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Lineages of EmpireThe Historical Roots of British Imperial Thought$
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Duncan Kelly

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264393

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264393.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 19 September 2021

British India as a Problem in Political Economy: Comparing James Steuart and Adam Smith

British India as a Problem in Political Economy: Comparing James Steuart and Adam Smith

(p.137) 6 British India as a Problem in Political Economy: Comparing James Steuart and Adam Smith
Lineages of Empire

Robert Travers

British Academy

The consolidation of political economy as a distinct branch of the science of politics was simultaneous with the expansion and diversification of the overseas British Empire. This new political economy was often regarded as distant from the enterprise of imperial expansion. Political economists criticized the mercantile system of restricted colonial trades and monopoly corporations. This chapter discusses the political economy in relation to the imperial politics in India. It takes into focus the problems of imperial politics in India, the first of which was that the East India Company’s growing empire barely fitted into the notions of a British ‘empire of liberty’ which was perceived to be ‘commercial, Protestant, maritime, and free’; and the second was the British ignorance of and lack of sympathy for local customs and manners. In the chapter, the British theorists James Steuart and Adam Smith are closely examined. Both addressed the emerging empire of British India as a dilemma in political economy. Their thinking on Indian affairs posed challenges to the Company rule in India, but at the same time offered theoretical and conceptual resources for the unpopular Company government.

Keywords:   political economy, science of politics, overseas British Empire, imperial expansion, mercantile system, imperial politics, India, East India Company

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