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From Reflection to Refraction: State Administration in British India, circa 1770–1855

Nicholas Hoover Wilson
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 116, No. 5 (March 2011), pp. 1437-77
DOI: 10.1086/657562
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/657562
Page Count: 41
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From Reflection to Refraction: State Administration in British India, circa 1770–1855
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Abstract

Most scholars think state administrations vary because rulers attempt to maximize resource extraction given pressure from interstate competition and as constrained by the social structure of the societies they govern. This perspective cannot account for variations in British colonial tax administration in India, circa 1770 to 1855. The British organized land revenue collection and administration as a whole through two different schemes. Both systems initially adopted a rhetoric of revenue maximization, but neither was decisively better matched to Indian social structure. Instead, administrators interpreted a seemingly opaque Indian society by understanding themselves as fundamentally similar to or different from Indians.

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