22 July 2019

BOOK: James LEES, Bureaucratic Culture in Early Colonial India District Officials, Armed Forces, and Personal Interest under the East India Company, 1760-1830 (London: Routledge, 2019). ISBN 9781138615496, £115.00

(Source: Routledge)

Routledge is publishing a book on the administration of early colonial India.


This book looks at how the fledgling British East India Company state of the 1760s developed into the mature Anglo-Indian empire of the 19th century. It investigates the bureaucratic culture of early Company administrators, primarily at the district level, and the influence of that culture on the nature and scope of colonial government in India. Drawing on a host of archival material and secondary sources, James Lees details the power relationship between local officials and their superiors at Fort William in Calcutta, and examines the wider implications of that relationship for Indian society.

The book brings to the fore the manner in which the Company’s roots in India were established despite its limited military resources and lack of governmental experience. It underlines how the early colonial polity was shaped by European administrators’ attitudes towards personal and corporate reputation, financial gain, and military governance.

A thoughtful intervention in understanding the impact of the Company’s government on Indian society, this volume will be of interest to researchers working within South Asian studies, British studies, administrative history, military history, and the history of colonialism.


James Lees is a Research Advisor at Karlstad University in Sweden. He holds an MA and a PhD in Imperial and South Asian History from King’s College London. Dr Lees’s research has examined power relations and bureaucratic culture among the European civil servants of the East India Company state in the 18th and 19th century, with a particular focus on the use of armed force in a colonial context. He has worked in research administration and policy roles at universities and funding bodies, and also taught at universities in the UK and Asia.


1. Introduction 2. The Company State after 1765 3. ‘The Essence of the State Itself’: Reputation and the Company’s Government 4. ‘A Gendarmerie of Last Resort’? The Roles of Armed Force, 1760–1820 5. Rangpur District, 1770–c. 1800 6. Chittagong District, 1760–c. 1800 7. The Company State in the 1820s 8. Conclusion

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