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Title:Peril, Pestilence, and Perfidy: The Making of Colonial Lucknow, 1856-1877
Author(s):Oldenburg, Veena Talwar
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, Modern
Abstract:When the British recaptured Lucknow after the Mutiny and Rebellion of 1857, they set about reconsolidating their power in Oudh. They devoted the next two decades perfecting a system of political, economic, and social control that would make future mutinies impossible. Their experience during the siege had been traumatic: they found that the city was almost impossible to defend because of its labyrinthine layout, and the general treachery of the "natives" and European fatalities from disease were staggering. In short, the strategically unsafe, disease-ridden, and hostile city had to be transformed into an environment that would be conducive to colonial occupation.
British administrators refashioned the urban world of Lucknow to achieve this unambiguous end. Consequently, three imperatives came to dominate policy, dictate local legislation, and supply the rationale for action in the urban arena: the city had to be strategically safe, clean, and loyal. It would no longer live off the revenues of Oudh as it had done in the days of the nawabs, but would be made to pay for itself. This study concentrates on discussing the dynamics which changed a feudal court city into a colonial town in British India, a transition experienced by several Mutiny-torn cities.
The need for strategic safety required sweeping structural changes in the physical plan of the city: nearly a third of the city was demolished to permit greater accessibility to troops, by building wide roads, esplanades, and railway lines. The colonial quarter, with its military cantonment and civil lines, sprang up at a discreet distance from the old city. Lucknow was divided into an old and new half, with the latter controlling the former.
The British created an official committee, with limited native membership, to keep the city clean and to collect local taxes. It also looked after civic improvements, medical facilities, and the police. The British shared some of the economic benefits but not the political spoils with the Indian members. At the core of the committee's responsibility was social manipulation. It came to control -- by way of its effort to minimize disease among Europeans -- many private areas of the lives of ordinary citizens: where they would defecate; how they would build their houses; what route their religious processions would take; and where Muslims would bury their dead. Certain tradesmen, including leatherworkers, butchers, prostitutes, and distillers, were also controlled by committee bye-laws. The police devoted more time to enforcing these laws than to controlling crime.
The need for loyal citizens led initially to severe economic penalties, as a way to avenge European blood; but pragmatic counsels soon prevailed. The men of rank and influence in the city were given amnesty if they promised loyalty in the future. The most conspicuous deal was made with the principal landowners of Oudh, the taluqdars, who were systematically disarmed, and their political role abolished in exchange for fixed revenue demands and protection from the government. They were groomed to become the dominant civic elite, and acquire property in the city. They became the local cultural patrons, philanthropists, and celebrities at the ceremonial durbars held by the British.
Issue Date:1979
Description:285 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1979.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8018193
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-13
Date Deposited:1979

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