Organized Panel Session
It is widely acknowledged that without the help of local collaborators, empire could hardly have worked. This was even more keenly felt in British India in the wake of the Rebellion of 1857, which shook the very foundations of the colonial state and discredited the liberal “civilizing mission” of the three decades preceding. However, in the turn back to a conservative mode of rule, a disagreement emerged over which institutions were truly native and which class of Indians deserved the state’s patronage and protection. This article explores this debate and the extent to which these competing visions of collaboration were molded by the facts on the ground or by the political ideologies of the men who came to champion either the humble peasant or the petty king-turned-landlord. Through an analysis of the official record from the annexation of the Punjab in 1849 to the creation through legislation of a hereditary aristocracy in Oudh in 1869, I make a contribution to the literature on the origins of colonial institutions by demonstrating that the proponents of either camp were driven far more by their long-held sensibilities and prejudices than by any objective examination of precolonial conditions.