Understanding Colonialism through Violence: A Native’s Opinion on the British Rule of India

TAPSI MATHUR, U-M Center for Southeast Asian Studies


Tapsi Mathur is a doctoral candidate in the department of history at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is currently writing a dissertation on the creation of a professional class of Indian explorers in nineteenth century South Asia.



In this paper I examine an early critique of British rule in India by a native employee of the colonial state while putting front and center a narrative of physical violence he recounts. This is a unique account in that it emerges in the 1830s, much before the first, and primarily economic, critiques of colonial rule from the 1880s onwards. Further, the author dwelled at length on the racialized violence that was visited upon Indians by the British, and looked ahead to a brewing crisis emerging from the resentment he sensed all around him. Through an examination of the extraordinarily prescient nature of this text that predicted much of what was to occur in the Revolt of 1857 in northern India, I want to excavate the ways in which violence needs to be resituated in our understanding of native responses to colonialism.



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