material consists largely of the records of the British administrators of Kumaon, while the secondary sources are books which have been written by both Indian and European scholars from the nineteenth century to the present. The work shows how the hopes held by the British rulers during the period, of access to Tibetan trade and the establishment of flourishing mining, tea and forestry industries, were not fulfilled in the expected ways, and how the Kumaonis adjusted to a changed balance between the land, its commercial use and its occupants.