Colonial legal institutions and their impact upon indigenous practices in Bengal, 1860-1914
Dhillon, Rajwinder Kaur
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This thesis examines the impact of colonial legal institutions planted by the British administration upon the working of local indigenous practices in Bengal from 1860 to 1914. The aim of the thesis is two-fold. Firstly, the aim is to highlight the constraints and limitations faced by institutions that were reorganised following the assumption of Crown control in 1858. Secondly, the purpose is to illustrate the ways in which these limitations allowed the native population to mould, and manipulate, state institutions according to local needs and expectations. By examining these issues the aim is to highlight the tenuous relationship between western methods and indigenous practices, at times complementing each other and at other times proving to be incompatible. Through an examination of the system of criminal administration, the thesis seeks to highlight the complexities of the interaction between the local populace and colonial law. Rather than representing rigid categories which highlighted the difference between coloniser and colonised, the system of criminal administration was often the site where boundaries would often become blurred. As the thesis will aim to demonstrate through specific scenarios and cases described both in private memoirs and official records, it was a site which would be shaped by a number of influences- from clashing interests and changing alliances amongst local groups to the conflicting objectives of the colonial rulers themselves. In the process individual agencies were asserted that confound simplistic characterisations of the impact of colonialism in this important region within the British Indian empire.