Research Programs: Summer Stipends

Period of Performance

6/1/2020 - 7/31/2020

Funding Totals

$6,000.00 (approved)
$6,000.00 (awarded)

Sarkars into State: Language, Family and Politics in Early Colonial India

FAIN: FT-270761-20

Nicholas Abbott
Old Dominion University Research Foundation (Norfolk, VA 23508-0369)

Research and writing leading to a book on how dynastic conflict in India fueled British colonial expansion in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

My book project examines how new ideas of statehood and sovereignty emerged in eighteenth-century India; how they became critical tools for contesting gendered claims to power and property in Indian ruling families; and how they laid conceptual foundations for the British colonial state. Using understudied Persian chronicles and archival documents, my research shows how changing conceptions of statehood not only allowed male rulers to assert greater control over rival households (sarkars) and to divest female relatives of property and authority, but also helped naturalize the increasingly hegemonic British East India Company as a paramount Indian state. In so doing, the book reveals how dynastic conflict fueled colonial expansion in India and how modern notions of statehood and sovereignty abetted a global masculinization of public politics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Associated Products

A Mulk of One's Own: Languages of Sovereignty, Statehood, and Dominion in the Eighteenth-Century “Empire of Hindustan” (Article)
Title: A Mulk of One's Own: Languages of Sovereignty, Statehood, and Dominion in the Eighteenth-Century “Empire of Hindustan”
Author: Nicholas J. Abbott
Abstract: Over the course of the eighteenth century, India's Mughal empire (1526–1858) fragmented into a number of regional polities that were, in turn, gradually subsumed under the paramount authority of the British East India Company. This essay describes concomitant developments in the empire's Persianate political language, particularly with regard to ideas of sovereignty, statehood, and dominion. It argues that by the mid-eighteenth century, the Mughal “empire of Hindustan” was increasingly framed as a territorialised governing institution comprising emerging provincial sovereignties rooted in local ruling households. This conceptual dispensation, however, remained ill-defined until the 1760s, when a treaty regime dominated by the Company built upon this language to concretise the empire as a confederacy of independent, sub-imperial states. The essay contends that in the short term, this redefinition bolstered the authority of incipient dynasties in provinces like Awadh, but in the longer term generated conflicts that abetted the expansion of colonial rule and laid conceptual foundations for British paramountcy in India.
Year: 2020
Primary URL: http://
Primary URL Description: Link to journal issue and article.
Access Model: Subscription only
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Itinerario: Journal of Imperial and Global Interactions
Publisher: Cambridge University Press