In this beautifully written and fully detailed study, J. Royal Roseberry makes a major contribution to understanding the interaction of the agents of the British Raj and local leadership and elites in the nineteenth century.
In extending their power over the subcontinent, the British encountered their most difficult and complex task in the Indus Valley, northwest of Delhi. In playing the imperial game on this turbulent frontier they were often overmatched and outwitted by local leaders and their forces. Nowhere was the challenge greater than in Multan, a historic Muslim city, where power shifted continuously among a wavering dynasty, Hindu merchants, and tribal mercenaries.
A new factor entered the political arena in the 1840s with the arrival of representatives of the East India Company. Herbert Edwardes contested successfully with Diwan Mulraj and, through 1857, the administrative and land revenue systems of the Company were haltingly applied.
As elsewhere in India, local leaders and elites sought advantages under the new system and evaded its burdens when they could. Continuing the story after the disturbances of 1857-58 Roseberry discusses the continued jostling for power among Multan’s Muslims, Hindus, and British interlopers. He devotes attention to the judicial and revenue administrations, economic growth and social dislocation, and the growing communal tensions after 1880.