Modern Asian Studies

Articles

State Formation and Economy Reconsidered

Burton Stein

For too long, considerations of state formation in India have divided on the colonial threshold of history, and the British regime in the subcontinent has been treated as completely different from all prior states. The most important reason for this seems to be that the historiography of the British empire was created by those who ruled India; it was therefore a kind of trophy of domination. Other reasons include the vast and accessible corpus of records on the creation of the British colonial state, the recency of its emergence, and the foundational character of the colonial state for the independent states of the subcontinent. Continuity of the British colonial state with its predecessors is acknowledged only in the case of the Mughals owing, in part, to the prolonged process of separation of the Company's government from its Mughal imperial cover before the Mutiny. Thus, long after they had ceased as a governing regime, the Mughals were considered by contemporaries and subsequently by historians to be the old regime of India.