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Princely India and the British Political Development and the Operation of Empire by Caroline Keen

Princely India and the British Political Development and the Operation of Empire


Princely India and the British Political Development and the Operation of Empire by Caroline Keen

In the latter part of the nineteenth century,the royal status of Indian princes was under threat in what became a critical period of transition from traditional to imperial rule.Weakened by treaties concluded with the British earlier in the century,the rulers were subject to a concentrated campaign by British officials to turn palace life into a westernised construct of morality,rules and regulations.Young heirs to the throne were exposed to a western education to encourage their enthusiasm for changes in the princely environment.At the same time bureaucracies constructed on the British Indian model were introduced to promote'good government'.In many cases,royal practice and authority were sacrificed in the urgency to install efficient and accountable methods of administration.Adult rulers were frequently sidelined in the intricacies of state politics and the traditional princely power base was steadily eroded. Using the framework of a princely life-cycle,this book evaluates British policy towards the princes during the period 1858-1909. Within this framework Caroline Keen examines disputed successions to Indian thrones,the reaction of young rulers to a western education, princely marriages and the empowerment of royal women,the administration of states,and efforts to alter court hierarchy and ritual to conform to strict British bureaucratic guidelines.A recurring theme is the frequently incompatible relationship between British officials posted to the states and their superiors within the Government of India. Rarely examined archival material is used to provide a detailed analysis of policy-making which deals with British procedure at all levels of officialdom. For scholars and researchers of South Asian and British imperial history this book casts new light upon a highly significant phase of imperial development and makes a major contribution to the understanding of the operation of indirect rule under the Raj.


This book provides a well-written and thoroughly researched history of nineteenth and twentieth century princely India.The author's use of many archival sources reveals the extensive and detail oriented research involved in the writing of this work.It is an important contribution to Indian colonial history and princely historiography.
Angma Dey Jhala, Assistant Professor of History, Bentley University

'Despite a recent revival of historical scholarship on the princely states of India,few works have focused primarily on the princes themselves. Caroline Keen analyzes in remarkable depth the life cycle of Indian princes in relation to British policies.Specific examples of where the British could and could not control these clients reveal new insights into how autonomous princes could be within a system of indirect rule. Equally commendable is that Keen's research expands our understanding of how women in princely families negotiated in their familial and political roles.'
Barbara Ramusack, Charles Phelps Taft Professor of History Emerita, University of Cincinnati

'This book raises questions about the consequences of British action on princely India at a number of levels. It shows the shifts in power between different elements in the princely courts and the varying political priorities and influence of the British,ranging from the formal Political Officers and the Residents to the academic tutors of each prince. Caroline Keen has used a vast amount of material and has presented a treasure trove of examples upon which scholars can draw.'
Shalini Sharma, Lecturer in Colonial and Post Colonial History

,Keele University

About the Author

Caroline Keen holds a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

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Book Info

Publication date

5th September 2012


Caroline Keen

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Tauris Academic Studies an imprint of I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.


320 pages


International relations



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