Princes, diwans and merchants : education and reform in colonial India




Bhalodia-Dhanani, Aarti

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Scholarship on education and social reform has studied how communities with a history of literacy and employment in pre-colonial state administrations adjusted to the new socio-political order brought about by the British Empire in India. My work shifts the attention to the Indian aristocracy and mercantile communities and examines why they promoted modern education. I argue that rulers of Indian states adapted to the colonial environment quite effectively. Instead of a break from the past, traditional ideas of rajadharma (duties of a king) evolved and made room for reformist social and economic policies. This dissertation examines why many Indian princes (kings and queens) adopted liberal policies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I argue that English-educated rulers of Indian states became reformers and modernizers to enhance their monarchical authority. The main audience for princes was their own state population, neighboring princes, imperial officials, and Indian journalists and politicians. I have carried out research at government archives and public and private libraries in India and the United Kingdom. Sources used include official records and correspondence, annual administrative reports, newspaper accounts, social reform journals, and weeklies and monthlies dedicated to educational topics. I have also consulted memoirs and biographies of kings, queens, diwans (prime ministers) and merchants. My source material is in English and Gujarati. I draw evidence from princely states across India with a focus on Hindu Rajput and Pathan Muslim states in the Gujarat (specifically Saurashtra) region of western India, neighboring the former Bombay Presidency. Due to Gujarat's strong mercantilist tradition, commercial groups played an influential role in society. I examine how and why merchants in princely states supported their ruler's educational policies. I also discuss how mercantile philanthropy crossed political and religious boundaries with the Gujarati (Hindu, Muslim and Jain) diaspora across India, Africa and Burma supporting educational institutions in Gujarat. My dissertation examines the interactions between the English-educated upper caste Hindus, the Anglicized Rajput rulers and the Gujarati merchants to understand how they all contributed to the shaping of modern Gujarati society.




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