Robert Travers' analysis of British conquests in late eighteenth-century India shows how new ideas were formulated about the construction of empire. After the British East India Company conquered the vast province of Bengal, Britons confronted the apparent anomaly of a European trading company acting as an Indian ruler. Responding to a prolonged crisis of imperial legitimacy, British officials in Bengal tried to build their authority on the basis of an 'ancient constitution', supposedly discovered among the remnants of the declining Mughal Empire. In the search for an indigenous constitution, British political concepts were redeployed and redefined on the Indian frontier of empire, while stereotypes about 'oriental despotism' were challenged by the encounter with sophisticated Indian state forms. This highly original book uncovers a forgotten style of imperial state-building based on constitutional restoration, and in the process opens up new points of connection between British, imperial and South Asian history.
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