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How did British rule in India transform persons from lower social classes? Could Indians from such classes rise in the world by marrying Europeans and embracing their religion and customs? This book explores such questions by examining the intriguing story of an interracial family who lived in southern India in the mid-nineteenth century. The family, which consisted of two untouchable brothers, both of whom married Eurasian women, became wealthy as distillers in the local community. When one brother died, a dispute arose between his wife and brother over family assets, which resulted in a landmark court case, Abraham v. Abraham. It is this case which is at the center of this book, and which Chandra Mallampalli uses to examine the lives of those involved and, by extension, of those – 271 witnesses in all – who testified. In its multilayered approach, the book sheds light not only on interracial marriage, class, religious allegiance, and gender, but also on the British encounter with Indian society. It shows that far from being products of a “civilizing mission” who embraced the ways of Englishmen, the Abrahams were ultimately – when faced with the strictures of the colonial legal system – obliged to contend with hierarchy and racial difference.Read more
- A singular court case from the nineteenth century is at the heart of this intriguing book on race and hierarchy in colonial India
- A rich and engaging multi-layered approach which interrogates legal documents and interviews with witnesses to unveil social history of the period
- For students and scholars of colonial India, and legal and social historians
Reviews & endorsements
"Mallampalli has produced a marvelous work of legal ethnography that enriches our historical understanding of the dynamics of interracial marriage and the relationships of religion, race, and social standing. His book speaks to crucial themes of British colonial rule and the texture of the lives of those who lived under its authority."
James Epstein, Victorian Studies
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- Date Published: February 2015
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781107487543
- length: 288 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
- weight: 0.39kg
- contains: 6 b/w illus. 3 maps
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. Remembering family
2. Embodying 'Dora-hood': the brothers and their business
3. A crisis of trust: sedition and the sale of arms in Kurnool
4. Letters from Cambridge
5. The path to litigation
6. Litigating gender and race: Charlotte sues at Bellary
7. Francis appeals: the case for continuity
8. Choice, identity, and law: the decision of London's Privy Council.
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