58 pages, paperback
14,8 x 21,0, 2022
This essay traces the changing contours of a Panjabi state during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It focuses on the Kalsia principality, founded by a family of rural warlords who had transformed themselves from village elders to the rulers of a distinct principality within a generation. Using a chronicle left by a retainer and scribe of the Kalsia administration, it studies a handful of the chiefly lineage’s dependents (tābeʻīn), to try to understand what their position within the ruling household was, what rendered them dependent, and what kept them loyal. It argues that jural status was of some, but not determinant, importance in creating deeply hierarchical bonds; just as important was the value that patron and client, master and slave alike attached to such unequal relations, as a source of honour, status, and influence. This value was moreover shared across and attached to a range of relationships, from kinship bonds to servitude, blurring the distinction between family and service. This began to change, at least in law, in the wake of colonization, as the British sought to impose fixed boundaries on the household, to progressively strip ruling houses of their land.
Girija Joshi is a historian of South Asia, interested in the social, environmental, and intellectual history of the subcontinent. She received her PhD from Leiden University in 2021. As of this year, she is a Rubicon post-doctoral fellow at the Centre d’Études de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud, Paris.