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‘Martial Races' and ‘Imperial Subjects': Violence and Governance in Colonial India, 1857–1914

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This essay explores the specificity of colonial violence in India. Although imperial and military historians are familiar with several instances of such violence—notably the rebellion in 1857 and the 1919 massacre at the Jallianwalla Bagh in Amritsar—there is a broader, and arguably more significant, history that has largely escaped attention. In contrast to metropolitan European states, where sovereignty derived, at least in principle, from a covenant between subjects and government, the sovereign power of the colonial state was always predicated on the violent subjugation of ‘the natives'. However, while violence was integral to colonialism, such violence was never a purely metropolitan agency: most of those recruited to serve in the colonial military were, themselves, Indian. Exploring the history of the imperial military in South Asia after 1857, the paper outlines the complex and rather ambiguous relationship between the colonial state and its ‘native armies'. résumé Cet article se penche sur la spécificité de la violence coloniale. Malgré des exemples familiers—comme la grande révolte de 1857 en Inde ou le massacre de Jallianwalla Bagh à Amritsar en 1919—il y a une histoire plus large et plus importante qui a échappée à l'attention des historiens. Contrairement aux états européens ou la souveraineté dérivait en principe du moins d'un contrat social entre les acteurs sociaux, le pouvoir souverain de l'état colonial restait fondé sur la subjugation violente des indigènes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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